A new Pew Forum study about religion informs us that many of us actually don’t know what we’re talking about in that arena, including many of us who actually purport to be religious. A range of religious and general questions were given to atheists/agnostics, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons. Americans in general averaged 16 of the 32 religious questions correct, with atheists/agnostics getting the most right, at 20.9. Jews and Mormons got 20.5 and 20.3; Protestants 16; and Catholics 14.7.
The thing is, not knowing about religion is one thing. But not knowing the basic tenets of the religion you choose to practice (and perhaps even push on others) is something else. Does that, in fact, count as hypocrisy?
According to Pew, nearly 60 percent of Americans say religion is very important in their lives, and 40 percent say they go to church at least once a week. To sleep?
The study also asked a range of “general knowledge questions” that revealed the following:
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.
As it turns out, education was education, and smarts were smarts, religiously or otherwise. People who did well in the general knowledge arena generally also did well with the religious questions, with atheists/agnostics and Jews answering an average of seven of the nine questions correctly, college grads getting nearly 8 more questions right than those who did not graduate college, and the general public holding the rest of us back with just 5.2 right.
See also: “Intelligent people ‘less likely to believe in God'” — unless, of course, he’s watching. Hey there, big guy!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 28, 2010