Americans don’t know a hell of a lot about religion

Americans and religion: God, what a mess (AP)

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.

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Online:

Pew online quiz about religion: http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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8 Responses to "Americans don’t know a hell of a lot about religion"

  1. dvl666  September 28, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Don’t know much about History, slept through Biology… so what’s new most Americans don’t know much about anything other than ‘pop’ culture..dancing with the stars,American idol, sports teams, and Holloywood crap.
    Why do younthink that we ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan??
    Viet Nam was less know than “Star Wars’ Most Americans don’t know who we fought in WWII .
    As Mencken stated, “one can never grow broke underestimating the intelligence of Americans.”
    Face it there are more ‘Homer Simpsons’ than Bill Gates.
    Most Americans have the the attention span and intelligence of a fruit fly.
    It’s why the Tea Party resonates and why we change ‘rulers’ every 2 years and expect things to change.

  2. Almandine  September 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Ah yes, the govt school system in action. Pick up a history book and see if anything more than a mere mention of WWII is included. Probably the only thing about Vietnam will be the anti-war protesters.

  3. Carl Nemo  September 28, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Hell, most people don’t know much about anything other than satisfying their primal urges; ie., eating, moving about, defecating and replicating after dark, mixed with a good dose of alcohol and drugs and an overabundance of food to smooth out the rough spots. The understanding of reeligion ( if that’s possible), our system of government and history itself is an esoteric endeavor for most mortals.

    When you study the “Gaussian Bell Curve” for the distribution of intelligence within the population; 50% are below average while the 40% above the median although bright aren’t doing much to change the lot of mankind. That’s for the upper 10% to the esoteric realm of the 1%’rs and above. Very few indeed, possibly explaining why progress is so slow.

    My point is there isn’t any shame in not knowing much about anything. It seems to be the thing to do and is quite popular amongst the populace. : )

    Somehow things will work out. They always do…no? : |

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. Carl Nemo  September 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    “reeligion ( if that’s possible)” …extract from post

    My extreme apologies. I did not write that to be funny. The word is “religion”. I know better, but bear with me. I’m developing a form of keyboard stutter mixed with typos lately. The end must be near. / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • logtroll  September 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      Reeeligion for the masses is just another tribalistic form of socializing. For the power hungry, it is the finest tool imaginable. For the thinking, it is the scariest threat to public sanity of all. Intelligence (wisdom) as a management tool is best manifested through cleverness, and not through idealism.

      As my ole fren’ Morris sez, “Ifn ya falls offa the dam, ya gotta swim down.”

      • Carl Nemo  September 29, 2010 at 11:24 pm

        Is that “Morris the Cat” or “Morris Dees” logtroll? :D

        Carl Nemo **==

  5. D.A.  September 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    The Christian religion has been hijacked and morphed into a bastard religion which only barely resembles the faith it was previously.

    Most who claim to be Christian have no “real” idea of what the religion believes.
    Instead, they are misled by false prophets (aka John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, Joel Osteen etc…) whose trickle down perversity permeates the local congregation’s ears every Sunday.

    Americans are hyper-entertained and overly-sensitive. Succumbing to Romanesque “bread and circuses.”

    Most Americans are intellectually lazy and most of the rest have intentionally been misled by history books which have fed them lies and distortions history.

    TV is a powerful propaganda tool. To think millions of Americans voluntarily pay for their brainwashing. I walk every evening and as I walk by house after house, the glow of the “voluntary, hypnotic idiot tube” can be seen flickering it’s mind altering glow against their windows.

    Their lives are passing them by. They are the “sitting dead” and they don’t even realize it.

  6. Carl Nemo  October 1, 2010 at 12:35 am

    “They are the “sitting dead”…re: chronic boobtube addicts from post

    Spot-on analysis D.A. Seemingly the brighter and most cunning or our “earth tribe” have come up with the ultimate tool to pacify their captives.

    Carl Nemo **==

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