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    Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

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    Arik
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    Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Arik on Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:38 am

    A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

    Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

    More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

    The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

    Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.

    Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

    Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. The top-performing groups on the survey still came out ahead even when controlling for how much schooling they had completed.

    On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.

    The study also found that many Americans don't understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.
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    "Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are," Pew researchers wrote.

    The survey of 3,412 people, conducted between May and June of this year, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, while the margins of error for individual religious groups was higher.

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    neoinarien

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  neoinarien on Fri Oct 01, 2010 10:18 am

    Yeah, this doesn't strike me as a surprise at all.

    Arik
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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Arik on Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:06 pm

    What I find interesting from this article is this:

    Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses.

    It's weird how that group would score highest. Any thoughts as to why?

    neoinarien

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  neoinarien on Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:26 pm

    Yes: they are in the minority and are therefore more accustomed to more often defending their views.

    Arik
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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Arik on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:02 pm

    Maybe, but in terms of atheists and agnostics, I still am not sure that that is why they would score higher on questions of religion than religious people. After all, an atheist doesn't believe in G-d, period, so under normal circumstances, in his or her opinion, what is there to defend?

    neoinarien

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  neoinarien on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:09 pm

    I think people tend to define themselves based on their differences in America. Accordingly, being an atheist is quite different. So they read about it more to talk it about more.

    Besides, using Catholics as an example, there's a sharp distinction to be made between those who practice and those who don't but they were probably all treated as 'Catholics' for this survey. Plus given the remarkable decline in catechesis since Vatican II, this is zero surprise.

    Arik
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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Arik on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:18 pm

    Agreed. The reality is that that goes for many people. For example, many people claim to be Xtian, but how many of them truly practice their religion, study their Bibles, etc. I think to a point this may show that the survey was somewhat skewed. But who knows?

    neoinarien

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  neoinarien on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:26 pm

    They should have asked them about church/synagogue attendance and record the answers for each group, scaling them by attendance. Once a week, once a month, etc.

    That would have been far more interesting.

    But I think the apathetics, the people who bombed the quiz, simply identify with their family's religion on cultural grounds if nothing else.

    Arik
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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Arik on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:29 pm

    neoinarien wrote:They should have asked them about church/synagogue attendance and record the answers for each group, scaling them by attendance. Once a week, once a month, etc.

    That would have been far more interesting.

    But I think the apathetics, the people who bombed the quiz, simply identify with their family's religion on cultural grounds if nothing else.

    I think you are 100% correct on the above post +1
    However I am still baffled by how much better the atheists did. Is it possible they were raised in religious homes and after looking into various religions, simply walked away and rejected it?

    neoinarien

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  neoinarien on Fri Oct 01, 2010 4:31 pm

    Well, anything is possible.

    The atheists I know though were raised either by atheist parents, or apathetic parents. I don't know anyone who is an atheist, or even agnostic, with devout parents regardless of their creed.

    Philip

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    Re: Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

    Post  Philip on Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:16 am

    I think that Atheists and Agnostics represent a group of highly intelligent people who have traveled a path in life that led them to their current state of rejecting religion. Most probably no one wakes up one morning and discovers he or she does not believe in God. They have perhaps studied and investigated many Spiritual Lifestyles and studied the major religions seeking answers to their questions. For whatever reasons... they chose not to believe but end up being well educated in the many types of religion due to their search for the existence of God.

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