On Tuesday the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey of how knowledgeable Americans were about religion.


Using a statistically valid random number generator a sample of 3,412 people were asked 32 questions about religion.  A link to the test can be found in 4) below.

The test only took me about 10 minutes, and seemed fairly easy.  I got 30/32 correct.  The two questions I missed, #4 and #13, were the questions missed by the largest number of respondents.

2) From two articles about the survey results:

a. The Christian Science Monitor:


“Based on a May-June survey of more than 3,400 American adults, these findings point to a dearth of religious knowledge in a country where nearly 6 in 10 adults say religion is “very important” in their lives.

“If you can’t even name the four books that tell us about [Jesus’] teachings and way of life, then you’re in big trouble,” said Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw. “You don’t know who Jesus is if you don’t even know Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

Not all Christian educators are worried, however. Wilhelmina Jenkins, an Atlanta physicist, says people are hungry for knowledge of history and other religions in the adult Bible study class she leads at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Atlanta. She says facts are helpful, but “academic” questions – such as those asked in the Pew survey – don’t reveal much about a person’s understanding of his/her faith tradition.

“I don’t think this [survey] got to the heart of what most people know about their own religious experience,” Ms. Jenkins said. “It was a very academic view of religion. [But] If you asked people, ‘What’s the fundamental bottom line in Christianity?’ Most people would tell you, ‘Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor.’ I don’t think most people would have any trouble knowing that.”

b. The New York Times:


“On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers.

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said.

“Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

3) Questions

a. What do you think needs to be done, if anything, to motivate more Americans to increase their knowledge of religion?

b. Not to dig the needle in 🙂  but why would atheist/agnostics do better on a test of religion that those of religious faith?

4) Pew Forum Test On Religion , in the Christian Science Monitor (All you need is a pencil & paper to write your answers down.  The answers are on the last page).