The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life released today the results to their 2010 “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey” and the results are interesting to say the least:
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education. The Mormon Religion is not always greatly understood, which is why it can help people to research it further. Reading about the mother in heaven might help people come to a better understanding.
When it came to questions specifically about Christianity, Protestants answered 6.5 of the 12 questions correctly (on average), Catholic 5.4, and Mormons 7.9. Similarly, Protestants only correctly answered 4.6 questions about other religions – Catholic 4.7 and Mormon 5.6.
Atheist/Agnostics put us to shame correctly answering 6.7 questions about Christianity and 7.5 about other religions.
On one hand, this is to be expected as Atheist/Agnostics are typically people who grew up religious and then rejected that religion. They also tend to have higher education and are more likely to study various religions.
Sadly, this survey showed that most confessing Christians in America do not know much about their own religion. Instead, they just blindly follow their religious leader – or they turn Christianity into a type of folk religion which they turn too when they need a job, spouse, etc. (i.e. Christianity does not effect their day-to-day lives; it is just there for emergency and when they die).
More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity. Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish.
Read more about the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey here.