On this day in 1968, Pope Paul IV, in the encyclical Humanae Vitae reaffirmed the Roman Catholic ban on artificial contraception. Don’t worry, people, this isn’t going to be a post about Catholicism, or birth control, or even religion. I’m not above link-baiting. But not even I’m that desperate. And in this case, I know absolutely nothing of substance about any of the above issues.

Indeed, this is a post about ignorance. So here goes. Of all of the massive gaps in my knowledge base, my comical lack of familiarity with religion yawns the widest. How wide? Well, okay, since you asked…when I was in college, I went to visit a good friend whose significant other at the time has since gone on to become a world-renowned journalist and adviser to aspiring presidents. One evening, we played what I called the Name Game — which they called Ataturk.

The game, whatever it’s called, goes like this: participants form teams (Usually two players to a team, in my experience.); each player writes a set number (10, 15, 20, whatever, that’s not really the point of the story, okay?) of names on pieces of paper (You should recycle — think globally, act locally.); the players fold their papers in half or quarters or whatever (Seriously, stop with the nit-picking about details.); the players toss their folded papers into a hat (A bowl works, too, I guess.); and then one member of the team pulls names from the hat and gives clues to his or her partner, who tries to guess the name, for a set amount of time (I’ve always had the turns last a minute. But ymmv.); each time the guesser guesses a name, within the allotted amount of time, the giver of clues pulls another name from the hat (Or bowl. Jerk.); the team gets as many points as the guesser guesses names.

So, if I was playing with you, and I picked the name “Eric Rauchway” out of the hat, I’d give these clues: “He’s a renowned US historian. He works at UC Davis. He’s written brilliantly about the Progressive Era, the McKinley assassination (I should have done that one first, I know.), globalization, and, most recently, the New Deal. He has a crappy blog. But it’s not his fault. His original co-blogger is a hack. He’s devastatingly handsome. He’s generous of spirit and kind to animals. And he may some day sit on the committee that determines if I become a full professor.” And if you didn’t shout “Eric Rauchway” some time before then, well, then, in addition to being a picker of nits and a jerk, you’re the ignorant one.

Anyway, on the night in question, I was neither the best nor the worst player. And given that I was playing with a soon-to-be-famous journalist, a soon-to-be-famous doctor, and some other dude (I honestly can’t remember who else was there. But I’m totally confident that he’s now at the top of his field, whatever that might be.), and also given that I’m kind of dumb, I wasn’t that bummed about my performance. Until, that is, I pulled the name “Pontius Pilate” and had no idea who that was. For which hole in my omniscience, the soon-to-be famous journalist/confidante to a future president mocked me mercilessly. I mean, she just couldn’t stop herself from being slack-jawed with awe that a rube like me could walk upright — even though she hadn’t known who Joe Charboneau, or some such person, was. Looking back, she was probably right. It was pretty stunning that a nineteen-year-old pseudo intellectual didn’t know that Pontius Pilate was the founder of the nation’s most important pen company. Rim shot! And again! I’ll be here all week.

Seriously, though, about what topic are you most ignorant? And has your ignorance caused you some serious embarrassment in the past? Spill. It’s okay, I promise not to make fun of you or tell anyone that you’re even dumber than me.