According to Stephen Prothero, America is both “deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion.” Personal belief in God remains high. Americans say that their convictions shape their public behaviors, and most support the idea of religious organizations participating in public policy issues. Yet surveys show that the majority of Americans cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Only one-third know that it was Jesus who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife.
Growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church, I learned to confess my sins by kneeling directly in front of the priest. I had no reason to believe that other churches handled this sacrament differently. When I first saw Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, I was mesmerized by the scenes of Death and the Knight talking to each other, in part because they were sitting in some sort of booth with a small door between them. What a great cinematic concept, I thought. When I later visited a Catholic church for the first time and saw the rows of confessionals, my response was, “They stole the idea from Bergman!”
Foiled by do-gooders: After a man robbed a bank in Marietta, Georgia, one Saturday morning, he attempted to blend into a group of volunteers outside a church who were unloading food for distribution to other churches. When he started losing bills tucked under his shirt, two of the volunteers confronted the robber and held him until police arrived (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 12).