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Author Topic: American Religious Knowledge  (Read 5609 times)

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Offline JudeTopic starter

American Religious Knowledge
« on: September 28, 2010, 09:31:10 AM »
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_rel_religious_literacy_poll

I find these results absolutely mindblowing, in particular that:
Quote
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
While it isn't a falsehood that Atheists/Agnostics did best on the test, the differences between them and Mormons/Jews are not statistically significant, so making the claim that they have the most knowledge is probably unfair, but I find it interesting that Christians of the non-Mormon persuasion lagged way behind -- to the tune of a little over 2/3s as the top scorer while they sat at under 50%, especially when Atheists and Agnostics only have knowledge of religious matters secondarily (as it isn't part of their creed).

What do you attribute this to?

I think it has to do with fundamentalism -- Protestants and Catholics tend to be a lot more relaxed about their faith, on average, than others in my estimation.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 09:39:12 AM by Jude »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2010, 09:57:01 AM »
My initial thoughts:
-Given the sorry state of the average Americans education and knowledge it isn't surprising that their religious knowledge is sub-par as well. There was also a section of general knowledge questions, and success on those was correlated with success on the religious questions, which was further correlated with education level.

-Even though atheists did best, an average of 21/32 is not exactly an impressive performance.

-It is not surprising that Protestants and Catholics were worst. Remember this is a test of world religious knowledge. The more prevalent your religion is the less likely you are to worry about or be considerate of others' religions. So while Protestants did actually do well on the questions about Christianity (A little worse than Mormons, a little better than Catholics) they were clueless about religions outside their own.

-The following quote is not quite true:
especially when Atheists and Agnostics only have knowledge of religious matters secondarily (as it isn't part of their creed).
The vast majority of atheists are not born into atheists families, the same with agnostics. This means that at some point they make a choice to leave their religion. Usually this comes as a direct result of legitimately investigating their religion and the alternatives. I think that in large part explains the success of atheists and agnostics.

Offline Avi

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 09:57:55 AM »
I'd be interested to see how well I could do on this test. >_>  It's interesting, to be sure.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 10:36:53 AM »

Offline Diabolus Lupus

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2010, 10:57:32 AM »
http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge

Here's, I guess, a shortened version of the survey. It's 15 questions.

I got 87% on it.

Online MasterMischief

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2010, 06:32:38 PM »
On another board, someone posited that the vast majority of 'Christians' are once a week Christians and that those that actually practice Christianity would score better.

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2010, 07:49:39 PM »
In regards to the fairly high score from the Atheist/Agnostic sector, could there be a correlation to the fact that many in those categories have spent time trying other Paths before finding that none fit?  I could also theorize that a factor in the lack of knowledge about other religions could be the rigidity with which those individuals hold their own beliefs - i.e., the 'my way is the only way, so why bother learning any other way' school of thought.

Offline Saerrael

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2010, 08:02:02 PM »
Interestingly, from that test, the only answers I had wrong were about what is permitted under US law. I fail to see how that is relevant to me as not living there...? *raises a brow*

Offline Serephino

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2010, 08:54:49 PM »

Scored 100% ;D   

Though the low scores of Christians don't come as a shock to me.  Judging from the ones I've met, most of them go to church, and maybe have read a few passages.  Most don't know what's in their own holy book, and they should.  Just sitting through a church service once a week isn't enough in my opinion.

There could be a number of reasons Atheists and Agnostics scored better, two of them were already mentioned.  Another is that some Atheists seem to take great pleasure in trying to disprove religion, and if they entered a debate without knowing what they were talking about it would only make them look like an idiot. 

I didn't see any mention of Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans being a part of this study.  I found that to be rather disappointing.     

Offline Saerrael

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2010, 08:56:58 PM »

I didn't see any mention of Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans being a part of this study.  I found that to be rather disappointing.     


I found that disappointing as well, yes.

