By Elizabeth Tenety
Atheists and agnostics scored the highest on a Pew Forum study examining Americans’ religious knowledge.
The survey, released Tuesday, tested knowledge of what Pew calls “the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.”
Out of 32 questions, atheists and agnostics, on average, answered 21 questions correctly, making non-believers the top performers. They had higher than average scores on questions about world religions and about religion’s role in public life. The more you know, the less you believe?
Jews averaged 20.5 correct questions, followed closely by Mormons. The lowest performing group was Catholics, who answered 15 questions correctly.
The average American answered 16 out of 32 questions on his religious pop quiz. At 50%, that’s not even a passing grade.
The specifics are more puzzling:
-45% of Catholics do not know that their church teaches that the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Christ.
-More than half of Protestants “cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation.”
-Just 36% know that public schools are constitutionally permitted to teach comparative religion.
There was some good news about Americans’ religious literacy:
-71% know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
-More than 6-in-10 know that Genesis is the first book of the bible.
Take a look at the full study for yourself.
Quiz yourself! See how you score on five of Pew’s 32 questions.
What forces do you think are responsible for America’s failing grade on religious literacy, despite our self-professed religiosity? Why are atheists and agnostics the top performers in religious knowledge? What more can be done?