Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Atheists know more about religion

Everyone appears to be having a good time with the latest Pew Forum survey where Atheists and Agnostics scored the highest on questions about religion.

I took an abbreviated form of the survey and got 15 out of 15 correct. It’s not exactly rocket science just basic common knowledge. My perfect score was better than 99% of the population which only averaged 50% right. Jews did the best on the 15 question survey getting 65% right. Atheists/Agnostics were next with 64% right.

In the actual survey, Atheists/Agnostics scored the highest getting an average of 20.9 out of 32 questions correct; Jews were next at 20.5 and then Mormons at 20.3. I’m not sure I would consider those differences significant.

The overall average was 16. White Evangelical Christians got an average of 17.6 correct and White Catholics 16.0. At the bottom of the list were Hispanic Catholics at 11.6 and Black Protestants at 13.4.

The two most difficult questions on the survey were related to Maimonides and the First Great Awakening. Only 8% knew Maimonides was Jewish and only 11% could identify Jonathan Edwards as a figure in the First Great Awakening.

Which sort of indicates something wrong with the quiz. There were only 5 and 3 choices respectively, so unless some folks didn’t even guess, one would have expected numbers closer to 20% and 33%. As it turns out, “I don’t know” was always an option and 71% had never heard of Maimonides and 50% answered “I don’t know” to the Edwards question.

The only question that gave me some pause was the Jonathan Edwards one. The three choices were Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney or Billy Graham. I knew it wasn’t Billy Graham and Charles Finney didn’t sound like a Puritan name so I figured it had to be Jonathan Edwards.

In questions specific to Christianity, Mormons did the best with 7.9 out of 12 correct, followed by White Evangelical Protestants with 7.3 out of 12. Atheist/Agnostics were third with 6.7 out of 12.
Some of the results were almost unbelievable. Supposedly only 16% of Christians knew that Protestants, but not Catholics, taught that salvation was through faith alone.

Any reasonably educated person should have been able to answer an overwhelming majority of the questions. There were a few that I wouldn’t expect most people to know, and we all have areas of ignorance that would surprise our friends, but most of the questions were pretty simple.

I’m not at all sure this means anything significant beyond Americans are a hell of a lot more ignorant than they should be.


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