Online MasterMischief

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2010, 09:38:44 PM »
Are you suggesting there is a bias towards Abrahamic religions?  The Devil, you say!

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2010, 09:43:49 PM »
The link that Darkling Alice provided didn't even mention Islam.

Online MasterMischief

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2010, 09:47:57 PM »
Heads back to his Taoist thread before anymore of his sarcasm can seep into his keyboard.

Offline Synecdoche17

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2010, 10:06:31 PM »
14 out of 15 - the only one I got wrong was the question about the preacher in the First Great Awakening, and even that I had down to a 50-50.

Knowing others' religion also depends a lot on where you live - local religious diversity may have a tremendous impact on your understanding of theology. For instance, my best friend in grade school was Jewish, my best friend in junior high was Buddhist, my friends in high school included a Hindu, a Muslim, an atheist, and a Lutheran. Had I been raised in a less diverse environment than the San Francisco Bay Area, it's quite probable that I wouldn't have met anyone but fellow Catholics for a long time.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2010, 01:53:58 AM »

I didn't see any mention of Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans being a part of this study.  I found that to be rather disappointing.

Yeah, it really is a disappointment that the random survey provided an accurate sampling in accordance with its goal and proper investigative procedure rather than presenting data willy nilly. Seriously, the data tables are right there. A statistically insignificant portion of Americans responded that their faith was Hindu or Buddhist. Pagans are included in the 1% who answered "something else" to the following.

Quote
What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as
Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing
in particular?
(INTERVIEWER: IF R VOLUNTEERS “nothing in particular, none, no religion, etc.” BEFORE
REACHING END OF LIST, PROMPT WITH: and would you say that‟s atheist, agnostic, or just nothing
in particular?)

Did you miss the nice title in big bold letters? U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey Meaning that the beliefs of insignificant percentages of the U.S. population were not included.

The link that Darkling Alice provided didn't even mention Islam.

Actually the link I posted gives their data tables that clearly show that 1% of people surveyed were Muslim.

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2010, 02:05:00 AM »
I'm confused then - the page I got to from this link

http://www.pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

showed the following religious paths in the first two charts:

Christian
  Protestant
    White evangelical
    White mainline
    Black Protestant
  Catholic
    White Catholic
    Hispanic Catholic
  Mormon
Jewish
Unaffiliated
  Atheist/Agnostic
  Nothing in particular

Below that was a chart about What the Public Knows about Religion (not divided by religious affiliation), a chart about Knowledge of Religion in Schools, and Education Linked with Greater Religious Knowledge. 

Online Vekseid

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2010, 04:19:08 AM »
I forgot that Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown, so I only got 14/15 myself.

I didn't see any mention of Hindus, Buddhists, and Pagans being a part of this study.  I found that to be rather disappointing.     

You need to poll enough of a group to draw from a statistically significant sample. From a group of ten, the standard deviation is 32% - a rather enormous quantity. You'd want at least a hundred to make empirical claims about them.

There's also the issue with this test's weight towards Judaic religions - it's not particularly fair, for example, to make a question about Moses to a Confucian or Taoist without also discussing Lao Tse or Confucious, for example - it doesn't necessarily reflect on their awareness. Conversely, asking too many questions can bore people, which will also skew things against them.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2010, 07:51:25 AM »
@Oniya
I was linking to a study, not just Section I of a study (I just thought that was a good place to start ^_^). I did not think to link to every page individually. From the page I linked:
Quote
The remainder of this report is divided into two parts. Section II, “Who Knows What About Religion,” focuses on differences between religious groups in eight domains of knowledge: the Bible, Elements of Christianity, Elements of Judaism, Elements of Mormonism, World Religions, Atheism and Agnosticism, the Role of Religion in Public Life, and Nonreligious Topics. Section III, “Factors Linked With Religious Knowledge,” describes factors associated with religious knowledge. Details about the survey’s methodology are available in Appendix A, and the full wording of all questions and topline survey results are provided in Appendix B.
COMBINED RESULTS FOR Q.20-Q.21V [from Appendix B]
[truncated for ease of reproduction]
Protestant - 52%
Catholic - 24%
Mormon - 2%
Orthodox - *
Jewish - 1%
Muslim - 1%
Buddhist - *
Hindu - *
Unitarian - *
Other faiths - 1%
Unafiliated - 16%
Don't know/Refused (VOL.) - 1%
*statistically insignificant sample size

