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Atheists and Agnostics appear to know more about religion than members of large religions throughout the United States, according to a new survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, released this morning.

The Pew Forum recently surveyed more than 3,400 people about 32 religious knowledge questions to see how much Americans know about religion. On average, Americans answered 16 of 32 questions correctly. Atheists/Agnostics did the best, answering 20.9 questions correctly on average. Hispanic Catholics did the worst of the groups surveyed, answering 11.6 questions correctly on average. Here’s the breakdown:

Religious Knowledge by Group (chart created by Religion Transcends with info from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)


The questions were a mixture of Biblical knowledge and knowledge of world religions. Jews and Atheists/Agnostics did far better on questions about world religions than other groups surveyed. Mormons scored best on knowledge of the Bible, with white evangelical Protestants coming in second on Bible knowledge.

So what did they get right?

  • 89% of respondents knew public school teachers cannot lead class in prayer.
  • 82% knew Mother Teresa was Catholic.
  • 71% knew Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

What did they get wrong?

  • Only 47% knew the Dalai Lama is Buddhist.
  • Only 27% knew most people in Indonesia are Muslim.
  • Only 23% knew public school teachers CAN read from the Bible as an example of literature.

What other factors are involved?

  • College graduates did better than respondents who only had some college or high school or less.
  • Those who took a religion course in college did better than those who did not.
  • When it came to race, white respondents did better than black respondents or Hispanics.
  • Men did better than women.
  • Respondents in the South answered fewer questions correctly than respondents in all other regions of America.
  • Respondents aged 18-29 answered fewer questions correctly than respondents in older age groups.

What does all of it mean?

Frankly, when it comes to knowing our neighbors in terms of their religious beliefs, Americans in general are doing a poor job – particularly when it comes to knowing about religions other than their own.

Regardless of your religious belief or non-belief, take some time to understand what people around the world believe about God. Understanding leads to the development of relationships and tears down walls of fear, intolerance, and hatred.

Not sure where to start?

Take the quiz about religious knowledge on the Pew Forum site. Then return to Religion Transcends and click on “Religion Overviews” in the top navigation to learn about a religion other than your own. Want more? Check out news from those religions in the “religion posts” drop-down menu in the left navigation.

Have a question about a religion? Post it as a comment on this post.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

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One Response to “Atheists Know Most About Religion”

  • Danny Horein:

    It’s because they’re more passionate about it.

    Vegetarians know more about eating meat than the rest of us.

    I’d like to retract that statement. More likely the case, as the logical thinker learns more about how Catholics Protestants and other “nominal” Christians interpret the bible they come to realize how illogical and contradictory the interpretations are and turn away.
    For example it is taught that God is love, God created everything, God made a place to torture his beloved creation for all of eternity. That interpretation of the bible doesn’t make any sense but is the standard in all “churches”.

    Another example is God IS Jesus. Jesus is God’s Only begotten son. God raised Jesus from the dead. Which of those 3 statements cannot be true.

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