Pew survey: Agnostics, atheists know more about Christianity, other religions than Christians
A study showed recently that agnostics and atheists know more about religion and the Bible than Christians do.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey was designed to assess a wide spectrum of religious knowledge, including one’s grasp of the Bible, and the foundational teachings of various faiths and prominent people in religious history, the AP said.
The survey is significant because the U.S., among countries in the developed world, is perhaps the most religious, especially compared to Western Europe, the AP reported.
Survey findings revealed that 45 percent of Roman Catholics did not know about transubstantiation, or the belief that the Holy Communion is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, and not just a symbol, The New York Times said.
Fifty percent of Protestants didn’t know that Martin Luther led the Reformation; and four in 10 Jews didn’t know that one of the greatest intellectual rabbis in history, Maimonides, is Jewish, The New York Times reported.
The average score of some 3,400 respondents was 50 percent, and many respondents did not correctly answer questions about their own religion. The highest scores went to atheists (21 correct answers), agnostics (21 correct), Jews (20 correct) and Mormons (20 correct); and even when inputting controls for racial differences, education and age produced the same results, The New York Times said.
Protestants averaged about 16 correct answers or fifty percent of 32 questions asked. Roman Catholics followed with a score of about 15, according to the AP.
The survey was conducted by telephone. Respondents were asked 32 questions about Christianity, the bible, world religions, leading faith figures, and constitutional doctrines regarding religion in public life, The New York Times said.
Some questions were: Could they name the Islamic holy book; what century was the Mormon religion founded; what is the first book of the bible; where was Jesus born; what is Ramadan; and what religion is the Dalai Lama, the AP said.
The survey showed that respondents who attended church weekly and who placed high value on religion in their lives had higher scores. The best predictor of religious knowledge, however, was one’s educational level, the AP reported.
But even when controlling the survey by educational level, the overall findings were still the same, the AP said.
Mormons had the highest scores for questions regarding Christianity (averaging eight correct answers, followed by white evangelicals (seven correct answers). Atheists, agnostics and Jews knew the most about other religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, the AP reported.
Noted, too is the lack of understanding among Americans of constitutional rules regarding religion in public school. While most respondents knew that teachers cannot lead a class in prayer in public schools, less than one-fourth knew that teachers can read from the bible if they are citing it as an example of literature, The New York Times said.
Pew researchers wrote, “Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” the AP reported.
The survey was conducted between May and June of this year, with a plus or minus 2.5 percent margin of error. The margins of error for individual religious groups was higher, according to the AP.