Thursday, April 20, 2006

Religious Confusion

So yesterday I was sitting in a school meeting and my friend was talking about Passover. This other girl, eavesdropping, piped up and said, "Oh, is that still going? I thought it was on Sunday."
I just looked at her for a minute confused.

Then I said, "Passover and Easter are different holidays."

Laughing she said, "oh, right."

I, trying to not be condescending, but I'm sure failing miserably said back, "you realize that Passover is a Jewish holiday and Easter is a Christian."

Puzzled she said, "then what is Lent?"

My brains almost exploding, I retorted, "that's Catholic."

Are there people out there in the general public who don't know these basics of other religions? Do you think she is the norm for the American public? I sure hope not.

22 comments:

east of eden said...

Yes, that is normal. Last year I was teaching school in a very Catholic area when the Pope died. I knew more about Papal succession and how the whole process worked than my Catholic students, and I'm a life lone Mormon. You would be surprised at how much of the important stuff people don't know, and how much fluff they manage to fill their heads with.

Maggie said...

I would say that your experience is pretty normal. I used to be shocked when people didn't know about my religion, now I realize its really because they don't know anything about any religion.

Edge said...

Sadly, I think it is. Do you want me to load the revolver for you or do you want to do it yourself?

~Jef

Anonymous said...

That's why we all need to celebrate Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festivus

Heather said...

I'm pretty sure it's normal. It's sad, but I think most people just don't care to learn about different religions. (So far though, it sounds like everyone who's posted a comment seems to know the differences between different religions)

k said...

Actually, lent is not just a Catholic observance. Other Christians, although I am not certain exactly which denominations specifically, observe it as well. Methodists are one I think.

Katie said...

k, I know some people in other Christian religions celebrate Lent, but is it part of their official religious dogma or just something that they've added? Either way, I actually think it is a pretty cool idea.

Chas said...

I definitely think that's the norm of the American public. Since most people grow up in America grow up in non-practicing Christian homes, I'm surprised that most people have a clue what Passover is to begin with.

Anonymous said...

You think that everyone should be as "aware" as you are. Maybe some people just don't care. IT doesn't matter.

Cory P said...

I'm not convinced most people have a clue of what Passover is... they just know it exists. :-/

So, was this a grad student who asked? Because, if so... damn.

Anth said...

That's really sad. These seem like fundamentals to me.

And to anon, it's fine if someone doesn't care, but then they should refrain from making inane comments that make themselves look retarded.

Unless they don't care about that either.

And Katie, did you totally snort? Because I don't think I could have held a snort in after that exchange.

Heather said...

I honestly believe some people live in their own little box and do not care to know anything about anyone else. It is really kinda sad.

Katie said...

P, I know what passover is. I also think is it a holiday which honors a very important event and I've considered celebrating it myself.

Heather said...

Matt and I got to go to a mostly traditional (ie no wine, and mostly in English) Passover feast last year. I really liked it, Matt thought it was kind of weird. Which having little to no exposure with the Jewish culture does make it kind of weird. Anyway, if you know someone who is Jewish you should participate, it's neat.

Sir James Affleck said...

I've celebrated Easter for a long time, and this year I tried giving up sweets for a brief period and used the excuse that I was giving them up for lent just so people wouldn't make fun of me for my new dietary decision. I don't know of anyone who celebrates Passover but I think I might start.

Anonymous said...

If you don't care about religion, then the origin of Easter, Passover, Lent, etc... are all just background noise. They are indistinguishable, excepting the amount of commercialization associated with each. I find the study of mythology/religion vaguely interesting, but I'm sure I get my legends confused at times. I might sometimes get Odin confused with Zeus or Eros confused with Ares. I'm bound to confuse the various prophets, and their deeds. And, I'm sure I don't know the origin of all the special days that people observe.

Not everyone is religious. That doesn't make them stupid. Sure they are ignorant about that particular topic, but aren't you ignorant about a few things too? If they aren't religious, where would they have learned about it?

Katie said...

Anon, you make a valid point. I woudln't be surprised if someone didn't know the background to a holiday. That is totally understandable that someone who didn't grow up religious, or have any other introduction/intrest in it woudln't have had the exposure to a holiday's underpinnings.

However, I don't think it is ridiculous to expect someone who is pursuing their masters degree from a fairly well respected graduate program to have a basic understanding of who celebrates which holidays. You would think that someone who clearly has an interest in education, learning, and developing the mind would at least be slightly interested/aware in what other people in our society are doing to grant their days off from work.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's not ridiculous to expect an educated person to know a little religious history, but I wouldn't be too surprised if they didn't know any either. I expect educated people to know a little math, but I'm routinely dissapointed. I would hesitate to jump to the conclusion that the person was stupid or woefully ignorant of their surroundings just because they didn't know religious history, or basic math or physics, etc...

I don't know you, but it seems that you are religious, and thus interested in religion. It's admirable that you have bothered to learn a little about other religions beyond your own, many don't. But for those who are not relgious, or interested in religion, there isn't any reason for them to learn about it or care about it.

