It is unfortunate Pew Research Center for the People & the Press does a religious survey, and gets most of its premises incorrect. First, they assume all religions are equal. Second, they fail to mention the largest religion in the US, even though their analysis concerns the population’s religious traditions.
Anyone who actively belongs to a religion should know about that religion. Very likely if you’re not Hindu, you won’t know Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism history. When a survey says Americans don’t know much about religion, they’re talking about all religions as if they were all equal. How do you know anything about a religion to which you don’t belong?
Largest Religious Groups in the USA, from the Pew Research Center, says the Catholic population should be over 90 million Americans by 2011. With almost one third of the country’s population, they are the largest religion in America.
Probably the worst error made by Pew is they call Catholics a denomination of Christianity. Thorndike-Barnhart defines religion as “the worship of God or gods”. It defines denomination as “a religious group or sect”. Succinctly, the Gallup poll simply asks: “What is your religious preference -- is it Protestant, Roman Catholic or Jewish?” Each is its own religion, but with the same God.
It’s rare when one would call a Baptist or even a Jehovah’s Witness a denomination of Catholicism. But Pew thinks they’re related and a denomination because of their loose association with Christ. But one would never go to church in another religion’s house.
Pew re-states the question about when the largest 10 religious bodies were formed from earliest to latest. Martin Luther founded the church for Lutherans in 1517 AD. Until that date, no other formal Christian religion existed. They list an establishment date for all active religions, but none for Catholicism even though it is known to be 33 AD.
Bottom line, even though many religions are associated, loosely or otherwise with Jesus Christ, because of vastly different rules and beliefs, they are their own religions. Gallop seems to draw the line between religions with 3 separate categories (Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish). [See Largest Religious Groups in the USA] What makes Catholicism so different from other religions is the fact that it was born immediately after Christ’s ascension.
The myths and unfound beliefs about Catholicism abound: 1) Mary is adored and prayed to as co-God with Christ, 2) indulgences can be sold or bartered, 3) having statues and pictures of saints breaks the 1st Commandment, 4) heaven is attained by faith only, 5) no man can be called Father, 6) no man can forgive sins, 7) transubstantiation of ordinary bread and wine is a complete misinterpretation of the Bible, etc., etc…
Pew exacerbates these falsehoods by calling any religion, even remotely related to Christ, denominations of Christianity. But they include Catholics in that extremely rough denomination. Pew also states that 55% of Catholics correctly identified the Catholic Church’s teaching about transubstantiation, or the Eucharist. Scripture Catholic - THE EUCHARIST is a perfect description of the process.
Many non-Catholic Christians believe the Eucharist may be a mere symbol of Christ’s presence, or even somehow consubstantiated with the bread and wine. Do they forget about what the gospels of John said six times, and Mark, Luke, and Matthew said as well? (See above link)
It seems many people started to make their own interpretation of the Bible around 1517 AD. It’s funny how God made a universe 13 billion years old, designed galaxies that allow for life in one instance but not in others, engineered the fastest speed in the universe at 186,000 mps, but most religions can’t figure out how the substance of bread and wine changes but retains its regular physical properties.
As a side note, it would be perplexing to see how Pew would’ve interpreted the Bible only 1500 years after the fact. If Pew is going to take surveys, it has got to be right.
Kevin Roeten can be reached at [email protected].