Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Atheists know more about religion than believers

From the NY TImes:
Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew....


it's margaret said...

I had a couple of parishioners send me this link today --I laughed and wrote back the list of formation classes/opportunities we will be offering soon!

It would be interesting to know which of the categories of questions (Bible, Christianity, other world religions etc) each of the groups answered correctly --I mean, did white evangelical protestants answer more questions about the bible correctly, but got all the 'other world religion' questions wrong.... etc....

James said...

Oh, dear, there will be no living with IT now. :)

I would like to see the questions.

IT said...

There are samples linked from the Times article.

Margaret, yes, Evangelicals answered more bible questions correctly. BUT (get this)

¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.

And there are more examples like this.

Erp said...

One can also read the entire report when the server has recovered from everyone going there.

Most of the questions were multiple choice (exceptions were name the first book of the Bible, name the four gospels).

They do have a quiz including a bit under half the questions used in the survey.

Erika Baker said...

That quiz is fun. If it didn't have all those questions on US legislation and your Christian Revival movement I'd be sorely tempted to put it on Facebook!

JCF said...

I just addressed this on Episcopal Cafe. (I found the results entirely logical)

It seems to me that the four highest groups (Atheists, Agnostics, Jews and Mormons) all have their knowledge of religions in "Know What We Reject" mode (the first three are "to stand apart from", and the last is "so we can invade and overtake")

It seems no one really has "Knowledge in Order to Engage in Dialogue", alas (Well, except for IT, of course! ;-/)

Kevin K said...

Well, I took the quiz, without peaking and got all of the questions right except for the one about the great awakening. I can now feel comfortably smug.

Kevin K.

Counterlight said...

I'm not surprised by these results.
Since I teach a lot of art history, religion inevitably comes up, and is inextricable from every period and culture of art except (significantly) modern art.
I teach classrooms full of Christian students who don't know the difference between Catholic and Protestant, who've never heard of St. Francis, The Reformation, The Counter-Reformation, Martin Luther, Loyola, or Wesley. My Muslim students are usually much better informed about their own faith. Most of what my students know about religion is from TV and movies. It doesn't help that the public discussion of religion is completely dominated by fanatics of all kinds.
I get religious questions all the time, but I have to remind them that mine is not a course in religion. It is a course about the furniture of religion. I usually send them elsewhere to clergy or other professors for questions above my pay grade.

JCF said...

(Taking quiz now. Held off, because I really expect to get them all)

I take issue w/ Q4. The correct answer (to "Religion of Indonesia") SHOULD Islam, and they've given us (as a choice) "Muslim". Muslims are the PEOPLE who practice Islam.


Um, is that it? 6 Questions? Not 32? Lame!

Paul (A.) said...

I don't know what quiz you were taking, JCF, but the link is to a 15-question quiz that varies the questions presented from among the 32 religion questions of the original survey. The survey question was correct in asking "What religion do most people in [varies Pakistan or Indonesia] consider themselves?"

The questionnaire itself (pdf file) is here.

It would have been interesting if Pew could have given access to the original data so that one could find out, e.g., how many people identified themselves as "Anglican" and of what type, or how Episcopalians as a subgroup did on the quiz.

The full report gives in an appendix the "topline" survey answers. Interesting that 66% of the population surveyed either didn't know which famous court case involved teaching evolution in public schools or else thought it was Brown v. Board of Education.

(And NCLB focuses on math and English only.) At least the survey found 68% of the respondents were "dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country today". I'd sign on to that.

Kevin K said...

The atheist responses really are noting to brag about. Twenty-one out of thirty-two is still a failing grade. As a history geek these results do not surprise me. Most Americans are woefully underinformed about history, including religious history. I doubt the majority of Americans could identify the signifigance of the battle of Antietam or even place it in our Civil War.

Kevin K