Well are you?

Want a Friday after Thanksgiving (in the US) quiz? Here, via Dave Silverman on Facebook, is one called Are you smarter than an atheist? (That’s silly. They don’t mean smarter, they mean better-informed-about-religion. Not the same thing at all.)

I scored 100%. Dave got one wrong; Dave Muscato got 100%.

It’s a bit irritating to take because it uses a separate click to tell you whether you got it right each time so that’s twice as many clicks. But I can’t resist easy quizzes.




  1. cubist says

    The title of the quiz is kind of silly. Of course I’m smarter than “an (unspecified) atheist”! I’m smarter than a lot of people, not all of whom are Believers. I’m also stupider than “an (unspecified) atheist”, because the set of people who are smarter than me is, again, not restricted to Believers. [shrug]
    I took the quiz, and for the record, I missed three of the questions: The ones on the Jewish sabbath (starts on Friday, not Saturday), the most common religion in Indonesia (Islam, which I didn’t know), and one preacher involved with the Great Awakening (Edwards, not Finney). Perhaps there might be some interesting patterns to be found in which questions are commonly missed, and which erroneous answers are more or less common, in various demographic groups?

  2. Al Dente says

    I’m so ashamed. I didn’t know about Jonathan Edwards and the great awakening. I only got a 97.

    <weeps uncontrollably>

  3. says

    I just took a look at it, and the questions don’t appear to be measuring intelligence as much as cultural knowledge – specifically, religious knowledge. So there’s one big problem right there. For example, the very first question, about when the Sabbath begins, doesn’t have an answer for “Who cares?” Question #4 glosses over the relationship between Nirvana and Dharma and appears to not understand that Buddhism and Hinduism are from the same phylum – the question should accept multiple answers to be correct. Etc. What a silly quiz.

    Oh, I got 100%, so I must be better educated than some other people. Woot.

  4. John Morales says

    Meh. Trivia quizzes are routinely touted as intelligence tests.

    (Of course, there is some correlation)

  5. chigau (違う) says

    I looked at the word “Mormon” and read “Muslim” so I got the start date wrong.
    Then I clicked Hindu in the Maimonides question (no idea why).
    So 85%.
    I found the phrasing of the questions annoying.
    “Do you happen to know …”
    “Would you tell me if …”

  6. John Morales says


    Ophelia, of course I didn’t miss it! I was just noting such silliness is routine.

    (And no, I wasn’t channeling Maxwell Smart, either*)

    * “If you don’t mind, 99, I’d like to figure this out myself.” ~Maxwell Smart, after getting a suggestion from 99 on what to do next, which is followed by him repeating 99’s suggestion.

  7. chigau (違う) says

    I also started the “Could you pass the American Citizenship Test” quiz but 100 questions?
    I got the first 13 correct.

  8. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a “Great Awakening”, but that seems like a strictly American thing. On the other hand, I also didn’t remember the great rift between the catholic and protestant churches being personal or whatever whatevering… oh, it’s all bullshit anyway. My religion teachers must have loved me: remembering the details, not giving a shit about the supposed big picture.

  9. susans says

    The title isn’t silly if you read the whole thing. The point is that atheists and agnostics score highest on the test, followed closely by Jews and Mormons; Protestants, then Catholics lag behind.

    I got 100% and I bet than many people you know will also, or at least come close.

    My first reply may have burned up along with Comet Ison; this is a shorter second try.

  10. says

    I don’t class myself as anything. However, I got 94%. “You answered 30 of 32 questions correctly for a total score of 94%.” I was on the verge on clicking on Matin Luther. However, instead, wrongfully clicked on John Wesley, the English preacher and co-founder of Methodism. The same too with the American Constitution, where the government wouldn’t interfere with religion. I thought of the Founding Fathers & Christianity, alas, that was to my chagrin. I also had to do a lot of guesswork with a lot of the other questions. For example, I chanced Islam being the main religion in Pakistan, as opposed to Hinduism because I thought of Malala and all she suffered at the hands of the Taliban.

  11. says

    Missed the Great Awakening question because I didn’t know, & one other because I hit the down arrow to scroll down the web page & didn’t notice that it changed my answer.

    Anyone who reads a lot of history &/or news will get most of them.

  12. angharad says

    It was very US and Christian centric I thought. There were a lot of questions about the Supreme Court and the Bible, but they could have asked about the Five Pillars of Islam or the Bhagavad Gita or Confucianism. Someone who had been raised Christian in the US and had acquired a small amount of basic info about other religions would pass it easily.

  13. says


    I sort of wished they had a box to tick to let them know their top scorers are actually atheists.

    And it’s not “smarter”; it’s “better informed”.

  14. Dave Ricks says

    I missed 2 of 32.

    I missed one about the Great Awakening; at least I knew from listening to American Theocracy on audiobook that it predated Billy Graham.

    I missed another because I associated Nirvana with Hinduism instead of Buddhism. As Marcus said, that’s not wrong; and from what I’ve read of Zen Buddhism (Japanese and Korean), I haven’t seen Zen use the word. If the word Nirvana is Sanskrit, I’d still lean toward Hinduism, but I haven’t read much about Indian Buddhism (because their panoply of definitions turns me off, but not that Hinduism is better). It’s a walk off.

    Interesting how we know these things: I knew Indonesia’s predominant religion because I knew from CFI how Indonesia treated Alexander Aan.

  15. Steve Caldwell says

    Marginalized communities often have done more thinking and study on the issues related to their marginalization. On average, transgender folks have done more thinking and study about gender identity than cisgender folks. On average, bi, gay, and lesbian folks have done more thinking and study about sexual orientation than straight folks. It’s no surprise that atheist and other non-theists might have done more thinking and study than folks who are in the mainstream religiously.

