Reflections on the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey
The latest Pew Center Religious Knowledge Survey on Americans is out and it shows some interesting trends. You have probably read the headline on the survey which says something like “Atheists Know More about Religion.” A deeper dive into the results shows that white evangelical Christians aren’t far behind. You can read more about the results here and take a quiz for yourself here. As I read through the survey results, some trends stuck out to me.
First, the best indicator of religious knowledge is the length of education. This should be obvious but can we make the jump to say that those who are most educated are more likely to be an atheist?
I also found it interesting when asked, “According to rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, is a public school teacher permitted to lead a class in prayer, or not?” the highest groups that answered this right were white evangelical Christians and atheists. This shows where the religion wars are in our public schools.
Another finding is that church attendance is not an indicator of religious knowledge. This saddens me as a person who works in a church. What are we preaching on Sunday mornings if it doesn’t lead to knowledge?
I do think it is interesting that atheists scored higher than those who believe in a deity. The atheists I have met are very knowledgeable about religion and have thought the issues through. They are very good at building a rational argument against religion and refuting the comebacks of religious people who have not been trained to think. Personally, I would rather spend time with an atheist talking about religion than a religious conservative who just argues with me about my beliefs. One of our students told me on Sunday night that he is scared to talk to one of the Christians in his class about religion because that student looks like he is going to punch him in the middle of the conversation.
This October, PBS is presenting an interesting series titled “God in America” which shows how religious beliefs have shaped America. We will definitely be watching this one. Here is the preview: