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Mar 26 2014

Take the test

The Pew Research Center has a U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz — answer 15 questions about religion and see how you stack up against the average American.

It turns out the average American is a total ignoramus.

I got a perfect score, but then, it really is a most trivial set of questions.

137 comments

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  1. 1
    sambarge

    I got 100% too. I thought the quiz was pretty easy. I’m pretty sure that my 14 yr old daughter could get close to 100%; the last question might stump her but she hasn’t studied a ton of History yet.

    SPOILERS!

    I’m surprised at how few Christians know about the Great Awakening and the fact that you can read the Bible in school as an example of literature.

  2. 2
    sueinnm

    100%, though I had to guess 1 of them (Great Awakening.) I haven’t gone to church since I was about 13 and never studied religion.

  3. 3
    shouldbeworking

    100%, not too bad for a Canadian atheist.

  4. 4
    Jacob Schmidt

    I got 13, but I guessed the last one so I can really only claim 12. 80% ain’t horrible.

  5. 5
    Al Dente

    100% mainly because I did know about Jonathan Edwards.

  6. 6
    moarscienceplz

    100%, but guessed at last question. Was pretty sure the answer wasn’t Billy Graham. ;-)

  7. 7
    David Chapman

    Piss-easy it is indeed. I had to guess one as well, there was an obvious dud option, which when eliminated gave a 50/50 chance and I got lucky. Result: a fourth perfect score to Pharyngula’s credit, Taa Daaaa!! :)

  8. 8
    David Chapman

    Correction, 6 perfect scores. Shit, we’re good at this shit!! :)

  9. 9
    Onamission5

    Bah. I was sailing through but managed to get the last one wrong. 14/15, not too shabby for test taking after a two martini dinner.

  10. 10
    Seth

    I missed the Great Awakening question; that’s what I get for wishing the survey had put John Calvin and some other Reformists on the list beside Martin Luther, I suppose.

  11. 11
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    As an English atheist I got the lot.
    However, it isn’t surprising that religious believers don’t do well in tests of religious knowledge. All a believer needs to know about other religions is that they’re blasphemous nonsense. What kind of blasphemous nonsense doesn’t matter, unless they are intending to refute that specific variety of nonsense.

  12. 12
    moarscienceplz

    I’m surprised at how few Christians know about the Great Awakening

    Unless you are studying the history of religion, why would anyone need to know about the GA?

  13. 13
    Shatterface

    14 out of 15 – I’m in the 96 percentile.

    I’m pretty sure committed atheists know much more about religion than believers.

  14. 14
    carlie

    100%, baby!
    Also guessed on the Great Awakening. I’d never heard of it before.

  15. 15
    militantagnostic

    I feel like a dumbass for getting only 13/15.

    I guessed Charles Finney over Jonathan Edwards on the last one.

    One the 10 commandments one I should have known that between “Do unto others” and keeping the Sabbath holy, that the “Do unto others” was the one that didn’t belong because it made the most sense.

  16. 16
    carlie

    I just noticed the data are 4 years old – I wonder if the recent trend of more church/state separation and more emphasis on what religions believe in the news would change the results if it were done today.

  17. 17
    Anne, Old Gumbie Cat

    15 out of 15. Not bad for being raised secular humanist.

  18. 18
    twas brillig (stevem)

    Missed 2 (total score = 87%):

    #11: misread “…as literature” clause as trivial.
    #14: did not see “Buddhism” as one of the options, picked “Hinduism” as seeking nirvana.

    My bad…me so careless.

    You scored better than 92% of the public, below 4% and the same as 4%.

    not perfect, but “Good Enough”?? ;-|

  19. 19
    lither

    Hmm. I got 15/15 and the message “You scored better than 98% of the public, below 1% and the same as 1%”. So who are the 1% getting a pluperfect score?

  20. 20
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    15/15, but I had to guess the Great awakening one.

  21. 21
    davidct

    I got a 15/15 score but they still say I am below 1% of respondants – WTF?

  22. 22
    David Chapman

    Yeah, the Great Awakening was my guess as well. It’s obvious that that’s the one most people had trouble with, probably because talk of Great Awakenings sends us to sleep. Hurrhurr. :)

  23. 23
    Cinzia La Strega

    I missed one. Pretty good considering I was raised by atheists LOL,

  24. 24
    sugarfrosted

    I got 14/15, eliminated one on the last one (I knew it wasn’t Billy Graham,) and guessed wrong. Admittedly I really only know the about the beginning of Shabis/Shabbat/Sabbath in Judaism from taking Yiddish courses. Yes, I’m a goy (non-Jew) that took a Yiddish class, because my great grandmother spoke it.

  25. 25
    PZ Myers

    If you haven’t heard of Jonathan Edwards, you must read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. You can’t understand modern evangelical Christianity without it: the title says it all. You are all wicked sinners who deserve to burn for eternity in a vividly described Hell, and the only way you can escape it is if God likes you a lot.

  26. 26
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Dang, only 14/15. Most religious don’t know that crap? No wonder they get their asses kicked when they show their ignorance here.

  27. 27
    Aaron Stafford

    To all those wondering about the extra perfect people, the further details say that the online quiz is only 15 of the 32 questions asked in the phone interview. I’m going to assume that some (very few) people got all of those correct, making them better than you.

  28. 28
    Lithified Detritus

    I agree that the questions were pretty trivial. 96th percentile – missed the Jonathan Edwards one, the only one where I had to guess. Really sad that I know more about this than almost everyone in the U.S.

    If comparative religion were taught in the schools (not that we need any more to do) it would probably be a mortal blow to religion, or at least fundamentalism. Students would see how silly all religious beliefs are.

  29. 29
    Anathema

    I got 15/15. That was really easy.

