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rfrobison
10-02-2010, 09:12 AM
No doubt many of you have seen stories on this already, but if anyone is interested, here (http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php) is a link to the latest Pew survey of basic religious knowledge. Sadly, for me, but not surprisingly, atheists and agnostics seem to know more about what they don't believe than believers know about what they do...

I'll tell you my score if you tell me yours. To be honest, aside from a few toughies, I thought the quiz was pretty easy. I was shocked to see the average scores for the various demogaphics surveyed.

Ocean
10-02-2010, 09:25 AM
Sadly, for me, but not surprisingly, atheists and agnostics seem to know more about what they don't believe than believers know about what they do...


Connect the dots, connect the dots...


I heard about the survey but I haven't taken it. But the results aren't surprising either. Being agnostic or atheist implies, most of the time, having reasoned your way out of some religion, while a lot of religious people are so by default. They never really gave much thought to it. Of course, we know that's not the case for everybody that's religious, but the survey shows interesting findings.

operative
10-02-2010, 09:27 AM
I got all 15 (religion is one of my fixations in relation to political science). I didn't think any of them were too hard, though I don't like the Joseph Smith question.

rfrobison
10-02-2010, 09:32 AM
Impressive. I missed the one about the First Great Awakening. Just curious: What bothered you about the Joseph Smith question?

Ocean
10-02-2010, 09:34 AM
I just took the test. I missed one question, so it was 14/15, 97th percentile.

Having answered the questions, it's hard to believe so many people did so poorly. However, it says more about lack of exposure to multiculturalism (and the corresponding diverse religions) rather than religion itself.

operative
10-02-2010, 09:37 AM
Impressive. I missed the one about the First Great Awakening. Just curious: What bothered you about the Joseph Smith question?

Two things: one is that I think it's more proper to call the church "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" or "LDS" for short; 'Mormon' started off (kind of like Shaker and Quaker) as more a term of denigration. While like Quaker it's become acceptable to members of the church, it's still not the preferred name.

And secondly, I wouldn't call the LDS church a different religion. I can understand why some people would, but I consider the LDS to be a branch of Christianity.

rfrobison
10-02-2010, 09:59 AM
Me, too--score-wise, that is. I'd say it's probably a reflection of Americans general ignorance culturally more than anything. Ask them about the latest celebrity scandal, though, and they'll come up aces, I'm sure. [SIGH]

operative
10-02-2010, 10:05 AM
Me, too--score-wise, that is. I'd say it's probably a reflection of Americans general ignorance culturally more than anything. Ask them about the latest celebrity scandal, though, and they'll come up aces, I'm sure. [SIGH]

"Who is Britney Spears sleeping with"
"Who won Dancing with the Stars?"
"Which celebrity just got arrested for drug possession?"

'Americans score 100% on quiz!!!'

chiwhisoxx
10-02-2010, 11:56 AM
I got 12, and I really don't know anything about religion. It wasn't very hard. Although some of the questions seemed a bit narrow, at least compared to most of them. Knowing whether the Catholic communion is supposed to be literal or symbolic doesn't seem equivalent to knowing who Martin Luther is, for example.

operative
10-02-2010, 12:13 PM
I got 12, and I really don't know anything about religion. It wasn't very hard. Although some of the questions seemed a bit narrow, at least compared to most of them. Knowing whether the Catholic communion is supposed to be literal or symbolic doesn't seem equivalent to knowing who Martin Luther is, for example.

I agree that the Eucharist question is the most narrow; anyone who doesn't have some background in Catholic teachings isn't likely to know it. Luckily I come from a family of (mostly non-active) Catholics

Don Zeko
10-02-2010, 02:11 PM
And secondly, I wouldn't call the LDS church a different religion. I can understand why some people would, but I consider the LDS to be a branch of Christianity.

I dunno, I figure they elided that through the other options that they gave you. The only other Christian denomination that was a possible answer on that question was Catholicism, so it's not like you could have called Smith a Christian and then been informed that that was wrong.

nikkibong
10-02-2010, 02:15 PM
Two things: one is that I think it's more proper to call the church "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" or "LDS" for short; 'Mormon' started off (kind of like Shaker and Quaker) as more a term of denigration. While like Quaker it's become acceptable to members of the church, it's still not the preferred name.

