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Atheists, Agnostics Know The Most About Religion Study: Many Americans Don't Know Basic Tenets Of Their Own Faith

Posted by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM
  • 26 Replies

Atheists, Agnostics Know The Most About Religion

Study: Many Americans Don't Know Basic Tenets Of Their Own Faith

Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

RACHEL ZOLL | 09/28/10 12:02 AM | AP

Religious Literacy

A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.

Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. The top-performing groups on the survey still came out ahead even when controlling for how much schooling they had completed.

On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.

The study also found that many Americans don't understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

"Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are," Pew researchers wrote.

The survey of 3,412 people, conducted between May and June of this year, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, while the margins of error for individual religious groups was higher.

by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM
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Replies (1-10):
futureshock
by Emerald Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM

BUMP!

futureshock
by Emerald Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:47 AM

BUMP!

futureshock
by Emerald Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:49 AM

This doesn't really surprise me.

radioheid
by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:55 AM

I took the quiz the article has linked, and scored 93% (14 out of 15...the only question I missed was also missed by 99% of other respondents.)

I am spiritual but not religious, and include a mix of Christian and "pagan" philosohpies in my central belief system.

radioheid
by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:55 AM

You answered 14 out of 15 questions correctly
for a score of 93%.

Question Your Response Correct Answer % of survey respondents answering correctly
1. Which Bible figure is most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt? correct Answer Moses Moses 72%
2. What was Mother Teresa's religion? correct Answer Catholic Catholic 82
3. Which of the following is NOT one of the Ten Commandments? correct Answer Do unto others as you would have them do unto you Do unto others as you would have them do unto you 55
4. When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? correct Answer Friday Friday 45
5. Is Ramadan…? correct Answer The Islamic holy month The Islamic holy month 52
6. Which of the following best describes the Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for Communion? correct Answer The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. 40
7. In which religion are Vishnu and Shiva central figures? correct Answer Hinduism Hinduism 38
8. Which Bible figure is most closely associated with remaining obedient to God despite suffering? correct Answer Job Job 39
9. What was Joseph Smith's religion? correct Answer Mormon Mormon 51
10. According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to lead a class in prayer, or not? correct Answer No, not permitted No, not permitted 89
11. According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, or not? correct Answer Yes, permitted Yes, permitted 23
12. What religion do most people in Pakistan consider themselves? correct Answer Muslim Muslim 68
13. What was the name of the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation? correct Answer Martin Luther Martin Luther 46
14. Which of these religions aims at nirvana, the state of being free from suffering? correct Answer Buddhism Buddhism 36
15. Which one of these preachers participated in the period of religious activity known as the First Great Awakening? wrong Answer Billy Graham Jonathan Edwards 1
futureshock
by Emerald Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM


Quoting radioheid:

I took the quiz the article has linked, and scored 93% (14 out of 15...the only question I missed was also missed by 99% of other respondents.)

I am spiritual but not religious, and include a mix of Christian and "pagan" philosohpies in my central belief system.

I'm impressed, but not surprised, lol!!!!!

futureshock
by Emerald Member on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:57 AM

I wonder if more people knew more about their own religions, if some of them would become LESS religious?

Cookie-kisses
by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 11:58 AM

Quoting futureshock:

This doesn't really surprise me.

 Me either!  I consider "them" to be the most open minded. 

radioheid
by on Sep. 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM

When you set out seeking the truth, you find many things along the way.

Quoting futureshock:


Quoting radioheid:

I took the quiz the article has linked, and scored 93% (14 out of 15...the only question I missed was also missed by 99% of other respondents.)

I am spiritual but not religious, and include a mix of Christian and "pagan" philosohpies in my central belief system.

I'm impressed, but not surprised, lol!!!!!


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