Atheists Top the Religious in Religious Knowledge

A recent Pew Survey on religious knowledge has found that atheists do better on a battery of religious knowledge questions than Jews, Christians, Mormons—indeed, anybody else. Out of 32 questions, atheists, on average, managed to answer about 21 of the questions correctly. Everybody else lagged behind them. The white Evangelical Protestants surveyed—who supposedly are especially concerned with religious matters—answered, on average, 17.6 of 32 questions correctly.

And here’s a quote from the Pew Survey summary that I find especially startling: a lot of Catholics don’t know what transubstantiation is, a lot of Protestants don’t know who Martin Luther is, and a lot of Jews don’t know who Maimonides is:

More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity. Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish.

Isn’t that more than a tad embarrassing? What does it even mean to call yourself a Catholic, a Protestant, or a Jew if you don’t know the most rudimentary facts and personalities associated with your religion—with the worldview that you profess?

And as for religions other than America’s big three, the knowledge gets even more tenuous (if that were possible):

[F]ewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly associate Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism. And only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) correctly answer that most people in Indonesia—the country with the world’s largest Muslim population—are Muslims.

And they vote.

Welcome to our idiocracy.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Atheists Top the Religious in Religious Knowledge

  1. Cody Deitz says:

    This post had me literally laughing out loud at work haha

  2. Susan says:

    Well..I’ve to say I am not SURPRISED with the survey results…

  3. Pingback: Atheists Top the Religious in Religious Knowledge (via Prometheus Unbound) « lurking chihuahua

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