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Mormons, Atheists, Jews know the most about religion, study says

Atheists, Mormons, agnostics and Jews are among the highest-scoring groups on a survey of religious knowledge — higher than evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the "core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions," according to The Pew Forum on Public Life.

The study, completed in September of 2010, found on average that Americans correctly answered half of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey.

"Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively," a summary of the findings reads. "Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education."

Mormons — the common term used to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — were found to be the most knowledgeable on Christianity, averaging 7.9 correct answers out of 12. Mormons were also the highest-scoring group on questions about the Bible. White evangelicals followed with 7.3 correct answers. Hispanic Catholics answered the fewest questions about Christianity correctly with 4.2.

Members of the Jewish faith performed the best on questions about world religions with 7.9 correct answers out of 11. The group categorized as "atheist/agnostic" answered 7.5 correctly while Mormons answered about half of the questions correctly.

The survey found that at least two-thirds of the American public know Moses was the Bible figure who led the exodus from Egypt, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Mother Teresa was Catholic and an atheist is someone who does not believe in God. Slightly fewer respondents — roughly half — know the Golden Rule is not one of the Ten Commandments, Ramadan is the Islamic holy month, the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and Joseph Smith was Mormon.

Mormons, black Protestants and white evangelicals are the most frequent readers of materials about religion, the study found: "Fully half of all Mormons (51 percent) and roughly three-in-10 white evangelicals (30 percent) and black Protestants (29 percent) report that they read books or go online to learn about their own religion at least once a week." Of all religiously affiliated Americans, only a small fraction — 6 percent — say they read books other than scripture or visit websites to learn about religions other than their own at least once a week.

Among the other findings: While 89 percent of those surveyed knew public school teachers are not allowed to lead classes in prayer, only 23 percent knew public school teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature. Similarly, just 36 percent of the public "knows that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools," the findings stated. "Together, this block of questions suggests that many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are."

The study noted there are a number of factors linked with greater religious knowledge, including reading scriptures at least once a week, talking about religion with friends and family, a high level of religious commitment, regularly attending religious education classes, participating in a youth group as a child or teen, and the level of education completed.

What do you think about this study? I do find it a little funny Atheist scored higher then most....  

The survey broke down the questions into three categories:

Average number of questions answered correctly
Group Bible and Christianity (out of 12) World religion (out of 11) Religion in public life (out of 4)
Protestant 6.2 4.7 2.1
White evangelical 7.3 4.8 2.3
White mainline 5.8 4.9 2.2
Black Protestant 5.9 3.9 1.7
White Catholic 5.9 5.1 2.2
Hispanic Catholic 4.2 3.6 1.7
Mormon 7.9 5.6 2.3
Jewish 6.3 7.9 2.7
Atheist/Agnostic 6.7 7.5 2.8






Asked by LostSoul88 at 1:49 PM on Jun. 19, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 40 (119,496 Credits)
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Answers (60)
  • ive always found this study to make perfect sense. Atheists/Agnostics know the most b/c they've usually researched faiths the most and have to defend their non-theism to ppl. Mormons and Jews in America also have to live as "outsiders" in that they believe in God differently from the majority. and Christians, living as the majority, have little reason to branch outside of their faith to learn about other beliefs.

    then there are the fundie groups that preach that even learning about another faith will let Satan into their hearts and damn them.

    Answer by okmanders at 2:02 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • uwmilf... I know... it's hard to understand how anyone could know exactly what you know and still believe it to be meadow muffins, right? You feel we MUST not fully comprehend if we don't believe exactly the way you do. Arrogance.

    Answer by IhartU at 2:21 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • I don't think it's odd that Atheists know more than mainline Christians. Most Atheists have actually studied the Bible, and other religions, in a more objective way than Christians typically do. Agnostics as well. The problem is that many Christians are taught to look uncritically, to not question, and that all other opinions, interpretations, or information is either incorrect or outright "evil," depending where on the spectrum their churches fall. Of course, not all of us are like that - there are many progressive Christians and Christian academics/scholars who aren't really guilty of this. But we don't make up the "mainstream," and we're very often not "evangelical" or "protestant" ;)
    I do wish they had had a progressive Christian option....

    As for Jews, *from what I understand,* study and so forth is a big part of their faith. So it would make sense for them to rank high on the survey.

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:07 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • No I'm saying they have all this knowledge about "religion" yet they know so little about faith and God.

    The majority of atheists and agnostics in America are former Christians. It doesn't sound like you know too many to make this generalization.

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 2:13 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • "You can have all this knowledge about religion, even be religious, but still not know anything about God or what his purpose is."

    Not agreeing with it doesn't mean people don't understand it. I don't agree with the concept of the Trinity, or hell, etc, but I understand it just fine.

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:20 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • but still not know anything about God or what his purpose is.

    The usual condescending arrogance from those incapable of coexisting with those of other faiths.

    I would REALLY like to see that study redone to include pagans/Heathens, pantheists and deists, though we know from what we've seen here that they generally know the bible better.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 2:54 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • That's what I mean bandgeek. You can have all this knowledge about religion, even be religious, but still not know anything about God or what his purpose is.

    That's not what bandgeek was saying. She was saying she isn't surprised at the findings. Seems like you're stuck in that group that has been taught not to question what religious leaders spoon-fed you.

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:23 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • Eh, it might have been misunderstood, then, but it certainly sounded like "if they really understood they'd believe," or inversely, "if they don't *believe* they don't really understand." Obviously an Atheist doesn't "know" God in a relationship kind of sense. But that doesn't mean that they can't know and understand all about God and the various interpretations and beliefs about Him, His character, His will, His role, etc, etc, etc. I don't know a single Atheist who I would think would say that they "know" God in the sense you seem to be implying now, because they don't believe He exists to physically "know." Again, though, I don't have to *know* my husband's uncle (for example) to know all about him, or know all the inside jokes or stories, etc. Nor do I have to *know* Santa Clause to know the history of the concept, it's various implications throughout cultures, etc, etc...

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:46 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • I'm just saying people who know alot about religion think they know God but they really don't.

    How would YOU know?

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 2:45 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

  • And you are the one taking what I said completely out of context.

    In reply to the question "Mormons, Atheists, Jews know the most about religion, What do you think about this study?" the very first answer says, in its entirety:

    But they know the least about God. Funny.

    Exactly what "context" are you suggesting is being missed?

    Answer by NotPanicking at 3:01 PM on Jun. 19, 2013

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