In his book, "The Theology of Fear," the Rev. Emmett Coyne, for almost 50 years a Roman Catholic priest, makes passing reference to how little the average believer knows about his or her given faith.
Somehow, this obvious observation struck home with me.
Yes, people may belong to one denomination or another because their moms and dads brought them up that way or because they wanted a reassuring story about what happened after death or because, in troubled or tragic times, a bit of succor never hurt. An ethical format might also play into the scenario.
But beyond the personal or social basics, so to speak, how many people really dig in and get informed? The answer, I think, is very few. But I also think, why should they? Belief may be important, but I wonder if there isn't some triage doctor within who knows that beliefs, while supportive, aren't all that relevant. Anybody can believe anything and a bus ride is still $2.
I guess that only someone who had put some effort into spiritual endeavor would find any of this unusual. Why bother about religion when the kids need feeding or the stamp collection needs updating? Isn't it understandable that ignorance should infuse even the most top-volume religious persuasions ... you know, the guys and gals who can quote text and wave their arms but otherwise are concerned about keeping church revenues at a certain level?
I think it is understandable in human terms. A cloud of ignorance may even cause anyone's religion to glow more brightly and be more convincing. If God can forgive me and if heaven is my destination, does it need to get much better than that? And I'd say no ... no, it really doesn't.
But if, in fact, this broad-brush ignorance is anywhere near to the truth -- if cherry-picking for social or personal reasons is the norm -- then perhaps I may be forgiven for being dubious when those attempting to convert others come calling: What credibility should I offer to someone who is largely ignorant about the very persuasion s/he is promoting? But how can I know that such a person is, in fact, relying on ignorance to prop up one faith or another? I can't, but since the majority seem to find a mainstay in ignorance, I'll play the odds and retain a healthy skepticism.
I don't mean any of this as a criticism. I really do think it is understandable that people would be under-informed about the spiritual direction they have chosen. Truly ... it makes sense and it's human.
I guess I'll have to keep an eye on my own glowingly-enthusiastic face and prop-me-up ignorance.