ross_teneyck

Pew Forum survey of religious knowledge

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Sep. 29th, 2010 | 02:10 pm

Yesterday, the Pew Forum released a report called the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. The survey found that most Americans don't know as much about various religions (including their own) as they ought; but overall atheists and agnostics scored higher in religious knowledge than religious people did.

The study made for good headlines:

Don't know much about religion? You're not alone, study finds (CNN)
Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans (NY Times)
Pew Forum Religious Knowledge Survey: Atheists, Agnostics Score Highest (Huffington Post)

The Pew Forum's site includes a handy online quiz that poses fifteen of the thirty-two questions on the survey, and tells you how you compare to the average. For the deeply curious, the complete questionnaire is here (PDF), but it includes a whole slew of demographic and (I assume) calibrating questions.

As a public service, I have extracted the thirty-two religious knowledge questions from the mass (and renumbered, etc.) The complete quiz appears behind the cut. Test yourself!


1) When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? Does it begin on...?
(a) Friday
(b) Saturday
(c) Sunday


2) Is Ramadan...?
(a) The Hindu festival of lights
(b) A Jewish day of atonement
(c) The Islamic holy month


3) Do you happen to know which of these is the king of gods in ancient Greek mythology?
(a) Zeus
(b) Mars
(c) Apollo


4) Do you happen to know the name of the holy book of Islam? __________


5) Which of these religions aims at nirvana, the state of being free from suffering?
(a) Islam
(b) Buddhism
(c) Hinduism


6) In which religion are Vishnu and Shiva central figures?
(a) Islam
(b) Hinduism
(c) Taoism


7a) Is an atheist someone who believes in God, someone who does NOT believe in God, or someone who is unsure whether God exists?
(a) Someone who believes in God
(b) Someone who does NOT believe in God
(c) Someone who is unsure whether God exists


7b) And is an agnostic someone who believes in God, someone who does NOT believe in God, or someone who is unsure whether God exists?
(a) Someone who believes in God
(b) Someone who does NOT believe in God
(c) Someone who is unsure whether God exists


8) What is the first book of the Bible? __________


9) Will you tell me the names of the first four books of the New Testament of the Bible, that is the Four Gospels? (1) __________, (2) __________, (3) __________, (4) __________


10) Where, according to the Bible, was Jesus born?
(a) Bethlehem
(b) Jericho
(c) Jerusalem
(d) Nazareth


11) When was the Mormon religion founded?
(a) Before the year 1200 A.D.
(b) Between 1200 and 1800
(c) Sometime after 1800


12) The Book of Mormon tells the story of Jesus Christ appearing to people in what area of the world?
(a) The Americas
(b) Middle East
(c) Asia


13) Which of the following best describes Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for communion?
(a) The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, or
(b) The bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ


14) Which of these religious groups traditionally teaches that salvation comes through faith alone?
(a) Only Protestants
(b) Only Catholics
(c) Both Protestants and Catholics
(d) Neither Protestants nor Catholics


15) Please tell me which of the following is NOT one of the Ten Commandments:
(a) Do not commit adultery
(b) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
(c) Do not steal
(d) Keep the Sabbath holy


16a) Which Bible figure is most closely associated with remaining obedient to God despite suffering? Is it...?
(a) Job
(b) Elijah
(c) Moses
(d) Abraham


16b) Which Bible figure is most closely associated with leading the exodus from Egypt? Is it...?
(a) Job
(b) Elijah
(c) Moses
(d) Abraham


16c) Which Bible figure is most closely associated with willingness to sacrifice his son for God? Is it...?
(a) Job
(b) Elijah
(c) Moses
(d) Abraham


17a) Would you tell me if Mother Teresa was...?
(a) Catholic
(b) Jewish
(c) Buddhist
(d) Mormon
(e) Hindu


17b) Would you tell me if the Dalai Lama is...?
(a) Catholic
(b) Jewish
(c) Buddhist
(d) Mormon
(e) Hindu


17c) Would you tell me if Joseph Smith was...?
(a) Catholic
(b) Jewish
(c) Buddhist
(d) Mormon
(e) Hindu


17d) Would you tell me if Maimonides was...?
(a) Catholic
(b) Jewish
(c) Buddhist
(d) Mormon
(e) Hindu


18) Which of the following statements best describes what the U.S. Constitution says about religion?
(a) Christianity should be given special emphasis by the government
(b) The government shall neither establish a religion nor interfere with the practice of religion
(c) The Constitution does not say anything one way or the other about religion


19a) According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to lead a class in prayer, or not?
(a) Yes, permitted
(b) No, not permitted


19b) According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature, or not?
(a) Yes, permitted
(b) No, not permitted


19c) According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to offer a class comparing the world's religions, or not?
(a) Yes, permitted
(b) No, not permitted


20a) Do you happen to know what religion most people in India consider themselves? Is that...?
(a) Buddhist
(b) Hindu
(c) Muslim
(d) Christian


20b) Do you happen to know what religion most people in Indonesia consider themselves? Is that...?
(a) Buddhist
(b) Hindu
(c) Muslim
(d) Christian


