Americans may be generally religious but not necessarily knowledgable

Americans are considered to be a generally religious people, particularly compared to other Western nations. However, new findings from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggest that being religious doesn’t necessarily lead to being knowledgeable about faith traditions:

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.

Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

So there are two interesting findings: people who are Protestants or Catholics can only answer about half of the questions correctly and they are outperformed by atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons.

It is interesting to think why this may be the case. Do Protestants and Catholics emphasize doctrine less? Can people be more of “cultural” Protestants and Catholics as opposed to dedicated followers? Does the minority/smaller group status of the other groups, atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons, mean that people who are in these faiths have to be more serious, intentional, or knowledgeable?

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