    I don’t expect Americans to know all that much about American history, so I’m not all that surprised at how few people got the last question right. I know who Jonathan Edwards was (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is pretty memorable), but I can imagine how someone might forget who he was despite having a decent understanding of American history.

    However, I am somewhat disturbed by that less than half of the people who responded to the survey managed answer the question “What was the name of the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation?” correctly. At the very least, I would have thought that a lot more than half of Protestants would have some clue who Martin Luther was. Wouldn’t Protestant churches teach kids something about the history of Protestantism in Sunday school? I don’t understand why so many Protestants would get this question wrong.

    Even if Protestant churches don’t teach any religious history in their Sunday schools, I would think that most Americans would have learned something about the Protestant Reformation in our public schools. So the number of people who got that question wrong really makes me worry about the state of public education.

  30. 30
    beauquilter

    I’m another American Atheist with score of 100%!

  31. 31
    Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu

    Another100%

    We covered the Great Awakening in US History both in 8th and 10th at my schools in Texas, so I vaguely remembered Edwards’ name.

  32. 32
    AlexanderZ

    100%! The last question was hard, but I passed through elimination.

    That said, the really interesting part is the breakdown of the population below. 1st place goes to atheists, 2nd to Mormons and 3rd to Jews.

    I’m wondering if it’s because many Jews aren’t religious, but identify as Jews because of cultural reasons. Or, even more likely, is that this reflects a social-economic divide: The worst answers were given by blacks an Hispanics, whereas the best answers belong to homogenous white groups, who are also members of the middle-upper class, or at least their families are.

    tl;dr Rich white people did best and nothing else matters.

  33. 33
    frankb

    I missed the last question by guessing “Finney”. I was inclined to guess Edwards because multiple quiz makers too often have #1 as the right answer. I should have gone with that. I expected most theists to get the “teachers leading school prayer’ question right because so many are constantly hollering about it. So many got the “teaching bible as literature” question wrong for the same reason.

  34. 34
    AlexanderZ

    Addendum: Either I did my math wrong or the “Compare Your Score” graph below the questions breakdown refers to the full 32 question survey and not the 15 question one. Either way, it’s even more telling: The best predictor for your success is your education, with post-grads doing the best.

  35. 35
    kalirren

    After 8 years of Afghanistan, ~30% of Americans didn’t know that Pakistan is majority Muslim?

    Or should I be glad that a majority did know?

  36. 36
    Arren ›‹ neverbound

    Glad to see I’m not alone in missing only the final question.

    …..Damn you Edwards, for slipping out of my slipshod memory-unit!

  37. 37
    Neil Rickert

    Yes, 100% here. With such easy questions, the poor knowledge of the general public is shocking.

  38. 38
    anuran

    15/15
    Not what you’d call rocket surgery

  39. 39
    SallyStrange

    The only reason I got the last question is because that same question was on the last round of mass media “test your religious knowledge” quizzes.

  40. 40
    Bart B. Van Bockstaele

    I got a 15 out of 15 score as well, but I am puzzled by the creative mathematics that are being displayed on the results page:

    You answered 15 of 15 questions correctly (100%)
    Here’s how you did on these 15 questions (excerpted from the larger U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey) compared with a nationally representative sample of 3,412 adults. Your responses on the quiz do NOT affect the U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey’s results. Read the Full Report: “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey”
    You scored better than 98% of the public, below 1% and the same as 1%.

  41. 41
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    13/15. Missed the last two. I have to say that without reading FTB, Science Blogs, and Panda’s Thumb over the last several years, I wouldn’t have finished nearly so well. Maybe these should be required reading in Sunday Schools!

  42. 42
    elfsternberg

    15 out of 15.

    It doesn’t surprise me that the two groups who knew best that English teachers could read the Bible “as literature” were Jews and Atheists.

    It does surprise me that, in a question with three answers (33% would get it right by sheer chance), the average score for “Which preacher is most associated with the Great Awakening,” how did only 11% get it right?

    I’m embarrassed that only 39% (almost chance!) knew Shiva was Hindu. The same knew Nirvana was Buddhist. Sad.

  43. 43
    Rick Pikul

    I missed the “Great Awakening” question, but I’m not a Yank so I would have never covered it in history.

    As for its less than chance results, the choices have two traps in them:

    Billy Graham is a trap of the “I’ve heard of him” variety.
    The correct answer is also a reverse trap of the “I’ve heard of him, he’s (insert different person with same/similar name)” variety.

  44. 44
    Zeno

    Really easy. I got a perfect score, too.

  45. 45
    Ishikiri

    15/15, though the last one was somewhat a stab in the dark. Hey, I learned something about Jonathan Edwards today.

    I find it amusing (and unsurprising) that so few answered correctly that it is alright for teachers in public schools to teach from the Bible as literature. “They banned the Bible!” just fits in so well with the Christian persecution complex.

  46. 46
    Rob

    100% but lucky on the last one. Looking at the summary it seems the less you want religion as an integral part of your life the more you know about it. Hmmm, maybe that works the other way around.

  47. 47
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I got 80% correct.
    I answered incorrectly on the questions about the Sabbath, Ramadan, and nirvana.

  48. 48
    Dr. Pablito

    100%. Easy. It’s surprising the things some people don’t know. How can someone not know some of the truly bonehead easy ones? There are many incurious people in the U.S.

  49. 49
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    PZ:

    You are all wicked sinners who deserve to burn for eternity in a vividly described Hell, and the only way you can escape it is if God likes you a lot.

    I know you are but what am I?
    :P

  50. 50
    anteprepro

    Wait….I’m pretty sure this is old news, for one. For two, I thought you also already blogged about it before. Is it the same thing? Because I swear I also remember taking this test before (and getting The Great Awakening question wrong…)

  51. 51
    John

    “You scored better than 96% of the public, below 2% and the same as 2%.”

