Knowing My Religion

An entertaining Pew survey showing that atheists and agnostics are better informed about religion than their theistic counterparts has raised a few eyebrows. I’m not convinced it’s such a big deal. As Daniel Larison records, there’s this detail:

Data from the survey indicate that educational attainment – how much schooling an individual has completed – is the single best predictor of religious knowledge. College graduates get nearly eight more questions right on average than do people with a high school education or less.

Fair enough, but then there’s also this:

…Atheists and agnostics also outperformed believers who had a similar level of education.

Most satisfactory.

With complete absence of modesty I can reveal that I scored 100% on this test.

Again, most satisfactory.

Superficially, my result may appear to be a triumph for the agnostic/completely indifferent/Church of England subset of the population but in reality it’s just a reflection of a very traditional (and, I suspect, largely vanished type of) English education. This involved a decade or so’s worth of daily (or twice daily) attendance at chapel and the inclusion of “scripture” as a regular part of the schoolroom syllabus. Spiritual speculation, the supernatural, “enthusiasm”, meaning-of-life chatter and all the other clutter were kept to a bearable minimum. The gap (such as it was) was filled by rousing Victorian hymns, amiably absurd (and reassuringly traditional) ritual and, of course, a study of religious texts–more Joe Friday than Good Friday–that has proved an invaluable historical and cultural resource ever since. That’s the way to go, I reckon.

After all, who can argue with 100%?

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12 Responses to Knowing My Religion

  1. John says:

    You beat me. A 13/15. I am also the product of a fairly traditional education, and to understand history, you have to know some religion. I think kids probably still get a lot of this stuff, especially about non-Christian religions, now that multiculturalism is in.

    Most people don’t score well because they don’t have the interest or memory for it. In my long list of reforms for education, teaching more about comparative religions would be somewhere on the list, but not close to the top.

  2. David Hume says:

    15 out of 15.

  3. BOB says:

    The complete 32-question quiz is available at the Christian Science Monitor:

    I got 100%.

    Before y’all sprain your wrists patting yourselves on the back, note that A)even most atheists got 1/3 of the answers wrong and B)the difference between the atheists and the Mormons, a group that I would say most atheists hold in intellectual contempt, was negligible.

  4. CONSVLTVS says:

    The exam I just took is useless for testing religious knowledge of believers. The questions are spread all over the map, so that no believer in one faith should be expected to do well. What possible reason would a believing Muslim have for knowing anything about, say, Buddha? The people who are likely to score well are those who don’t cling tightly to any particular faith and who are also somewhat bookish. In a word, Brights.

    And yes, I was 15/15 as well.

  5. MP says:

    So yes, I’ll pat myself on the back a little after getting 32 of 32 on the complete version linked to by BOB.

    Only, this is fairly superficial knowledge, isn’t it? The facade would have crumbled if I’d been asked to dig a little deeper, particularly on the subjects of Hinduism and Buddhism.

    My background? Mother a Reform Jew, father an agnostic from a Protestant background. Dad was a college professor, Mom had an M.A. Childhood reading included books on mythology and religion, and the assumption around the house that these were things that everybody just knew. Consvltvs is right on the money with the observation that somebody raised as a sincere believer would be less likely to have this comparative religion background, but I have known plenty of exceptions.

  6. Wm Jas says:

    32/32 for this Mormon-turned-atheist.

  7. Andrew Stuttaford says:

    32/32, I’m glad/relieved to say. Not so much religious knowledge, really, as fairly basic general knowledge…or at least it ought to be.

  8. panglos says:

    “Spiritual speculation,…meaning-of-life…were kept to a bearable minimum.”

    That’s no fun.

  9. Susan says:

    15/15 and 31/32. I wasn’t raised in any religion…but I read a lot.

  10. Polichinello says:

    15/15 and 32/32.

    This is a fairly superficial test. I note that Mormons and Evangelicals did best on Bible knowledge. Jews and atheists did best with comparative religion.

  11. Clark says:

    I didn’t take the other test, but I’d read about some of the answers and I honestly had no idea who Jonathan Edwards was. Although in the context of a multiple choice test I probably had good odds of getting it right given the alternatives. I know many mentioned he was common in their freshman English classes but for whatever reason I’d never encountered him nor have I had much interest in the early history of American Evangelicalism.

  12. trajan23 says:

    32 out of 32
    Parents: Jewish mother, Episcopalian father.

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