And secondly, I wouldn't call the LDS church a different religion. I can understand why some people would, but I consider the LDS to be a branch of Christianity.

that's the equivalent of calling Islam a branch of christianity.

nikkibong
10-02-2010, 02:16 PM
14/15 baby!

operative
10-02-2010, 02:52 PM
that's the equivalent of calling Islam a branch of christianity.

There are several differences. The largest is that Islam holds Christ to be a prophet, but not the Messiah. Latter Day Saints hold Jesus to be the Messiah. Mormons pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the same as Catholics or Protestants; Muslims do not. So while you can draw similarities in that both Islam and LDS have another Holy Book, and a prophet after Christ, the role of the prophets is different, and the similarities are more superficial than the deeper linkages between LDS and Protestant/Catholic Christianity.

Starwatcher162536
10-02-2010, 05:22 PM
I heard about the survey but I haven't taken it. But the results aren't surprising either. Being agnostic or atheist implies, most of the time, having reasoned your way out of some religion, while a lot of religious people are so by default. They never really gave much thought to it. Of course, we know that's not the case for everybody that's religious, but the survey shows interesting findings.

I'd say the survey results are better explained by the majority/minority dynamic. Members of a minority will more often meet members of the majority and have to defend their beliefs then vice versa.

rfrobison
10-02-2010, 07:49 PM
I'd say the survey results are better explained by the majority/minority dynamic. Members of a minority will more often meet members of the majority and have to defend their beliefs then vice versa.

A blogger with The Economist, commenting on the poll, makes the exact same point.

JonIrenicus
10-02-2010, 09:33 PM
Only got 13/15


Missed the great awakening one and the one with job being most linked to maintaining the faith with suffering. The first is sloppy history, the last is bible knowledge failure. I am weighing the atheists down. Sorry guys (i.e. 90% of you).

Wonderment
10-02-2010, 10:46 PM
Missed the great awakening one and the one with job being most linked to maintaining the faith with suffering. The first is sloppy history, the last is bible knowledge failure.

I got all 15 (proud atheist), but I still give the Pew people an F on quiz design. The Job question was tricky, in that Abraham also suffered deeply and stuck with God, even though God tormented him with the slaughter-your-only son trick.

Also, a Nirvana-like liberation from suffering at the end of a cycle of births and deaths is a Hindu concept, not just Buddhist. In fact, the Buddhists got Karma, Nirvana and Enlightenment from the Hindus.

Question 6 on Catholic communion is confusing. The difference between literal and symbolic is very hazy in actual practice, and probably relatively few Catholic Americans take the teaching literally. It's almost like asking, "Do Jews believe the world is 5700 years old?"

Question 11 was also misleading. Yes, a public school teacher can get quote the Bible in a literature class, but it's also hazy how much quoting would constitute a violation of the separation of church and state. Certainly, many public school teachers err on the side of caution, while others abuse the privilege.

operative
10-02-2010, 11:31 PM
I got all 15 (proud atheist), but I still give the Pew people an F on quiz design. The Job question was tricky, in that Abraham also suffered deeply and stuck with God, even though God tormented him with the slaughter-your-only son trick.

That's true, but there's a lot more to Abraham. There's really nothing more to Job--lots of bad stuff happens to him, then God makes everything right. Think of it as like the difference between Michael Corleone and Charles Bronson in Death Wish--both get revenge on people for the death of their loved ones, but there's much more to Corleone.

rfrobison
10-02-2010, 11:52 PM
I got all 15 (proud atheist), but I still give the Pew people an F on quiz design. The Job question was tricky, in that Abraham also suffered deeply and stuck with God, even though God tormented him with the slaughter-your-only son trick.

Also, a Nirvana-like liberation from suffering at the end of a cycle of births and deaths is a Hindu concept, not just Buddhist. In fact, the Buddhists got Karma, Nirvana and Enlightenment from the Hindus.

Question 6 on Catholic communion is confusing. The difference between literal and symbolic is very hazy in actual practice, and probably relatively few Catholic Americans take the teaching literally. It's almost like asking, "Do Jews believe the world is 5700 years old?"