    When does the Jewish Sabbath begin?

    You answered “Saturday”

    The correct answer is “Friday”

    haha guess I need to brush up!

  52. 52
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Dr. Pablito:

    100%. Easy. It’s surprising the things some people don’t know. How can someone not know some of the truly bonehead easy ones? There are many incurious people in the U.S.

    Most of what I’ve learned about religion has been in the last 4 years (and most of what I’ve learned is directly or indirectly the result of reading *this* blog). I wasn’t raised in a religious home. We didn’t go to church-ever (heck, I’m 38 now, and I’ve been inside a church 3, maybe 4 times). Religion wasn’t a topic of discussion around our home (not just christianity, but any religions). God was only mentioned at holiday dinners when grace was said. Sure I believed in “god”, but it was a vague version, not one that I felt interacted with reality.

  53. 53
    Lyn M: G.R.O.S.T. (ADM) -- Membership pending

    15/15, with a guess at John Edwards. I remember that other quiz, antprepro, and was fairly sure of the answer because I confuse the GA guy with the guy who does “Crossing Over”. They aren’t the same guy, right?

  54. 54
    Azuma Hazuki

    @25/PZ:

    Perfect 15/15, no guessing here. I do indeed know of Edwards, and sincerely hope that if there is a hell, he is in it.

    Someone needs to make a CGI of the things described by him, as well as the aptly-named Furniss (ye gods beyond the stars, there are no coincidences…) and go all Clockwork Orange on the hellfire fetishists with it. Hopefully many of them die or suffer permanent PTSD, and the rest…will have something to think about.

  55. 55
    imthegenieicandoanything

    I doubt 1/3 of Americans know how many states there are now, or were originally. Clearly, most Republicans do not know Hawaii is a state.

    Ignorance is natural and relative, but desiring to remain ignorant, and fiercely demanding that their ignorance is as valid as – or more valid than, ‘cos FAITH! – any truth that can be confirmed is something evil.

  56. 56
  57. 57
    Rike

    15/15 with a guess at the last. We’re doing pretty good here!

  58. 58
    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk

    I got the one about the Jewish Sabbath wrong too, hehe. I did the 32 question quiz and got 28/32. It was the Jewish Sabbath question that got me, and then Jonathan Edwards (haven’t heard of him before) and one asking which religion teaches that salvation comes through faith alone, where I selected both Catholicism and Protestantism, without thinking it through.

    Best thing about the 32 question quiz? The title is Are you smarter than an atheist. Heh.

  59. 59
    Maureen Brian

    100% at six in the morning before a mouthful of coffee. Does that count as a test in the US of A?

    (Sin of pride, folks, but sometimes the temptation is just too much.)

  60. 60
    jt512

    I got the Nirvana question wrong :(

  61. 61
    cactuswren

    Another 15-out-of-15.

    Jonathan Edwards:

    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

    And remember, God MADE you this way. He, all-knowing and all-powerful, deliberately created entities he loathes and utterly abhors — entities worthy only of his loathing and abhorrence.

  62. 62
    barnestormer

    15/15! “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was one of the most memorable readings in the 8th grade literature textbook. If it didn’t violate the laws of physics, Johnathan Edwards and Fred Phelps could troll each other for eternity in an afterlife of their own making.

    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.

    The Sabbath question wasn’t written very clearly. The Sabbath is Saturday, but Saturday begins at sundown on Friday.

  63. 63
    barnestormer

    @61

    Simultaneous Johnathan Edwards cut-and-paste! *high five*

  64. 64
    Azuma Hazuki

    @61 and 62

    I hear people have committed suicide after listening to his sermons.

    Please, please, someone tell me there is a hell for people like him. Not an eternal one, but i wouldn’t object at all to him and Furniss and Augustine and Tertullian and Aquinas getting stuck on fire until the end of the human race, or at least until these ideas go extinct.

  65. 65
    lsamaknight

    I had to guess on the last question and guessed wrong. So 14/15 for me.

    I’m Australian, I’d heard of the Great Awakening through my own read but didn’t know enough about to get it right. With that cheat, I’m not going to try the 32 question versions and hope that it will be more challenging.

  66. 66
    Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel

    I managed to guess the last one right despite the fact that the only Jonathan Edwards I ever actually heard of was this one.

  67. 67
    Moggie

    Holy crap, look at that breakdown of responses! Fully one third of white evangelical protestants don’t know the ten commandments – and they do better than other protestants and catholics! Given what a big deal US Chistians make of the ten commandments, and that it’s only ten brief rules, the fact that millions of them haven’t even bothered to memorise them shows what a bunch of charlatans they are.

  68. 68
    Lagerbaer

    Only got 13 out of 15. Messed the Sabbath up because I’m drunk and didn’t read the question properly. And then, not being a US citizen and not having grown up there, didn’t know about that Great Awakening thing. Still in the 92% percentile or something.

  69. 69
    Athywren

    100% Woot!
    Though, I will admit that I wasn’t completely certain about the Sabbath question (an uncertainty over the specifics, and a quibbling over the meaning of “begin”) and I made an educated guess at the Great Awakening, based on never having heard of Charles Finney in the real world… but wasn’t he in Star Trek?

  70. 70
    opposablethumbs

    100%, with the “Great Awakening” bollocks being a 50/50 guess – it doesn’t get talked about much outside of the US, I think? (obviously not Billy Graham, though JE’s name rang the faintest of faint bells; it probably came up here some time).

    Another 10/10 for Pharyngula, then :-)

  71. 71
    gardengnome

    14/15! I should have read the Sabbath one more closely – never mind, for some reason I did know the last one oddly enough. Read about it recently somewhere.

