You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

How much do Americans really know about religion? Test your knowledge

By Pam Stout

If you took a quiz on facts about the major world religions, how would you do?

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion, most Americans scored less than 50 percent on a 32-question quiz about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

The survey had some surprising results. It turns out that Atheists, Agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on the 32-question survey, averaging more than 20 questions correct, in contrast to 14-16 for the larger Christian denominations.

Stephen Prothero, CNN Belief blogger and author of "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know-and Doesn't" argues that the survey confirms that "our collective religious ignorance as a civic problem of the first order." He suggests that society can't understand world conflict without a better understanding of religion and its history and calls for public school courses on the Bible and the world's religions to remedy this problem.

On the other hand, Richard Amesbury from the Claremont School of Theology writes on, "it is hard to tell whether the results of the survey are cause for alarm or celebration." He says the academic facts in the survey seem "to betray a subtle disdain for lived religion — religion as it is practiced by ordinary people — and a preference for what elites take to be important."

Read the full report at the Pew Research Center or click here to take a shortened online version of the survey.

I missed one question. How do you score?



Tue, Dec 11, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

100% correct, and I'm an athiest. I've always been interested in the evolutionary history of religious practices. It's as though humans have an inner drive to understand why they exist and have a pathological fear of failing in that quest, so the creation and participation in a religion with widespread group acceptance is extremely necessary to establish some reason for existence. This may be a simplistic analogy, but a smaller percentage of humans do not fear either existence or . . .

Sarah Rigg

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

You answered 15 out of 15 questions correctly for a score of 100%.


Mon, Oct 4, 2010 : 8:42 a.m.

@Hurshman, they weight the statistics so that they aren't skewed by the total number in each group. These proportions are not part of the difference in scores.

Milton Shift

Sat, Oct 2, 2010 : 5:14 p.m.

I know it's a delusional mental disorder of epidemic proportions. I think that's enough...


Sat, Oct 2, 2010 : 1:29 p.m.

What are we to expect from groups of people that firmly believe that the Commander in Chief is a practicing Muslim, that they would have a certain grip on their own beliefs? From a previous Pew survey April 1, 2009 white evangelical Protestants (19%) and Republicans (17%) are among the most likely to view Obama as a Muslim. Fewer than half in each group -- 38% of white evangelicals and 46% of Republicans -- correctly identify Obama as a Christian. Facts, as interesting as they may be, are irrelevant to many Faithful.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 2:08 p.m.

100% and im a committed agnostic ( not an atheist), because total denial of the unknowable (for the tricked -up chimps we indisputably all are )is almost as arrogant as blind faith...especially the kinds that advocate violent actions against the other similarly handicapped.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 12:56 p.m.

My score was 80% showing that as an ATHIEST I have a reasonable knowlege of world religions.

Jonathan Hurshman

Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

100%. I'm evangelical Protestant, but I also make a point to try to be knowledgeable about my faith and its history, as well as other faiths and their histories. I think one plausible explanation for atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons scoring higher on this is that these folks are in the religious minority in the US. Minorities have to be aware of and deal with the majority more than the other way around.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

93%, Presbyterian Christian in name, nondenominational in practice, and attended Catholic schools. Most of those questions were cake, IMO, general knowledge.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

87% and I'm an atheist. I guess this means I know a lot about things I don't like.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

Amesbury's comments are nothing but strawman argument on the study. He doesn't like the results so he changes the subject. It is extremely important for people to understand the history and teachings of their religion. Blindly following a set of beliefs without actually knowing what they truly are is the epitome of illogical thought.

Chris Blackstone

Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

Missed 1 question. Here's an interesting blog post by Bradley Wright, a professor of sociology at UConn related to this survey. He writes "When broken down by type of question, it turns out that atheists and agnostics know more about other religions, but some types of Christians know more about Christianity. Evangelicals, for example, score higher (though I'm not sure about the statistical significance of this difference). In fact, for me the big surprise of the report was that Evangelicals scored higher than mainline Protestants (though I'm not sure why I would have expected otherwise). This goes against the argument that atheists/agnostics reject Christianity because they have learned so much about it. As such, it might be more accurate to say that they know more about "religions" than "religion" per se. I make this distinction because this test asks basic historical, biographical, and theological questions about religion. However, for many people, including myself, my interest in Christianity isn't one of detached fact-collecting, rather it's the practice of it. So, knowing about Jonathan Edwards, a cool 18th century Christian theologian, may be interesting, but it's not that important for me to know as a Christian. I certainly don't fault Pew for this test... it's interesting for what it is. To illustrate what it doesn't do, imagine a test that describes various life situations and asks what a Christian should do (e.g., love your enemy, serve the poor, have faith in God, etc...). This type of test would get at the essence of Christianity in a way that factoids do not."


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 10:09 a.m.

Me too! Picture me patting myself on the back.


Fri, Oct 1, 2010 : 9:58 a.m.

80% and that surprised me since I've never paid much attention to religion.