A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.
Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.
More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.
The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.
Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.
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.
SHOOT: They should do a survey on Christians to assess how many Christians have studied how their bible was written, and how the language evolved. For example many will be surprised to learn that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. This is possibly where the saying 'it's all Greek to me originated'. And perhaps it should have remained so.
Another fascinating insight into the bible is that the story of Joseph is considered one of the oldest works of fiction [almost like a novel] in history, and was conceived in order to connect the first five books [or Pentateuch] of the bible into a more cohesive whole.
And I find it interesting that of the Jews living in Israel, a majority are atheists, and there are more Muslim Christians than Jewish Christians. Jews know their own religion is a con, but the biggest suckers of all are the Christians who took on a religion 'made for' Jews and expanded the chosen people theme to themselves. While the bible may be filled with ironies and subjectivity's, it is a mistake to dismiss it as unimportant. It may not be the truth the way we hoped or believe it was, but the cultural impact of humanity is, of course, enormous, and in that respect alone deserves a modicum of respect.