30 September 2010

Got a question about religion? Ask an atheist

A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life offered some intriguing results. The survey of 3,412 Americans indicated that atheists and agnostics were the most knowledgeable about religion. They were closely followed by Jews and Mormons and then more distantly by evangelical Christians. Out of 32 religious knowledge questions, atheists/agnostics answered, on average, 20.9 correctly, Jews 20.5, Mormons 20.3 and evangelicals 17.6. The survey average was 16.

While Mormons and evangelicals knew more about Christianity, Jews and atheists/agnostics knew more about other religions. Curiously, even though the United States is perhaps the most religious country in the West, many Americans know little about the major religions, including their own. For example, while two-thirds of Americans believe school teachers are not legally allowed to read from the Bible, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated the Bible may be taught for its “literary and historic” qualities as long as it is part of a secular curriculum.

Part of the reason that atheists and Jews know more about religion is because they are better educated. (The survey indicated that education is the single best predictor of religious knowledge.) "However," the survey goes on to say, "even after controlling for levels of education and other key demographic traits ... Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity, though they also score at or above the national average on questions about the Bible and Christianity."

If you want to check your own knowledge of religion, you can find the survey here. And how did this atheist blogger do on the test? I'm not saying. Suffice it to say I did better than the average atheist.

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