  72. 72
    barnestormer

    @64

    I’ve always thought I would like to see something like A Tertullian Christmas Carol, in which Tertullian dreams that he’s died, and God takes him to that Roman Circus heaven of his where all the saints get to watch all the sinners crackle and burn and writhe and scream.

    And Tertullian’s just bursting with joy and gratitude and smugness at the prospect of getting to watch the torments of the damned while he’s snuggling up to his Heavenly Father. But then — something goes wrong. They peer down into the abyss, and Tertullian’s God smiles at him, the same way Tertullian used to when he was contemplating the sadistic joys of salvation, and all of a sudden, perfect understanding kicks in, and Tertullian gets sucker-punched by empathy. He opens his mouth to cry to his God to stop the torture, but only hymns of praise come out. And he realizes he will have exactly what he asked for: to watch his fellow human beings suffer with hymns to their tormenter always in his ears. Hell is unjust and terrible, and heaven is also a hell.

    Then he wakes up, I guess, and amends his theology. Could work for Jonathan Edwards just as well. I don’t like for even terrible people to burn in fire, but I wouldn’t mind causing them to feel really, really bad about their hellfire preaching for a couple of millenia.

  73. 73
    opposablethumbs

    …. aaand I couldn’t resist – took the 32-question version too (get back to work now, dammit) and got 100% on that one too. This is ridiculous. Some of those questions were entirely USA-centric and I have no reason to know the answers to those ones!

  74. 74
    Reptile Dysfunction

    Like cactuswren & barnestormer, I remembered Sinners in the Hands
    of an Angry God
    from literature class in high school, & the image of
    the insect (actually a spider) being held over the fire stuck with me all these
    years. Gimme that old time religion!

  75. 75
    Athywren

    Got 100% on the 32 question version too. Gotta take issue with it though, not so much the questions, but a piece of commentary:

    Some might disagree with Pew’s characterization of atheism and agnosticism. Strictly speaking, atheism is the belief that God does not exist. Agnosticism, a term coined in 1869 by English biologist T.H. Huxley, is the belief that the existence of God is unknowable.

    Blargh. Strictly speaking, atheism is not theism, therefore it is not the belief that god does exist, rather than the belief that god does not exist. I really hate it when people ignore word order in order to make a cheap point.

    Also…

    17. Would you tell me if Mother Teresa was… (Catholic)

    No, I wouldn’t. I would respect her right to be terribly ashamed of that fact and keep quiet about it.

  76. 76
    opposablethumbs

    barnestormer, I like that story idea very much indeed.

  77. 77
    carlie

    Had a little more trouble on the full quiz – I missed Maimonides and Indonesia.

  78. 78
    kreativekaos

    Missed one–14 out of 15 here (crap).

    Really wasn’t sure about the day of Jewish Sabbath. Figured that it may have been one of those obvious questions, so I marked Sunday,…. wrong!

  79. 79
    kreativekaos

    (Where can one find the 32 question version of the quiz?)

  80. 80
    azhael

    14 out of 15. Missed the Great Awakening thing….no idea what that is :S i´m guessing is something to do with those wretched protestants…

  81. 81
    azhael

    Or Cthulhu….

  82. 82
    feministhomemaker

    I got perfect score but guessed on the last question. I knew it wasn’t Billy Graham since he was not alive during the Great Awakening but I didn’t know the other two so picked the first one. I was raised catholic and became atheist years ago. This was fun. I like taking tests! I wonder how my kids would score since they were raised atheist. But one son was interested in religion and made one up when he was about 4 or 5 years old. He got his whole montessori school to “play” at it with him. We were amused, delighted, and supportive as for any other imaginative play he created. By 2nd grade it had worn off.

  83. 83
    graham

    British atheist. Never heard of the Great Awakening, so guessed. 15/15.

    The question about the ten commandments was interesting. Looking at the results, with the exception of the Mormons, roughly 50% of each religious group were under the impression that ‘do unto others…’ is in the ten commandments. As I’ve always suspected those people who parrot the mantra that the world would be a better place “if only everyone followed the ten commandments” have only the vaguest idea of what they are.

    If the ten commandments had contained injunctions to 1) ‘do unto others…’ and 2) to wash your hands after using the toilet they would have been a lot more useful than the actual set given in the bible.

    Apparently there were originally more than ten commandments. When Moses came down from the mountain for the second time he said to the assembled horde: “Lads, there’s some good news and there’s some bad news. The good news is that I’ve got it down to ten. The bad news is that adultery’s still on the list”.

  84. 84
    richardelguru

    100% (of course :-) )

    There were actually several ‘Great Awakenings’ the people at the back must have kept falling asleep.

  85. 85
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Got 2 wrong. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, but begins on Friday. I just put Saturday.

    For the Biblical figure most associated with obediance to God despite personal suffering, I answered Abraham (it was a guess, i was thinking of the Isaac story) when it should have been Job.

    I half-guessed number 15, but got it right.

    Better than 92% of the US population, apparently.

  86. 86
    nich

    I attended a fire and brimstone Christian school for a few years during junior high, so count me among the few here for whom Jonathan Edward(s) wasn’t some douche who talks with the dead on the SciFi Channel. I recall my workbook gleefully going over the gory details. I paraphrase their summary (big trigger warning if you’ve ever been burned):

    Have you ever burned yourself, even for a moment? Held a match too long? I bet it hurt! Now imagine holding your hand to a flame for five seconds. The pain would be unbearable. Now imagine 10 seconds? One minute? 10 minutes? It is painful just thinking about it! Now imagine yourself engulfed in flames for eternity! Burning alive forever and ever in hell! Because, as the great evangelist Jonathan Edwards said, that is what awaits those who die not knowing Jesus Christ. But don’t worry! God in His infinite love for mankind sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for your sins so that you can avoid the eternal torment of hell! Only though Christ’s love can you avoid the flame!