Question 11 was also misleading. Yes, a public school teacher can get quote the Bible in a literature class, but it's also hazy how much quoting would constitute a violation of the separation of church and state. Certainly, many public school teachers err on the side of caution, while others abuse the privilege.

While your points are valid to some degree, the distinctions you draw on, say, Abraham vs. Job -- nobody would say the story of Abraham is primarily about suffering -- or Hindu vs. Buddhist concepts of the afterlife are pretty darn subtle. Remember, the quiz was meant to test basic religious knowledge. Do you think there were many who missed the question on Nirvana who said, "Hey, the Hindus came up with it first!"?

Also, re: transubstantiation, the question isn't what Catholic rank and file laypeople believe, but what the church's doctrine is. To my knowledge, the church hasn't altered its position on the Eucharist, regardless of whether the folks in the pews regard it as believable...On the other hand, I'm pretty Protestant, so I could be wrong about that.

AemJeff
10-03-2010, 12:00 AM
While your points are valid to some degree, the distinctions you draw on, say, Abraham vs. Job -- nobody would say the story of Abraham is primarily about suffering -- or Hindu vs. Buddhist concepts of the afterlife are pretty darn subtle. Remember, the quiz was meant to test basic religious knowledge. Do you think there were many who missed the question on Nirvana who said, "Hey, the Hindus came up with it first!"?

Also, re: transubstantiation, the question isn't what Catholic rank and file laypeople believe, but what the church's doctrine is. To my knowledge, the church hasn't altered its position on the Eucharist, regardless of whether the folks in the pews regard it as believable...On the other hand, I'm pretty Protestant, so I could be wrong about that.

I'm about as Catholic as an Atheist gets. There's nothing to argue with in what you've said here.

Wonderment
10-03-2010, 12:07 AM
Do you think there were many who missed the question on Nirvana who said, "Hey, the Hindus came up with it first!"?

Right. As I said, I got them all right, but only because I knew how to guess where the test designers were coming from.

Another quibble I had was that you could know nothing about religion and still do pretty well, just by being someone who reads the newspaper. This was another one of those tests that shocks people because of the general level of ignorance. It's like those surveys that find people can't tell you what countries have borders with the USA or how long it takes the Earth to orbit the sun.

The one hard question, I thought, was the Jonathan Edwards one. I only know that one because I was an English major in college.

rfrobison
10-03-2010, 02:47 AM
The one hard question, I thought, was the Jonathan Edwards one. I only know that one because I was an English major in college.

Really? The one I had to guess on, and guessed incorrectly, was the one about the first Great Awakening. You didn't find that one challenging?

I remember reading an excerpt from "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in my high school U.S. history class. It's amazing to me how many supposedly well educated people hear his name, roll their eyes, and say: "Oh, yeah, that fire and brimstone dude from the 1700s." I confess I've never read any of his works other than the one I've just mentioned, but I've also heard he is considered one of America's greatest theologians. One sermon has been used to caricature the man for (in my view) nefarious purposes.

Wonderment
10-03-2010, 03:29 AM
I confess I've never read any of his works other than the one I've just mentioned, but I've also heard he is considered one of America's greatest theologians. One sermon has been used to caricature the man for (in my view) nefarious purposes.

Yes, he got a bad rap.

PreppyMcPrepperson
10-03-2010, 03:58 AM
Right. As I said, I got them all right, but only because I knew how to guess where the test designers were coming from.

Another quibble I had was that you could know nothing about religion and still do pretty well, just by being someone who reads the newspaper. This was another one of those tests that shocks people because of the general level of ignorance. It's like those surveys that find people can't tell you what countries have borders with the USA or how long it takes the Earth to orbit the sun.

The one hard question, I thought, was the Jonathan Edwards one. I only know that one because I was an English major in college.

15/15. I wouldn't have gotten Jonathan Edwards either if I hadn't gone to college as a history major at a school where early American history was a big specialty of the department, and where cultural history was the other speciality. I had "freedom of the will" beaten into me from so many sides I'll probably never forget it, and yet I still only half-understand it.

rcocean
10-03-2010, 01:41 PM
No doubt many of you have seen stories on this already, but if anyone is interested, here (http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge/index.php) is a link to the latest Pew survey of basic religious knowledge. Sadly, for me, but not surprisingly, atheists and agnostics seem to know more about what they don't believe than believers know about what they do...

