(Reactions to the) U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
On September 28 the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released the results of "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 Americans age 18 and older, on landlines and cell phones, in English and Spanish." The Executive summary is interesting enough on its own and if you want to get more details, just follow the links in the right column. The first two paragraphs summarizes the very key findings:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions. On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.
As expected there were lots of reactions to the findings. Here is a small sampling:
- Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times recounted many numbers and included quotes from one of the researchers and the president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers.
- Ed Stoddard, blogging at Reuter's FaithWorld, added a wikimedia commons image to the numbers with symbols of 9 religions.
- Timothy Burke, who is Easily Distracted, goes after the (lack of) significance that "Fewer than half of Americans do [know who Martin Luther was], apparently, as well as half of Protestants in specific." He differentiate between use of knowledge and knowledge for knowledge sake. He argues that Luther has little relevance in today's US society , because the circumstances he drew his thesis from are so different than ours.
- The bloggers at Killing the Buddha site quote the New York Times article and suggest to readers feeling scandalized to read Stephen Prothero's (a ktb contributor) books Religious Literacy and God Is Not One.
- Mitchell Landsberg, at the Los Angeles Times, includes a few explanation for the surprising results, by researchers, and a reverend.
- The Two Way blog at National Public Radio, quoted some results, linked to the LA Times piece and found it interesting "that Black Protestants and Latino Catholics scored at the bottom of the survey."
- Manya Brachear, the Seeker at the Chicago Tribune, points out that "There was no golden age, no time of 'good old days' [of religious literacy]."
- Nicholas D. Kristof compiled a pop quiz (similar to and inspired by the quiz you can take at the PEW site) at the New York Times, to show that Koran is not the only or the most violent of the books of major religions.