Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taken on faith

I'm a "None" -- like 34 million of my fellow Americans, I'm one of those people who checks "none of the above" when asked to register my religious affiliation. Still, the subject of religion continues to intrigue me.

When I
wrote about the American Religious Identification Survey, I noted that 80% of respondents self-identified with a religion of one sort or another (76% with Christianity) but only 69.5% affirmed their belief in "the existence of God," observing,
"For Americans, it seems, religion is somewhat less about believing than it is about belonging -- more fellowship than faith."
So it's not about believing. Apparently it's even less about knowing.

The just-released U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that we Americans don't know much about religion.

Overall, Americans correctly answered 16 of 32 religious-knowledge questions. Self-identified Christians averaged 15.7 right answers, with Protestants (16.0) outpacing Catholics (14.7). Jews averaged an impressive 20.5 correct, edging out Mormons (which were included in the Christian segment) at 20.3.

Atheists/Agnostics got top marks, averaging 20.9 correct answers.

The survey included seven questions testing respondents' knowledge of the Bible. It's interesting that professed Christians (4.2 correct) did better than the average American (4.1) but took a back seat to Jews (4.3) and Atheists/Agnostics (4.4).

Mormons (5.7) and White Evangelicals (5.1) seem to know more about the Bible than other survey segments, including Protestants (4.5) and Catholics (3.2).

Digging deeper into the Pew survey, it didn't surprise me to learn that the faithful are relatively uninformed about religion's role in public life. Just 68% of Christians surveyed knew what the Constitution says about religion, for example, compared to 82% of Atheists/Agnostics.

Atheists/Agnostics also outperformed Christians by nearly two-to-one on a series of questions about the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on religion in public schools, exposing yet another persecution complex fueled by ignorance of facts.

It's a fascinating and well-done survey, typical of
Pew. The complete report (pdf) is available here, and KintlaLake Blog readers interested in testing their own knowledge of religion can take a 15-question sample quiz by clicking here.