    Remember, this was in a lesson plan for 12 and 13 year old children.

  87. 87
    Anri

    PZ:

    If you haven’t heard of Jonathan Edwards, you must read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. You can’t understand modern evangelical Christianity without it: the title says it all. You are all wicked sinners who deserve to burn for eternity in a vividly described Hell, and the only way you can escape it is if God likes you a lot.

    Oh, that’s who that was!
    Heck, if they’d asked about the title instead of the author, I might not have had to guess (and inevitably guess wrong).
    Learned something new.

    14/15 for a college dropout… I’ll take it.

  88. 88
    eowyn

    15/15 for an Australian atheist. Guessed the great awakening, Had to think about the ten commandment one but recognized the golden rule in time.

  89. 89
    sarah00

    The breakdown by religion is really interesting. My favourite one is regarding the question on what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. Only 59% of white Catholics and 47& of Hispanic Catholics got the right answer meaning that not only do they not know other people’s beliefs, they don’t even know their own (which I know is sort of the point we’re all taking from this but this seemed to be the most stark example). From what I remember the Eucharist was one of the big splitting points between the Catholics and the Protestants during the Reformation so for only about half of them to know this is really quite shocking.

  90. 90
    AMM

    Aced both of the tests, but then I was raised Episcopalian and live in a heavily catholic and Jewish area.

    The question about the Sabbath was misleadingly posed. Strictly speaking, it starts on Saturday _but_ in Jewish tradition, the new day starts at sundown of what we goyim call the previous day. Many of the Jewish observances of the Sabbath occur at what we would call Friday evening.

    I was unsure about Indonesia — I know it’s heavily Muslim, but I also recall reading Margaret Mead’s descriptions of Hindu festivals in Bali.

    Jonathan Edwards was one of the featured writers in my high school (US) American Lit class. BTW, the views expressed in his sermons were quite mainstream at the time. (They’re also pretty mainstream among evangelical Christians, too, though nowadays they usually avoid being so obvious about it.)

  91. 91
    AMM

    Athywren @75

    “Blargh. Strictly speaking, atheism is not theism, therefore it is not the belief that god does exist, rather than the belief that god does not exist. I really hate it when people ignore word order in order to make a cheap point.”

    Um, what exactly does this mean? All I’m getting is word salad.

    On another note: if “atheist” means someone who doesn’t believe God exists, and “agnostic” means someone who’s on the fence, what do you call someone who doesn’t think the question of whether God exists is worth wasting brain cells on?

    My attitude at this point is that if She exists, and is as omnipotent, etc., as they say, She can probably take care of Herself equally well with or without my belief, worship, or help. My fellow humans (and I use the term loosely), on the other hand, need all the help they can get.

  92. 92
    saganite

    “Better than 96%”. I got one question wrong, the one about “The Great Awakening”. Considering that’s a purely American thing, I don’t feel too bad about that as a European, though.
    Most of these questions are pretty damn basic. You’d think they’d learn this stuff in their Sunday school or whatever.

  93. 93
    Turtles

    14 out of 15 correct.

    Got the last one wrong.

  94. 94
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    15 out of 15.

  95. 95
    nich

    @90:

    …what do you call someone who doesn’t think the question of whether God exists is worth wasting brain cells on?

    I believe apatheism is the term you are looking for.

  96. 96
    David Chapman

    42
    elfsternberg

    It does surprise me that, in a question with three answers (33% would get it right by sheer chance), the average score for “Which preacher is most associated with the Great Awakening,” how did only 11% get it right?

    I suppose the explanation would be, not knowing the right answer, a lot of people guessed the name they knew and knew to be associated with religion: Billy Graham.

    This is probably poor strategy, since if you know something about one of the names and can’t associate him with any Awakening stuff, it’s more likely to be one of the other buggers.

  97. 97
    David Chapman

    From Wikipedia:

    Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly [Johnathan]Edwards grounded his life’s work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset.

    …..I think Wikipedia’s been vandalized again.

  98. 98
    David Chapman

    74
    Reptile Dysfunction

    Like cactuswren & barnestormer, I remembered Sinners in the Hands
    of an Angry God from literature class in high school, & the image of
    the insect (actually a spider) being held over the fire stuck with me all these
    years. Gimme that old time religion!

    They subject kids to that stuff in the U.S. of A? :(
    It doesn’t seem right, nor healthy to me to do that.
    So what if it’s in literature class, some things should be beyond the pale. It seems like covert religious indoctrination to me.
    The more literary ability some evil fuckers have, the less sensible it seems to deliberately expose young minds to their influence.

  99. 99
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Yeah, I got the Sabbath question wrong because I didn’t know if they were trying to trick us or not. The Jewish Sabbath is Saturday. It begins when Saturday begins, which is sundown on Friday on the civil calendar, so the answer could equally well be Friday or Saturday. I picked the wrong one at random. 14/15 otherwise, though.

  100. 100
    consciousness razor

    AMM

    On another note: if “atheist” means someone who doesn’t believe God exists, and “agnostic” means someone who’s on the fence, what do you call someone who doesn’t think the question of whether God exists is worth wasting brain cells on?

    Apatheist. Which doesn’t imply they either believe or disbelieve, so it doesn’t exclude atheism or theism.

    Likewise, an agnostic isn’t someone who is “on the fence.” It’s an epistemological view which is independent of either of the two possible ontological views.

    They’re also both excellent for confusing people into believing they can evade the issue of whether they are an atheist or theist.

    My attitude at this point is that if She exists, and is as omnipotent, etc., as they say, She can probably take care of Herself equally well with or without my belief, worship, or help.

