How smart are you about religion in America?

A new study by the Pew Center for Religion and Public Life says that Atheists and agnostics know about religion than evangelical and mainlines Protestants and Catholics.

The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey:.

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

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.

On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews and atheists/agnostics stand out for their knowledge of other world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism; out of 11 such questions on the survey, Jews answer 7.9 correctly (nearly three better than the national average) and atheists/agnostics answer 7.5 correctly (2.5 better than the national average). Atheists/agnostics and Jews also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including a question about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

Take the test here.

So? How'd you do?

Comments (16)

Well, I got 14 out of 15 correct. I missed the last one, kind of thought it wasn't Billy Graham but really didn't recognize the other names either. I'm still clueless about so much else. That's why I'm here.

You have caused me to commit the sin of pride, since I scored 100% on the quiz. ;-)

(Thank you Education for Ministry!)

I missed one question, but I thought the test was fairly easy. I'd think most people would miss only one or two, but I'd be wrong.

June Butler

Paige - you & me, babe! 100%!
(we were in EfM together)
- Anne LeVeque

Not exactly new, it came out in September 2010.

Also the sample test is only 15 questions while the original was 32. The initial survey was also done orally which might confuse people who for instance had seen the name "Maimonides" but never heard it spoken.

15/15 for me but then I'm one of those atheists:-).

Yes, this looked familiar. 15 out of 15. Come on, CHALLENGE me...

JC Fisher

I got all 15, but the last one was mostly a lucky guess. The other 14 seemed rather easy. But what do I know, I'm just a white male mainline Protestant.

14 out of 15. Guessed wrong on the last one. Knew it wasn't Billy Graham, but . . .

14 out of 15 I would say judging from this collection of responses, we Episcopalians 'up' the curve for mainline protestants or um are we lumped in with the catholics ah well we really should be set apart from the rest since I think as a group we are better read and work to keep ourselves informed. Is that pride? Well I am proud to be an Episcopalian. :)

Our comments may be evidence of reporting bias. I realized after I bragged elsewhere about scoring a 15 of 15 that I wouldn't have bragged if my score was lower than 14 of 15. (Yes, I did have to guess on the last one like of you reporting your score.)

Still, I do think Episcopalians pull up the average -- we're more likely to be college educated for one thing.

Thumbs up on the comment above that there's a difference between having the survey read to you, and reading it at your leisure. I might add, and self selecting to take the quiz rather than taking a cold call where you probably don't care about your score.

Even so, I was surprised how many Catholics don't know the Catholic teaching on what happens to the bread and wine during communion. I guess Catholic teaching isn't as strong as I supposed.

Do we know what happens to the bread and wine according to Anglican teaching? I think I'd better go look it up before someone asks me and I reveal my ignorance. (Just kidding?)

Re: our Eucharistic theology. If we consider the principle 'lex orandi lex credendi' then examine the prayers of our rite, ie,"Grant us therefore,
gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ,
and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him,
and he in us. Amen" - from the Prayer of Humble Access
Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee
for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the
spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy
Son our Savior Jesus Christ - after communion
and of course I could pull other examples out. I think its fair to say as Episcopalians we believe in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament but as a church we are in no rush to explain "how" that happens.

I agree Jesse - and our Eucharistic prayers seem to indicate a wide belief - from that which you cite to a memorial meal to a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Ah, but knowledge doesn't save. That's gnosticism to think that, and gnosticism is a heresy.

Chris, no one said knowledge saves. People are just having a little fun. Go rain on some other parade.

Another Episcopalian with 15/15! I suspect our high scores have more to do with the fact that we are interested enough to read religious-based blogs and articles and take such tests than our religion or educational background.

Thanks for commenting - please sign your name next time. ~ed.

Fifteen out of fifteen. Thanks to the nuns at Incarnate Word High School in San Antonio.

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