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2010, 08:28:44 AM »
Ah - that explains it.  I completely missed the table of contents.  *facepalm*

Offline Salamander

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2010, 12:26:14 PM »
Hmm...I took the 15-question version and got all of them right. 100%- yay!

And I'm a hardline atheist who was brought up atheist by atheist parents. I certainly didn't learn anything about the bible from them. Being English, I had to take Religious Education at school, but I managed to get myself demoted to the lowest RE set for playing poker in class. The lowest RE set was continual chaos- I just sat at the back of the class with my friend Mark (who had also been demoted for playing poker) and we carried on with the cards. Consequently, I didn't learn a damn thing in RE lessons either. I guess that I picked up most of my knowledge of religion from studying History at Uni, and then subsequently from arguing with religious types. I also went through a phase of being interested in comparative religion, so I've read stuff by Joseph Campbell (for example). Much later on, I studied Psychology and Philosophy, and I suppose some of that is relevant too.

Incidentally, I'm not surprised that religious types score so low on average. In my time on-line I've argued with plenty of Christians who knew much less about their own religion than I do. I think that theres a sort of defence mechanism at work there. For example: a full knowledge of OT atrocities would make it much more difficult to believe in a benevolent God; a full knowledge of all of the negative things that Jesus supposedly said about families would make it very difficult to see Christianity as supporting 'family values'. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2010, 12:37:44 PM by Salamander »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2010, 02:56:16 PM »
Thank you for the back handed comment Salamander.  Of course if someone knew something about their religion they obviously wouldn’t believe in that religion.  All those people must surely be ignorant about their religion not to suddenly discover they are wrong and flock to atheism.   Seriously?  Study some human behavior or at least try not to let your bias guide you to an answer which reflects very arrogantly on you.

Minorities always know more about the majority.  While I cannot think of the name for the theory it was developed after watching servants interact in someone’s household.  The Master did not know the duties of the servant, but the servant knows their duties and the duties of the Master.  No, I am not calling non-Western or Christian traditions servants to Christians those are simply the words the theory utilized.  The meaning is that a minority will always learn about the majority because they are constantly in contact and conflict with that majority.  The majority conversely does not have to interact with those different groups or if they do can ignore or overlook them because the majority has what it wants.  Even their own religion, discussed with like minded individuals, is not fully learned because they do not have to.

How often have people said in this forum that through debate and conflict they learn?  Same principle here.  Minorities beliefs, such as atheism, are more likely to debate and learn from the conflict.  Whereas the majority belief, such as Catholicism, is not so likely to debate or if they do debate they have no reason to pursue an absolute victory. 

Further illustration of this point can be found in politics.  The amount of American people that know anything about foreign policies is laughable at best.  Americans do not know the presidents, leaderships structure or political appointments of many other countries including their neighbors.  Other countries though know who the president of the United States is and a lot of times also know the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Speaker of the House.  Why?  Because Americans feel as if they are on top and have no need to know what is going on “beneath” them.  The influence of the United States causes other countries to be aware of the leadership in the United States and so they learn out of necessity.

The numbers really aren’t surprising at all and certainly aren’t a reflection of blissful ignorance.

Offline Salamander

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2010, 04:32:36 PM »
Thank you for the back handed comment Salamander.  Of course if someone knew something about their religion they obviously wouldn’t believe in that religion.  All those people must surely be ignorant about their religion not to suddenly discover they are wrong and flock to atheism.   Seriously?  Study some human behavior or at least try not to let your bias guide you to an answer which reflects very arrogantly on you.
...
The numbers really aren’t surprising at all and certainly aren’t a reflection of blissful ignorance.