I'll tell you my score if you tell me yours. To be honest, aside from a few toughies, I thought the quiz was pretty easy. I was shocked to see the average scores for the various demogaphics surveyed.

15/15, although I agree the test was badly designed. What do the bizarre quibblings of the SCOTUS have to do with basic *religious* knowledge? 2 questions were about Constitutional law - not religion. (BTW, The phrase "Separation of Church & State isn't in the constitution, its author wasn't at the Convention & no one thought it applied to the states until 5 SCOTUS judges thought it up after WW II. But I do appreciate that PEW stuck in the phrase "According to SCOTUS rulings")

I was also surprised how many questions were really about history or geography as opposed to actual religious beliefs.

SkepticDoc
10-03-2010, 02:06 PM
14/15, missed the "Great Awakening"

Ocean
10-03-2010, 02:15 PM
14/15, missed the "Great Awakening"

Don't worry, just keep trying. :)

SkepticDoc
10-03-2010, 02:17 PM
Don't worry, just keep trying. :)

"Don't worry, be happy..." :)

Starwatcher162536
10-04-2010, 03:51 AM
I suddenly feel the urge to change my answer...

:D

stephanie
10-04-2010, 11:31 AM
15/15 -- I thought it was ridiculously easy. I suspect the poll at least wasn't multiple choice, though.

Sadly, for me, but not surprisingly, atheists and agnostics seem to know more about what they don't believe than believers know about what they do...

The commentary I've heard suggested that the biggest difference probably was level of education. Given that a lot of the questions do seem like things one would pick up in school, I wonder if there's been any effort (or if the information collected allows for) checking that theory.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 11:33 AM
And secondly, I wouldn't call the LDS church a different religion. I can understand why some people would, but I consider the LDS to be a branch of Christianity.

I don't understand this objection. The question didn't say "different religion" and named a bunch of possibilities, none of which were simply "Christian."

Edit: okay, I see that Don Zeko mentioned that already.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 11:39 AM
There are several differences. The largest is that Islam holds Christ to be a prophet, but not the Messiah. Latter Day Saints hold Jesus to be the Messiah. Mormons pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the same as Catholics or Protestants; Muslims do not. So while you can draw similarities in that both Islam and LDS have another Holy Book, and a prophet after Christ, the role of the prophets is different, and the similarities are more superficial than the deeper linkages between LDS and Protestant/Catholic Christianity.

I actually don't care and am not going to argue with anyone about the social use of the term "Christian," but Mormons aren't really monotheists, either. You could certainly say that from a Jewish or Islamic perspective Christians aren't really either, but claiming to be is certainly a central tenet of traditional Christianity, so the fact that Protestants and Catholics have excommunicated each other at various times doesn't really get at the fundamental distinction between Christianity (whether defined by the various Creeds and their understanding or the fundamentals) and Mormonism (and there are a variety of others).

stephanie
10-04-2010, 11:44 AM
I agree with all Wonderment's objections, although I thought it was easy enough to figure out what answer was preferred or sought.

Question 6 on Catholic communion is confusing. The difference between literal and symbolic is very hazy in actual practice, and probably relatively few Catholic Americans take the teaching literally. It's almost like asking, "Do Jews believe the world is 5700 years old?"

I don't have an issue with the question based on the fact that lots of Catholics ignore the teaching (that lots of Catholics don't know it is true, but always weird to me). However, the question as presented is bad, because the answer is both -- it's supposed to be both a symbol and a real change.

(I'd also say in my experience the solicited answer is a really common thing for non-Catholics, especially of a fundamentalist variety, to know.)

Question 11 was also misleading. Yes, a public school teacher can get quote the Bible in a literature class, but it's also hazy how much quoting would constitute a violation of the separation of church and state. Certainly, many public school teachers err on the side of caution, while others abuse the privilege.

I liked this question better than you did in that I think the nature of the law is often misrepresented to be that people can't even study the Bible -- although it's a classic of western lit -- in school, which has never been true.

operative
10-04-2010, 12:22 PM
I actually don't care and am not going to argue with anyone about the social use of the term "Christian," but Mormons aren't really monotheists, either. You could certainly say that from a Jewish or Islamic perspective Christians aren't really either, but claiming to be is certainly a central tenet of traditional Christianity, so the fact that Protestants and Catholics have excommunicated each other at various times doesn't really get at the fundamental distinction between Christianity (whether defined by the various Creeds and their understanding or the fundamentals) and Mormonism (and there are a variety of others).

