Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So I took this quiz from the Pew Forum on general religious knowledge. Yes, it is Christian-slanted; no questions about Zoroaster or Sikhs here! Of course, so are the United States, the subject of the survey. Disclosure: I got 15/15 correct, because I’m awesome (Sin of pride).

Anyway, a few things cropped up in the post-quiz results pages. Really interesting things. One of the best statistical tricks I’ve found for ferreting out weird things is reversing a statistic. Take, for example, that 93% of self-described Mormons think that Joseph Smith was a Mormon. It doesn’t seem weird until you realize that 7% of Mormons think that he was either Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu, the other four choices. I guess I hope for Catholic, as it’d be closest for a second choice, but still—seven percent of Mormons didn’t know that the founder of their faith was a member of their faith. Seriously.

Other tidbits:

  • 90% of Jews closely associate Moses with the Exodus—10% of Jews associate the Exodus with Abraham, Job, or Elijah.

  • 81% of Mormons know that the golden rule isn’t in the 10 commandments, compared with 62% of Jews.

  • 6% of Jews don’t think the Sabbath begins on Friday.

  • 10% of Jews thought that Ramadan was either the Hindu festival of lights or the Jewish day of Atonement. I’m leaning towards that Jewish 10% mostly thinking Ramadan is Hindu, but one can never tell.

  • Less than half (47%) of Hispanic Catholics think that Catholics think that communion is only a symbol, not the literal body and blood of Christ.

  • Who knows who Job is: 7/10 of all Mormons, almost 6/10 of all White Evangelical Protestants, just over half of all Black Protestants, and just under half of all Jews.

  • Most people know who Mother Theresa is: 85.5% of all people who aren’t Black Protestants or “Nothing in Particular.” Only 66% Black Protestants thought she was Catholic and 77% of the “nothing in particular” crowd. The other choices were Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon, and Hindu.

  • That means, by the way, that 12% of White Catholics and 17% of Hispanic Catholics didn’t know Mother Theresa was Catholic.

  • 17% of Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants think that the Supreme Court allows teachers to lead class prayers. 84% of those two groups also think that teachers are not permitted to read the Bible as literature in schools. Based on my fuzzy math, does that mean that 2.72% of Hispanic Catholics and Black Protestants think that the Supreme Court OK’d prayer BUT NOT Bible as Literature?

  • Non-mormon Christians don’t know much about Pakistan’s religion—an average of 36% don’t think that Pakistan is primarily Muslim.

  • Atheists blow everybody else out of the water when it comes to Buddhist knowledge—62% know that Buddhism focuses on Nirvana, while only 35% of everybody else.

  • Atheists similarly triumph over knowledge of Hinduism, with Jewish knowledge of Hinduism coming close behind (72 and 62%, respectively). Everyone else’s average: 35% Other options: Islam and Taoism (in Taoism’s sole mention. I imagine only 2% across the board would know anything, including connecting it with the Te Ching).

  • Nobody knows anything about Jonathan Edwards. White Evangelical Protestants (15%) and Jews (12%) did best.
So what is the state of religious knowledge in America? Interesting. If you're a Black Protestant or Hispanic Catholic, though, I'd be concerned. Then again, when Atheists know more than everybody but Jews, it's egg in your face, Christian America. If you want to read Pew's report, check it out here.