Pew: Atheists Score Better on Religious Knowledge

Wednesday, 29 Sep 2010 10:20 AM

By Mike Tighe

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For two bunches of folks who claim either that there is no God, or there’s no way of knowing whether there is a God, atheists and agnostics score better in their knowledge about God than do their religious brethren who regularly settle into pews. Good Lord! Won’t that tickle Bill Maher? Close on atheists’ and agnostics’ heels when it comes to theological moxie are Jews and Mormons, according to the new religious knowledge survey of the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

God, atheists, agnostics, pew, protestants, Jews, CatholicsThose four groups outperformed evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, and Catholics in answering the survey’s questions about the core teachings, history, and leading figures of major world religions. By a good margin, too, with Americans scoring an average of 16 out of 32 religious knowledge questions correctly, compared with the average of 20.9 among atheists and agnostics. Jews and Mormons averaged 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively.

As a whole, Protestants average 16 correct answers, while Catholics managed only 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews, and Mormons performed better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education, Pew reported.

Bill Maher, atheists, agnostics, religious knowledge, PewThe U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey was a nationwide telephone (both landlines and cells) poll, taken from May 19 through June 6, of 3,412 Americans ages 18 and older, in English and Spanish. No word on whether Maher was among those surveyed, but he’d have loved to have had the stats for his 2008 mockumentary “Religulous.”

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