It shouldn’t be surprising to find out that people are stupid. You’ve seen the Jaywalking segments on The Tonight Show, right? Or maybe an episode of that show Street Smarts? Or maybe you’ve just had a conversation with a stupid person in the last 24 hours. Whatever. You know there are a lot of idiots walking around. And as a religious person I feel comfortable saying this: there are a lot of religious idiots.
All that said, it’s not particularly surprising to me that a new study has found that atheists and agnostics are the ones who tend to know the most about religion. Remember, atheists are the ones who have to listen while the rest of us postulate about the Almighty and being good to our neighbors because of the Bible. Jews and Mormons come next in line of knowledge (we’re within the margin of error of the non-believers) .
According to the NY Times:
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.
Some key points from the quiz:
¶ Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.
¶ Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.
¶ Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.
The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Teresa was Roman Catholic.
You can take a sample from the quiz over at the Times website, or you can challenge yourself to take harder (trust me on this) quizzes right here at MyJewishLearning. Try our God quiz. Or our Afterlife and Messiah quiz. If you’re really up for a challenge, try the Halakhah quiz. It’s a doozy. I bet even atheists would flunk it.