20c) Do you happen to know what religion most people in Pakistan consider themselves? Is that...?
(a) Buddhist
(b) Hindu
(c) Muslim
(d) Christian


21) What was the name of the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation?
(a) Martin Luther
(b) Thomas Aquinas
(c) John Wesley


22) Which one of these preachers participated in the period of religious activity known as the First Great Awakening?
(a) Jonathan Edwards
(b) Charles Finney
(c) Billy Graham


Answer Key

ETA: Some people didn't like the self-service answer key. Now that I've had a bit more time, I wrote up the actual answers. Here they are:


1) The Jewish Sabbath begins on (a) Friday
[Technically, I think this is debatable... by Jewish timekeeping the day begins at sundown; so the Sabbath begins on Saturday, but Saturday begins as soon as the sun goes down on Friday.]
2) Ramadan is (c) The Islamic holy month
3) The king of the Greek gods is (a) Zeus
4) The holy book of Islam is the Qur'an (or Koran, or various other transliterations)
5) The religion that aims at nirvana is (b) Buddhism
6) Vishnu and Shiva are central figures of (b) Hinduism
7a) An atheist is (b) Someone who does NOT believe in God
7b) An agnostic is (c) Someone who is unsure whether God exists
8) The first book of the Bible is Genesis
9) The first four books of the New Testament are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
10) According to the Bible Jesus was born in (a) Bethlehem
11) Mormonism was founded (c) Sometime after 1800
[Sometime between 1820 and 1845, depending on what you consider the founding event]
12) The Book of Mormon tells the story of Jesus appearing to the people of (a) The Americas
13) Catholic teaching is that (a) The bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ
[The doctrine of transubstantiation needs to be extensively unpacked before it's possible to speak about it in modern terms without massive confusion. Suffice it to say that what the medieval theologians meant by "substance" is not at all what we mean by that word.]
14) The teaching that salvation comes from faith alone is traditionally associated with (a) Only Protestants
[This is another one that requires a lot of unpacking. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, issued by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, found that both sides are in surprising agreement about the basics of salvation; they just express it in different ways.]
15) The "Golden Rule" -- (b) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- is not one of the Ten Commandments
16a) The Bible figure associated with remaining obedient to God despite suffering is (a) Job
16b) The Bible figure associated with leading the exodus from Egypt is (c) Moses
16c) The Bible figure associated with willingness to sacrifice his son for God is (d) Abraham
17a) Mother Teresa was (a) Catholic
17b) The Dalai Lama is (c) Buddhist
17c) Joseph Smith was (d) Mormon
17d) Maimonides was (b) Jewish
18) The U.S. Constitution says that (b) The government shall neither establish a religion nor interfere with the practice of religion
19a) The Supreme Court has ruled that leading a class in prayer is (b) Not permitted
19b) The Supreme Court has ruled that reading from the Bible as an example of literature is (a) Permitted
19c) The Supreme Court has ruled that offering a class on world religions is (a) Permitted
20a) Most people in India are (b) Hindu
20b) Most people in Indonesia are (c) Muslim
20c) Most people in Pakistan are (c) Muslim
21) The Protestant Reformation was inspired by (a) Martin Luther
[Among several others]
22) The preacher who participated in the First Great Awakening was (a) Jonathan Edwards


(For the record, without reading the articles or the study and without looking anything up, I knew all of them except for Maimonides and the Great Awakening.)

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Comments {6}

Erich Schneider

(no subject)

from: erich_schneider
date: Sep. 29th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
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The result that stood out to me the most was that only slightly more than 50% of Protestant respondents got #21 correct.

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Joe Dadek

(no subject)

from: psi_star_psi
date: Sep. 29th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
Link

22)
a) Jonathan Edwards - Hmm. He's the scumbag who had a kid with the documentary filmmaker while he wife was laid up with cancer. Can't be him.
b) Charles Finney - Hmm. He was in Tom Jones, Big Fish, and Erin Brocko-whatnot. Can't be him.
c) Billy Graham - He could wake up anyone!

C! Final answer, Reg.

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Ross TenEyck

(no subject)

from: ross_teneyck
date: Sep. 29th, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC)
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Even before I found out the answer, I was able to rule out Billy Graham. A fine preacher by all accounts, but there would have been temporal difficulties surrounding his participation in the First Great Awakening.

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Kate Schaefer

(no subject)

from: kate_schaefer
date: Sep. 29th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
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I knew all of these, and I am an atheist, the group that generally scored the highest on this survey.

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GreyLady

(no subject)

from: grey_lady
date: Sep. 30th, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
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Interesting. Like you, I answered all of them correctly except for Maimonides and the Great Awakening. I shall have to ask one of my Jewish friends about Maimonides now.

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Johan Larson

(no subject)

from: j_larson
date: Oct. 2nd, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
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It would be interesting to know how the scores varied with the recipients' degree of religious training. It's hard to imagine that someone could go to Sunday school and confirmation classes yet manage to miss basic questions about Moses and the four Gospels.

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