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Oct 3rd 2010

Religion Questions Stump Many Americans, Including NYT Reporters and Editors

One NYT reporter writes, commenting on a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.
Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings.

One finding is that 43% of Jews failed to identify an individual named “Maimonides” as Jewish.

However, in the same article, 100% of the article’s authors and editors failed to initially identify the correct spelling of Mother Teresa’s name. The NYT later issued the following correction:

Correction: September 29, 2010

An article on Tuesday about a poll in which Americans fared poorly in answering questions about religion misspelled the name of a beatified Roman Catholic nun and Nobel Peace Prize winner. She was Mother Teresa, not Theresa.

NYT top brass, who are concerned that their reporters and editors know little about the essentials of their own profession, will no doubt be appalled by this error.

Moreover, religious people generally do not go to their places of worship to learn the answers to religious trivia questions (the types of questions posed in the Pew survey). They go because they desire to honor God, fulfill God’s commandments, and find spiritual enlightenment, peace, and direction.

Thus, anyone drawing the conclusion that atheists/agnostics know more about religion than actual religious people based on the non-religious people’s superficial knowledge of facts relating to religion is sorely mistaken (as I noted in 2003 and again in 2007, reading “commentaries” on the bible or taking a class critical of the bible cannot replace actually reading the bible to ascertain its true message).

Finally, for those who say Mormons aren’t Christians, I note the Pew study purports to find Mormons have the highest knowledge of Christianity and the Bible of all respondents:

On questions about Christianity – including a battery of questions about the Bible – Mormons (7.9 out of 12 right on average) and white evangelical Protestants (7.3 correct on average) show the highest levels of knowledge

While the questions only test superficial knowledge, it has still got to be a little awkward for those religionists who claim Mormons are not Christians to be told they have just lost to the Mormons on a test of knowledge of Christianity and the Holy Bible.

2 Responses to “Religion Questions Stump Many Americans, Including NYT Reporters and Editors”

  1. N Chung

    Good points. I would also add that the poll shows that most people know more than atheists about their own religion, just nothing about what others believe.

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