Americans wave the religion banner every time they want to justify their opinions on practically anything nowadays, especially when condemning the political or religious beliefs of others. But the truth is that as a group they are largely illiterate when it comes to understanding religious history, belief systems, and moral codes.
A recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that atheists consistently outperformed believers when asked particulars about various religious denominations—including their own. (Atheists and agnostics, Jews, and Mormons outperformed evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, and Catholics.)
Religion is such a vital part of many of our lives. Religion gives believers their moral compass, provides answers to the great existential questions, and makes available comfort in times of stress and need. It often colors our stand on social issues, helping us define our relationship and responsibility to others in our communities, country, and the world. Believers and nonbelievers alike should understand the role of religion in world history and philosophy. Without that basic knowledge, there is little chance that we will come close to understanding each other. This is one case where ignorance is truly dangerous.