Much of secular media have been spreading the news that agnostics and atheists are more intelligent on religious matters than Christians, but this is misleading and dishonest.
This article from the Pew Forums also shows that overall Bible readers and weekly church attenders graded the highest above atheists and agnostics. However, atheists and agnostics can feel good about doing better on general religious knowledge than nominal “Christians.” Furthermore, Mormons and evangelicals demonstrated a better knowledge about Christianity than all others.
Practicing Christians Know More
As the article reveals, that this survey does not distinguish between nominal “Christians” and practicing Christians on the charts. Those generally described as “Christian” knew more about the Bible and Christianity. However, the report declared,
People with the highest levels of religious commitment – those who say that they attend worship services at least once a week and that religion is very important in their lives – generally demonstrate higher levels of religious knowledge than those with medium or low religious commitment.
The survey included people who prefer a simplicity in their faith and neglect even a general knowledge of other religions with all Christians. To include these among the Christians in comparison to agnostics and atheists is again misleading.
Examples of the Survey Questions
There are some flawed questions too. For example, “When does the Jewish Sabbath begin?” Yes, for most modern Jews the Sabbath starts on Friday night at sunset, but that was not the case in the biblical texts. (See “When Does a Day Begin and End in Scriptures?”)
Also, one of the questions appears to be prejudice toward Mormons. Question number 42 is: “When was the Mormon religion founded?” Mormonism claims to be the restored church that was in the beginning and yet all other beliefs would differ in dating Mormonism “sometime after 1800.” That is bias against Mormons.
Other Questions on the Survey
The report also presented questions about Christianity,
On the other hand, most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey’s questions about the Bible. For example, roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible. And more than half know that the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – is not one of the Ten Commandments. On the full battery of seven questions about the Bible (five Old Testament and two New Testament items) Mormons do best, followed by white evangelical Protestants. Atheists/agnostics, black Protestants and Jews come next, all exhibiting greater knowledge of the Bible than white mainline Protestants and white Catholics, who in turn outscore those who describe their religion as nothing in particular.
To get a glimpse of the overall knowledge, Pew Forums also asked:
In addition to questions about religious knowledge, the survey included nine general knowledge questions (on history, politics, science and literature) for comparison purposes. These show, for example, that about six-in-ten Americans can name the vice president of the United States (59%) and understand that lasers do not work by focusing sound waves (60%). More than seven-in-ten (72%) correctly associate Susan B. Anthony with the movement to give women the right to vote, while just 42% know that Herman Melville was the author of the novel Moby Dick.
Other Positive Results
The survey found that,
Many Americans are devoted readers of Scripture: More than a third (37%) say they read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, not counting worship services. But Americans as a whole are much less inclined to read other books about religion. Nearly half of Americans who are affiliated with a religion (48%) say they “seldom” or “never” read books (other than Scripture) or visit websites about their own religion, and 70% say they seldom or never read books or visit websites about other religions.
Here is a link to their US Religious Knowledge Survey.