    Who are they? A god can’t be as omnipotent as some people claim. Their beliefs can be contradictory.

    And does anyone seriously believe prayer is about taking care of a god (or gods) or helping it (or them)?

    My fellow humans (and I use the term loosely), on the other hand, need all the help they can get.

    You use it loosely because you’re talking about a broader group than simply human beings, or is this a backhanded way of dehumanizing some people?

  101. 101
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I got 31 out of 32 when I did the full test the other day. Got the Great Awakening question wrong. I’m Canadian and never studied the history of American Christianity in school.

  102. 102
    quidam

    The full questionnaire is here: http://www.pewforum.org/files/2010/09/religious-knowledge-questionnaire.pdf

    I would have got them all. I would have had to make some guesses but when I looked up the answers my guesses were correct. (Maimonides was a … – check, and Indonesians are mostly … – check)

    This ought to shut up the religious who say atheists shouldn’t criticise religions unless they understand them. Clearly we do understand them better than most religious people.

  103. 103
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re AMM@91:

    Athywren @75

    “Blargh. Strictly speaking, atheism is not theism, therefore it is not the belief that god does exist, rather than the belief that god does not exist. I really hate it when people ignore word order in order to make a cheap point.”

    Um, what exactly does this mean? All I’m getting is word salad.

    On another note: if “atheist” means someone who doesn’t believe God exists [Wrong. see below], and “agnostic” means someone who’s on the fence, [Wrong. see below] what do you call someone who doesn’t think the question of whether God exists is worth wasting brain cells on?

    You got me started on my “definitions” rant:
    _Theism = “belief in the existence of God”
    Atheism = “without belief that God exists”
    Atheism =/= “belief that God does NOT exist” [i.e. anti-theism]
    Agnosticism =/= “shrug, I don’t know if God exists”
    Agnosticism = “It CANNOT be _known_ (as a fact) by anyone, whether God exists, or doesn’t exist”
    Apatheism = “I don’t care whether God exists or not, not worth wasting brain cells on.”

  104. 104
    sirrealist

    I got 100% (OK, I guessed no. 15 too), but here’s the thing – I then got a message saying I scored higher than 98% of the population, the same as 1% and less than 1%. Wait a minute….1% of the population scored MORE than 15/15?!?

    Are all Pew’s statistics this reliable??

  105. 105
    gussnarp

    Also got all but the Great Awakening. Really mind bogglingly easy quiz. And once again, George Carlin is right about the average American, even if he’s wrong about the mathematical meaning of “average”:

    “Think about how dumb the average American is. Now remember that half of ‘em are dumber than that!”

  106. 106
    consciousness razor

    Atheism =/= “belief that God does NOT exist” [i.e. anti-theism]

    This is wildly inaccurate. You can believe a god exists and be opposed to that god, because you believe it is evil for example. Or you could be opposed to religions, because they are likewise bad or inadequate (or whatever, depending on the reason for your opposition). It’s either against gods or religions, because it’s ambiguous whether it’s about being against a theos or against theism or even against both. (Being against theists, as such, is just a prejudice, not a reasonable view.) In any case, that’s what anti-theism means, not the claim that a god doesn’t exist (and atheists certainly can claim that, so your inequality is confusing at best). Anti-theists could say “if a god exists (or it is a fact that a god exists), then (when it does in fact exist) we should be opposed to it or to the beliefs/practices/institutions people have which relate to that god (or any god).”

  107. 107
    Inaji

    14 out of 15. Got the ‘when does the sabbath start’ question wrong.

  108. 108
    Avicenna

    There is a little irony…

    Hindus aim for Morksha.

    Not Nirvana (Nirvana is the Pali word for Morksha which is Sanskrit. Pali is the language of Buddhism)

  109. 109
    Avicenna

    Argh! Never mind, I didn’t see buddhism. Ignore me…

    A

  110. 110
    sirhc58

    Missed the last question (Great Awakening? Really? Was everyone napping before then?), as I hadn’t really heard of it. Not bad for a non-USAian atheist.

  111. 111
    alkisvonidas

    100%. Greek atheist. Guessed about the Supreme Court stuff (glad my common sense agrees with your constitutional laws). I actually knew about the Great Awakening, mainly because Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is one of the most unintentionally funny Fire and Brimstone sermons I’ve ever read ;-)

  112. 112
    noxiousnan

    I missed one – Jewish holy day – but in this crowd of atheists, that’s just middling.

  113. 114
    David Chapman

    103
    twas brillig (stevem)

    You got me started on my “definitions” rant

    Whereas the ignorance displayed by religious folk is richly amusing and fascinating, there’s a weirdly analogous — somewhat analogous — foundational problem amongst atheists, wherein many of them seem determined not to admit that the word ‘atheist’ is ambiguous. Atheism can be either a belief that a god doesn’t exist, or it can be a neutral agnostic position, a lack of belief in a god or a god’s non-existence, but, as Wiktionary puts it somewhat bewilderingly but more precisely:
    “(broadly) A person who rejects belief that any deities exist (whether
    or not that person believes that deities do not exist). “

    By which they mean, someone who thinks religions are rubbish but doesn’t claim personally to know there is no god. I think.

    It’s irritating that this wobble exists, that there isn’t a more categorically clear word for straightforward denial of any god’s existence, but the really salient thing is that people don’t want to admit, for some reason, that the ambiguity exists at all.

  114. 115
    qwints

    I love that education is a better predictor than worship service attendance for performance on the test. Perfect score – we read Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in my public school history class.

