Skip to main content

Pew Research U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

On Twitter this morning, Pew Research linked to their 2010 U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, something I missed the first time around. For the survey, they asked a little over 3400 people nationwide questions about religion and some of the results were quite interesting--but before you read about it, go take a shorter version of the survey and see how you do.
  • Atheists, agnostics, Mormons and Jews scored higher overall than Protestants and Catholics.
  • Mormons and evangelicals know more about Christianity while agnostics and atheists do best on world religions.
  • Former Pew Research surveys reveal "America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations" but this survey "shows that large numbers of Americans are uniformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions--including their own."
  • The survey revealed widespread confusion about "the line between teaching and preaching" in public schools. While most knew a teacher could not lead a class in prayer, most also did not know that a comparative religion course can be taught and the Bible can be read or quoted as literature.
  • How much schooling an individual has completed is the single best predictor of religious knowledge.
  • Regarding knowledge of the Bible, 55% of the public know that the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you") is not one of the Ten Commandments. Less than half of white mainline Protestants and black Protestants (49% each) got that question right; and while they score above the public, only 67% of white evangelicals and 63% of Catholics got that question right.
  • Only 71% of white evangelical Protestants could name the four Gospels.
There is much more--I only highlighted some of the things that stood out to me. 

I wasn't surprised by the lack of historical knowledge of those professing to be Christian about their own faith, but I found it interesting that those that scored better on this were better educated in general. This suggests to me that perhaps knowledge of our history comes from the education system or self-education rather than our churches. And while I wasn't surprised, I was disappointed by the the lack of basic biblical knowledge among professing Christians; a third of us not knowing the Ten Commandments or a quarter of us not being able to name the four gospels is profound in its implications. 

As for me, I didn't score perfect--only 14 out of 15. I got one the one about Pakistan wrong, heh.