Study Suggests Atheists Know More Religious Facts than Religious People Do


Recent survey results released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life suggest that atheists and agnostics know more about religion than evangelicals and Catholics.

"On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey," the Pew report stated.1 Participants claiming to be atheists and agnostics averaged 20.9 correct answers, while Jews averaged 20.5 and Mormons 20.3. Protestants and Catholics averaged 16 and 14.7 correct answers, respectively.

On questions about the Bible and Christianity, Mormons scored the highest number of correct answers, while Jews and atheists/agnostics answered more questions correctly about world religions and religion in public life.

The survey was conducted between May 19 and June 6 this year in telephone interviews by Social Science Research Solutions, which sampled 3,412 adults (18 years and older) living in the continental United States.

While this study may suggest that Christians don't know as much about religion as atheists do, it appears that the questions that were asked pertained to trivial knowledge related to religion rather than to specific doctrines, or--more importantly--the application of doctrinal teachings to practical life. For example, knowing that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist is probably not as helpful to everyday living as, say, being familiar with Jesus' teaching to pay taxes.2 Unlike Caesar--or any other governing body, past or presen--the Dalai Lama won't punish people for tax evasion.

Nevertheless, Christians do not have an excuse to be ignorant. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived apart from Christ, once said, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding."3 Because otherwise, "my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."4

References

  1. U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Posted on pewforum.org September 28, 2010, accessed October 1, 2010.
  2. Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25.
  3. Proverbs 23:23.
  4. Hosea 4:6.

* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 14, 2010.