I'm not going to mince my words here...

I've spent plenty of time and effort studying human behaviour, thanks. And I stand by what I said. I think that if Christians (for example) really knew more about what their Bible and their theology says, then many more of them would turn away from religion. Especially if they spent the time to reflect on what they'd learned, for Christianity is a religion of many contradictions.

For example, Christians claim to worship a God of Love. Indeed, one of the qualities traditionally attributed to the Christian God is perfect benevolence- God is said to be wholly and perfectly good. And yet this very same God condemns souls- sentient beings- to eternal torment, a fate infinitely worse than mere death or non-existence. And he does this on the grounds that they don't believe in him. There are of course other reasons for souls being condemned to hellfire, but non-belief is, according to Christian theology, a sure way to damnation. And since the vast majority of people who have ever lived are not Christian, this makes Hell a very crowded place.

I would ask you to consider this: any God who condemns the vast majority of people who have ever lived to everlasting torment is not and cannot be benevolent. Quite the opposite- such an entity is as utterly evil as anything that human beings have ever been able to conceive of. Especially when one considers that this God is also putatively omniscient, and has therefore known that about the mass condemnation to hellfire thing since the beginning of time. Indeed, if we follow Christian theology, then God created Man in full knowledge that he would subsequently be condemning millions upon millions of souls to permanent and everlasting torture.

It is very fortunate that this malevolent monster is a fairytale rather than a reality.


Offline DarklingAlice

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #22 on: September 30, 2010, 04:37:03 PM »
The two of you really should make your own thread if you want to get into this. The purpose here is to discuss the survey.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #23 on: September 30, 2010, 04:43:00 PM »
I have no interest in debating atheist and religious beliefs in this thread and do not understand why someone has decided to do so.  My own post offers a theory to support and interpret the result of this survey and that theory is an established one.  I also provided alternative, non-religious examples to support my observations and interpretations.  Please do not toss me into the same arena as someone that offers no backing or theoretical basis for their arguments.

Offline Salamander

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Re: American Religious Knowledge
« Reply #24 on: September 30, 2010, 05:21:05 PM »
In all honesty, I'm not especially keen to argue about theism/ atheism either. I'll expand my original point and hopefully that will make the purpose of my last post clearer.

People like to have consistent cognitions (ideas, beliefs etc). Sometimes, however, stuff happens and they find themselves in the position of believing contradictory things- in the psychological literature this is called cognitive dissonance. One example of cognitive dissonance might be this:

Joe considers himself to be an excellent driver. But then one day he doesn't pay attention, and he causes an accident, injuring a pedestrian. He is now in a position of cognitive dissonance- he thinks that he's a good driver, but he also knows thats he's injured someone through poor driving. The two are contradictory.

Okay...so there are a number of ways through which people can eliminate the dissonance. For example, one way for Joe to resolve things would be to decide that the accident wasn't his fault- then he could carry on thinking that he was a good driver. Another would be to revise his opinion of his own driving. A third might be to tell himself that all good drivers occasionally make mistakes, and he was unlucky. And so on.

However, the most effective way of dealing with cognitive dissonance is simply to avoid getting into the dissonant situation to begin with. Avoid inconvenient facts. Don't examine your beliefs too rigorously. Don't think about the logical consequences of your worldview. And it is this tactic that I think is adopted by many Christians. If they did take a long hard look at what they believe in, then they'd find plenty of contradictions. For example, the Loving God/ Torturer God contradiction that I describe above.

Thus the survey findings. Christians are avoiding knowledge of their religion as a way of preserving their beliefs. Greater knowledge would bring with it the threat of cognitive dissonance, which is something that people generally wish to avoid.