Graduate programs tend to be pretty focused, generally lacking breadth. I wouldn't expect someone who is a graduate student studying something other than religion to automatically know more about the history of religious holidays or celebrations than your average bear. I might even expect them to know less.

I was raised protestant, but my step father was Jewish. My brother married a Catholic woman and converted to Catholocism. My wife is Wicken. I have a vague interest in the various religions and their beliefs, but I don't care too much about their practices. I'm not wholly ignorant of what people celebrate and why, but it is just background noise to me. Most of the time I have other things on my mind that I find far more important, and I might likely forget/mix-up holidays and rituals. I am a graduate student at a well respected program, and by most people's estimation I am not stupid (though I'm sure you find some on the other side of that argument as well; my wife probably). But I can easily see myself making mistakes similar to the ones that girl made. I guess that's why I've come to her defense.

Katie said...

Anon,

You said:

"I would hesitate to jump to the conclusion that the person was stupid or woefully ignorant of their surroundings just because they didn't know religious history, or basic math or physics, etc..."

I think this is our fundamental difference. I wouldn't consider someone stupid for this, because I think stupid is a really harsh word. I would consider someone pretty ignorant if they didn't know basic math or physics or literature or religion or philosopy or anything else. That, to me, is the definition of ignorant. To be uneduated is to be ignorant.

Although, I totally understand where you are coming from. All too often I find that I say dumb stuff that I wish I could take back. I'm sure this was one of those moments for her, so I don't really fault her. I just thought it would make for an interesting post.

Anonymous said...

Katie said:

"I think this is our fundamental difference. I wouldn't consider someone stupid for this, because I think stupid is a really harsh word. I would consider someone pretty ignorant if they didn't know basic math or physics or literature or religion or philosopy or anything else. That, to me, is the definition of ignorant. To be uneduated is to be ignorant.

Although, I totally understand where you are coming from. All too often I find that I say dumb stuff that I wish I could take back. I'm sure this was one of those moments for her, so I don't really fault her. I just thought it would make for an interesting post."

I understand the difference between stupididty and ignorance (I guess I wasn't sure that you did.) However, many people do not differentiate between the two. I understood your original post to imply that because she was ignorant of religion, she was either just stupid, or generally ignorant of her environment. I'm ignorant of lots of things, so are you I'm sure. That doesn't mean that either one of us is 'ignorant' or 'uneducated'. I disagreed with the premise that knowledge about the various religions and the history of religious holidays was a prerequisite to being considered 'educated'. I suppose it was an emotional reaction to what I perceived as a 'Holier than thou' attitude about religious ignorance and an assumption that the person who held that specific ignorance was somehow generally ignorant as well. In reality, you are probably holier than...at least me, maybe her too, so I guess I should get over it.

As is so often the case, it seems people's expectations of the world are shaped heavily by their experiences and background. BYU (as I understand it from looking at their catalogue) requires religious education as part of their undergraduate core, most schools do not. In fact most schools don't even have any available. Your depth of religious knowledge puts you in the minority, even among 'educated' people.

I also do and say many things I wish I could take back. You may be right that this was one of those for her. Obviously it was an interesting post, since I've now commented on it three times in addition to all of the other comments you've received.

Have fun in California. Sorry I've commented so much on this one post, I know it's really none of my business. I just enjoy the debate.

-Kris

Anonymous said...

I guess I didn't articulate my main point very well in that last post, but I can't edit so I'll just have to post again. Here is what I see as our fundamental difference of perspective on this issue.

Since BYU requires religious education as part of its core, I can see why you might consider basic religious knowledge a prerequisite to being 'educated'. This also probably explains why you would expect all graduate students to somehow have this knowledge.

Most schools do not educate their students about religion. I went to Georgia Tech, a decent school; Also, a public school. They have a core requirement of literature, history, ethics, etc...But, not religion. I'm ok with that, and most non-religious schools take the same approach. Graduates of these schools (which make up the bulk of graduates in any given year) are generally considered 'educated' by their peers and society, but they may know little to nothing about religion. They are much more likely to learn the origin of Martin Luther King Day, or Memorial Day than Easter. I personally think that's appropriate.

Ther's way too much knowledge in this world for any one of us to have even a basic grasp of the majority of it. By that standard, maybe we all should consider ourselves ignorant. I guess that's why we specialize. So anyway, perhaps this 'clueless' girl didn't go to BYU for her undergrad. If she did, shame on her I guess.

Regards,
-Kris

Katie said...

Kris-

I like you. I like how you think and that you are respectful of me and still disagree. I value that in people.

Granted, I probably have a bit deeper knowledge of the Christian and Jewish holidays than your average person. I did go to BYU, a religious institution. I did take 15 credits hours of pure religion.

I'm intriqued by your ardent belief that most people in our society really don't know which holiday belongs to which religion. I always thought it was common knowledge. I guess that notion will have to be re-evaluated.

Thanks for coming to my blog and being so interesting.