Biblical decline

I read that the National Biblical Literacy Survey 2009 in the UK has reported a poor showing for Bible knowledge. I can’t say I’m either terribly surprised or troubled by this; there are any number of other literary works more deserving of public knowledge, and at some level this must be reflected in the public’s attitude.

There is, of course, some lingering sense that we “should” understand the Bible; that it above all other books has some special status. Well, that particular miscellaneous collection of ambiguously-translated ramblings is supposed to be the Definitive Word of the Infallible Creator of the Universe, isn’t it? Of course it is – it says so itself. Comments from those affiliated with the survey are not much more moderate:

Brown said the survey showed the need to push for greater religious education among young people as knowledge of the Bible among the under-45 age group was in decline.

“We have got to recognize that it (the Bible) is the foundation of our society, upon which our whole culture has been based,” he told Reuters. “To understand it and to live in it you do need an understanding of the Bible.”

Well, I’m not entirely convinced. If only someone had conducted a survey to determine the relevance of the Bible to our society. Oh look, they did! This piece of logic evidentially fails on some people. The fact that few of us know or care about the Bible these days is fairly good evidence that it isn’t relevant to much of our society at all, let alone forms the foundation of it. I assume, of course, that British and Australian culture are not too far removed.

To understand and live in Iranian or Saudi Arabian society, by contrast, I imagine you would need a solid understanding of the Koran and other sources of Islamic doctrine, but then that’s because those countries are theocracies. The West has spent a good few hundred years slowly disentangling society and governance from religion, and frankly we’re all much better off as a result.