  115. 116
    Derek Borgen

    I had to read Sinners in 11th Grade American Literature – as a performer. I had to dress up, walk in, and go all fire and brimstone on my classmates. I put my all into it – how often does an 16 year old atheist get to rail at his public high school classmates about the dangers of Hell? The ones who knew me best just smirked and carried on, but one girl up front was squirming from some unknown guilt, it seemed…

  116. 117
    kevskos

    Another atheist here with a perfect score. Sorta guessed on 15 but I wrote a paper in HS on Martin Luther and the Reformation and pretty sure I used something from Edwards regarding his disagreements with Luther.

  117. 118
    Die Anyway

    Rats, 14/15. As with most others who just missed one, it was the First Great Awakening question. For all my education and reading I don’t recall ever having heard of it, or taking note of it. I thought “Jonathan Edwards” was thrown in as a misleading answer because of its similarity to con-man John Edward. Learn something new every day.

    Having read atheist BBs and blogs for 16 years now, I was not surprised to see that atheists scored better than Christians. My wife always laughs when there’s a Bible category on Jeopardy and I do better than the contestants. Ten years of Sunday School (age 5 – 15) taught me a lot… about the mythology… but didn’t result in what they intended.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway

  118. 119
    dthunt

    14/15; Great Awakening got me (I’ve never really cared about it, though I did hear an interesting talk by Hector Avalos the other day that touched on it, so I had really no excuse for getting it wrong.)

    I’m genuinely surprised by the score breakdown. I really would have expected the average to be much higher than it was.

  119. 120
    busterggi

    Another clean sweep. Why is it that the religiosi can’t know as much about religion as us atheists?

  120. 121
    astro

    forget the fact that atheists tend to score high on most of the questions (i, too, missed the one about the guy who hosted “crossing over”).

    take a look at some fascinating statistics. for example, only 50-60% of catholics know what happens to the magic cracker they eat every week. while many have validly observed that victims of one religion are generally less likely to know the details of other religions, it’s fascinating to see that victims of particular religions often don’t even know their own religion’s teachings!

  121. 122
    Ed Seedhouse

    I got all but the last. I know about the “great awakening” but don’t care enough
    about it to bother knowing much.

    Arguably the question about Nirvana is misleading. It is true that Buddhism is all
    about it, but Hinduism has several strains that emphasize it too (though their word
    is “moksha” it means pretty much the same thing. Also many Hindus claim
    that Buddha misunderstood what true “enlightenment” is think that Buddhism is
    really just a minor branch of Hinduism. The Jains try to reach nirvana by a different method.

    I would argue that the real Buddhist contribution is the idea of the “middle way” as applied to the search for “enlightenment”.

  122. 123
    blf

    Only 80% here. I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of the “Great Awakening” before — the only thing I could think of was the Doctor Who villain the Great Intelligence — plus some trivia about xianity (one of which I should have got but made the rational guess, the correct answer was just so stooopid…).

  123. 124
    graham

    @ 120: “Why is it that the religiosi can’t know as much about religion as us atheists?”

    Because if they did they’d ‘see the light’ and become atheists!

  124. 125
    anuran

    barnestormer

    Tertullian gets sucker-punched by empathy. He opens his mouth to cry to his God to stop the torture, but only hymns of praise come out. And he realizes he will have exactly what he asked for: to watch his fellow human beings suffer with hymns to their tormenter always in his ears. Hell is unjust and terrible, and heaven is also a hell.

    In which case he’d wake up and either become a Buddhist, vowing to save all sentient beings no matter where in the universes they are or follow Rabia Basri.

    (Rabia al-Basri was a 1st century Hijri woman, first of the female Sufis. Contemporary accounts describe her running the the streets of Basra with a torch and a bucket in order to “put out the fires of hell and burn down the rewards of paradise” because both were traps, distractions.)

  125. 126
    qwerty

    I aced the test. I guess all the hours I’ve spent listening to Christian radio while driving to hear their homophobic (I am gay.) rants paid off.

    I was only unsure about two questions. The Nirvana question and the “is it okay to read from the Bible as an example of literature in the classroom.” But I aced those two

    And I won’t thank any diety (well, maybe the FSM) for my knowledge.

  126. 127
    U Frood

    I’ve taken this one before. Again I had to guess at the Great Awakening question and got it wrong.

  127. 128
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re @114

    many [atheists] seem determined not to admit that the word ‘atheist’ is ambiguous. Atheism can be either a belief that a god doesn’t exist, or it can be a neutral agnostic position, a lack of belief in a god or a [belief in] god’s non-existence, but, as Wiktionary puts it somewhat bewilderingly but more precisely:
    “(broadly) A person who rejects belief that any deities exist (whether
    or not that person believes that deities do not exist).

    edits by ’twas brillig’

    Bingo! True, I’m learning (slowly). I am an etymologism-holic I’ve been obsessing over “A-”+”-theism” as meaning “Without”+”belief in God”; ignoring the other way to construct the same word: “Atheo-” +”-ism”, for “belief in nonexistent God”. I know it’s just pseudo-etymology but it’s my “baby steps” at trying to understand where words come from, etc. The latter construction is how most A’s use the word. I’m just trying to show the theists that atheists are not what (I think) they think we are. Sorry to be projecting, strawmanning those god-lubbers. But I read here to learn that I’m right, but doin’ it wrong. Thanks for your patience…

  128. 129
    thomas21

    14/15, got all but the last. im a bit surprised how worship frequency had almost nothing to do with religious knowledge.

  129. 130
    trollofreason

    I got 14/15, and it SHOULD have been 13/15, because I honestly didn’t even think I knew the last question. Got the answer wrong on the Jewish Sabbath, didn’t even take a stab in the dark on the last question regarding that Awakening thingy, just picked the first option given.