I think that the topic of monotheism with the standard trinity in Protestant and Catholic Christianity and the separation of the trinity in LDS doctrine is a bit of a nebulous area. Mormons do believe in the trinity as separate beings (and in the case of Jesus and Heavenly Father, possessing of a physical body), and do believe that humans can be elevated in the after-life, but I think that this is more a tweak and a greater elaboration on spiritual beliefs than a radical departure from protestant and Catholic Christianity. From a historical context, the adoption of the Trinity as 'three persons of one essence' was essentially a way of getting around the critique of being polytheistic.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 12:30 PM
Mormons do believe in the trinity as separate beings (and in the case of Jesus and Heavenly Father, possessing of a physical body), and do believe that humans can be elevated in the after-life, but I think that this is more a tweak and a greater elaboration on spiritual beliefs than a radical departure from protestant and Catholic Christianity.

I don't think most Christians would agree with you here.

operative
10-04-2010, 12:35 PM
I don't think most Christians would agree with you here.

Opinion's pretty split on the matter, I will give you that (http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/How-the-Public-Perceives-Romney-Mormons.aspx). But you'll find Protestants who also consider Catholics to not be Christians, so I'm inclined to give less weight to those who wish to dismiss a group 14 million strong (and continuing to grow fast) who believe very firmly that they are Christians as non-Christian.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 12:53 PM
Opinion's pretty split on the matter, I will give you that

I'm not talking about whether people think Mormons are Christians or not (like I said, when talking about the social usage of the word, it's a different matter), but whether they would consider the particular difference you dismissed as not meaningful. I think most people don't know about that particular difference more than that they would agree with your description of it (as a "tweak" and "elaboration on" shared beliefs).

Anyway, I don't think you've answered the question that both Don Zeko and I asked you.

AemJeff
10-04-2010, 01:17 PM
15/15 -- I thought it was ridiculously easy. I suspect the poll at least wasn't multiple choice, though.



The commentary I've heard suggested that the biggest difference probably was level of education. Given that a lot of the questions do seem like things one would pick up in school, I wonder if there's been any effort (or if the information collected allows for) checking that theory.

I think I remember that they adjusted for educational level and still saw the result.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 01:48 PM
I think I remember that they adjusted for educational level and still saw the result.

Yeah -- it looks like both are true (see here (http://pewforum.org/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey-Factors-Linked-With-Religious-Knowledge.aspx)). Big (and pretty predictable) difference based on level of education, general differences among groups still persist.

Personally, I'm more horrified in seeing yet another survey showing that Americans are ignorant of basic stuff (one of the test questions was about who wrote Moby-Dick, and less than half got that one right) than interested in the differences based on religious affiliation (or lack thereof). (I was apparently wrong in saying it probably wasn't multiple choice in the actual survey -- it was.)

operative
10-04-2010, 03:15 PM
I dunno, I figure they elided that through the other options that they gave you. The only other Christian denomination that was a possible answer on that question was Catholicism, so it's not like you could have called Smith a Christian and then been informed that that was wrong.

Yeah, I can see your point about that. I still would rather they had used "Latter Day Saints" though.

operative
10-04-2010, 03:16 PM
I'm not talking about whether people think Mormons are Christians or not (like I said, when talking about the social usage of the word, it's a different matter), but whether they would consider the particular difference you dismissed as not meaningful. I think most people don't know about that particular difference more than that they would agree with your description of it (as a "tweak" and "elaboration on" shared beliefs).

Anyway, I don't think you've answered the question that both Don Zeko and I asked you.

Ah missed Don Zeko's point, so I just replied to that. But yes, I actually agree that many Christians would disagree that it's a tweak...but then many Christians don't know the history of how the concept of the Trinity as three persons of one essence came into existence.

stephanie
10-04-2010, 03:22 PM
many Christians don't know the history of how the concept of the Trinity as three persons of one essence came into existence.

True, but irrelevant to the point, IMO. Anyway, nothing to do with the quiz.