  130. 131
    Anathema

    @ davidchapman (#98)

    I remember reading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” at some point when I was in school. I’m not sure if it was in a literature class or a history class however. And I’m not sure whether I was in high school or middle school when we read it. (I went to a public middle school and a private high school. The high school was affiliated with the Episcopal Church, but the student body and faculty were probably less religious there then at any of the public schools I’d attended.)

    I’m pretty sure that it was taught largely because it was such an influential work. We weren’t expected to accept the ideas that Edwards presented as true. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was used as an example of the sort of religious thought that was widespread at the time of the First Great Awakening. It’s an effective way of teaching students about the Calvinist mindset in mid-eighteenth century America.

    I don’t really have a problem with it being taught in either history or literature classes in middle school or high school, so long as the teacher makes it clear that students aren’t expected to take the ideas that Edwards presents as an accurate description of the real world.

    But, then again, I wasn’t raised to believe in any of that stuff. It’s possible that “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” could be triggering to kids who have been raised to believe in Hell, even if teachers presented the material properly. And there are probably are teachers in some parts of America who would use “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” as an opportunity to assert their own religious beliefs in the class room. So maybe you are right to be wary about “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” being a standard part of the public school curriculum.

  131. 132
    anuran

    barnestormer, here’s another religious answer to Tertullian

    Johnny Cash Goes to Hell

  132. 133
    tacitus

    100% — the only one I had to think about was the day the Jewish Sabbath starts.

  133. 134
    petejohn

    That was quite easy. In theory those who subscribe to a particular faith should do well on that as well because they’ve considered the arguments/positions of various religions and chosen the one that speaks to them. But, we all know that’s not how it works. The religious take on some flavor of what their parents and community believe and go from there.

  134. 135
    Athywren

    @AMM, 91

    “Blargh. Strictly speaking, atheism is not theism, therefore it is not the belief that god does exist, rather than the belief that god does not exist. I really hate it when people ignore word order in order to make a cheap point.”

    Um, what exactly does this mean? All I’m getting is word salad.

    It means that atheism is not an active belief, but the rejection of an unsupported claim.
    An atheist is someone who, when asked, “do you believe in god?” answers, “no.” An atheist can also be someone who, when asked, “do you believe that god does not exist?” answers, “yes,” but that’s a subgroup. It’s wrong and dishonest to define the group by the subgroup. It’s like saying that a Christian is someone who believes there is no free will and whether you go to heaven or hell was determined aeons before your birth – it’s true that you can find a Christian who believes that, but it’s not true that being a Christian means that you believe it.
    My issue with the idea that an atheist is someone who believes that god does not exist is the same issue that a Lutheran would have at being defined in Calvinist terms – it’s a mischaracterisation. It makes atheism sound like a religious claim, rather than skepticism toward a religious claim.

    On another note: if “atheist” means someone who doesn’t believe God exists, and “agnostic” means someone who’s on the fence, what do you call someone who doesn’t think the question of whether God exists is worth wasting brain cells on?

    An agnostic isn’t someone who’s on the fence, btw – there is no fence between believing and not believing – it’s a about whether you claim to be able to know or prove whether a god exists. The idea of “neither believing nor disbelieving” only makes sense if disbelief is a belief in active opposition to belief, rather than simply not belief. The idea of agnosticism being the middle ground is just another aspect of the misrepresentation of atheism as an equal and opposite religious claim to theism.

    Anyway, apatheist. Though I’d like to point out that, speaking as an apatheistic agnostic atheist, it’s not the idea of god that I care about (I mean, I am faintly interested and would like to know if a god did exist, just ’cause I like knowing stuff, it’s just not a major sticking point in my mind.) but the actions of the people who use gods to determine, justify, and excuse their actions. I don’t care that Jimmy’s a Christian – I care that he’s campaigning against equality for the LGBTQ community, and pretending that allowing their civil rights is a violation of his religious rights. I care that he’s opposed to contraception and abortion, because his religion teaches him not to understand biology, and that women have no rights over their own bodies. I care that, if I were to ever run for political office in America, he would refuse to vote for me, regardless of how closely aligned our political views might otherwise be, because I don’t accept magical claims without any evidencial support.

    My attitude at this point is that if She exists, and is as omnipotent, etc., as they say, She can probably take care of Herself equally well with or without my belief, worship, or help. My fellow humans (and I use the term loosely), on the other hand, need all the help they can get.

    Yup. If a god does exist, I seriously doubt ze cares whether we believe or not, and it’s far more important to make a heaven of earth, for all of us, than to make it a hell in hopes of earning heaven for when you’re too dead to enjoy it.

    tl;dr – fuckin’ definitions, how do they work?

  135. 136
    Athywren

    @twas brillig, 128

    Bingo! True, I’m learning (slowly). I am an etymologism-holic I’ve been obsessing over “A-”+”-theism” as meaning “Without”+”belief in God”; ignoring the other way to construct the same word: “Atheo-” +”-ism”, for “belief in nonexistent God”.

    There’s a much easier way to determine what a word means, regardless of etymology.
    All atheists do not believe a god exists. Some atheists believe gods do not exist.
    Without belief in god is the definition of all atheism. Belief in a nonexistent god is a subdefinition that only applies in certain circumstances. Like how following Jesus is the definition of Christian, and belief in his divinity, his being the gatekeeper and only path to heaven, etc. are subdefinitions which cannot be presumed to apply in all cases.

  136. 137
    methuseus

    So, I got three wrong from the 32- question test. I missed Maimodius, cause I don’t think i’ve ever heard it, Johnathan Edwards, because my high school spent about 5 minutes on the Great Awakening (it’s in a fairly Catholic area, almost no Baptist or fire and brimstone churches on the shores of Lake Michigan north of Chicago) and I could remember if Pakistan was predominantly Christian or Muslim. A relation married a Pakistani Christian, so I went with that.

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