  16. Francisco Bacopa says

    100%! so I am about up there with most atheists. The only hard questions were “Maimonides” and the First Great Awakening question.

    Jews would mostly get Mister M right, but they would struggle with the four gospels.

    Been to a church service that wasn’t a wedding or funeral only two times in my entire life and scored 100%.

  17. says

    Just listening to the answers listed here (I don’t do Facebook), I think I’d probably do quite poorly. One advantage of not being raised with any religion is that no one ever told me any of this bullshit was important, so all my sparse specific religious knowledge is filtered through the popular culture in which I’ve encountered it.

    I’ve never been to a school (pre-university) that had a religion class; the closest I ever got to in-school religion was the Lord’s Prayer, which was said at the beginning of the day for the first couple of years after I moved to Canada, but disappeared thereafter. Oh, and I took an elective called “The Ages and Ideas of the Jewish People” alongside a short course of Hebrew, in university, mostly because I find learning a language more fun when there’s something to read or watch in it.

    I know who Maimonides was, because I looked it up after hearing Krusty’s father mention him on an old episode of the Simpsons, for instance. I know about Luther and Henry VIII’s Great Question from watching The Tudors (and a bit of reading alongside it, to follow the issues better, thus Luther). But I wouldn’t know a Great Awakening from a Hungover Dragging-out-of-Sleep to save my life. I’m content with that ignorance. I know enough Jewish-born mythology to identify the big players – Moses, Jesus, Mohammed – just like I know who Odin and Zeuspater/Jupiter were. That’s plenty.

  18. John Morales says

    CaitieCat, I class most of the questions are historico-cultural, not religious.

    (I just tried it, and failed only the “Great Awakening” one… but then, I am an atheist though not American)

  19. latsot says

    I got 100% which might mean I’m smarter than myself. I was a little surprised by the question about where “according to the bible” Jesus was born. Luke said he was born in Bethlehem. None of the other gospels do. Most don’t mention his birth at all, but Matthew (I think, I find it difficult to tell these fictional accounts apart) has him in Galilee, doesn’t ‘he’?

    “According to the bible” there is no consensus on where Jesus was born.

  20. John Morales says


    latsot, ahem.

    (If you got 100%, then you answered the question correctly, but differently to your current claim. And Matthew also places him in Bethlehem)

  21. latsot says

    John, *ahem* indeed. I answered the questions according to how I knew they needed to be answered in order to get 100% ‘correct’. My point was that the bible is not unambiguous on that point as on many others.

    Matthew does indeed say Bethlehem, I was wrong to say it doesn’t. I was thinking about the reasons Mary and Joseph were supposed to be there in the first place and what we know of the origins of those gospels. I was wrong in the details but right in general, surely?

  22. John Morales says


    I was really only teasing, latsot. Sorry.

    (And it is true ‘consensus’ by definition requires a plurality)

  23. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Q19: Would you tell me if Joseph Smith was…. and no option for ‘convicted fraudster’.
    100%, but to be fair I’ve faced tougher tests.

  24. says

    Blew it on Finney vs. Edwards, too. And have to admit I was pretty much guessing, and having trouble resisting the temptation to Google it in another window.

    Does it make me a total religious history geek that I’m now actually pretty embarrassed about that?* I figure I do sorta broadly know the general shape and time of both awakenings/madnesses of crowds, but those apparently very central names weren’t at all there for me.

    (*/Or that I’m now resolved to fix this? I’m going to claim it’s because I figure understanding just why the US is how it is re religion amongst ‘developed’ economies** is actually pretty important, so getting details of this stuff right is probably also important, but honestly it’s probably more just that yes, I’m entirely that competitive.)

    (**/Still probably the best explanation: the economy is really only so ‘developed’ for some.)

  25. sambarge says

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who didn’t know the Great Awakening one. I had to get it by process of elimination; I knew it wasn’t Graham or Finney but I didn’t know who Edwards was at all. Perhaps it’s something that is taught in USian History classes?

    For the most part, the questions seemed too easy and I almost QI’d myself by doubting that the right answer was the right answer.

    Then I reminded myself that this was an internet quiz and not an admissions text.

    Too bad because I got 100% and it’s not actually giving me anything but a confusing riddle about both being an atheist and being smarter than an atheist…

  26. says

    Well I can never remember the details of what differentiates the First Great Awakening from the Second Great Awakening, and in particular what exactly their dates are, and even when I find out by looking it up for the four thousandth time it still seems like kind of vaguely the same time – Back Then – so why even bother having two. So frankly unless I have just looked it up for the 4 thousandth time ten minutes ago, I have no idea what names are associated with which, and I got Jonathan Edwards purely by elimination; I knew very well it wasn’t the others. (As usual with easy multiple choice tests, they made the wrong answers obvious.) I felt vaguely surprised that it was Edwards, because I thought he was more “…um…Puritanism…Rhode Island…” – but then I don’t remember enough to know if the First Terrific Awakening was all about Puritanism and Rhode Island, or not.

    I guess one is…[waves hands around vaguely]…early 18th century, and the other is early 19th. Something like that. Not later than early 19th, I’m pretty sure, because abolitionism and all that.

    And that’s how I demonstrate that I’m “smarter than an atheist.”

  27. Artor says

    I aced the test with 100%, but I only knew the Maimonides and John Edwards questions because I remembered them from when the Pew Poll was going around.

  28. movablebooklady says

    I got one wrong so scored 97%.

    I didn’t know the Great Awakening guy but got it right by process of elimination (knew it wasn’t Graham and knew Finney was a writer).

    And now I’ve forgotten which one I got wrong. I’m claiming a senior moment.

    I suppose their title is addressed to their mostly religious readers, not expecting us atheists to jump in. They should have attached a demographic “what religion are you” question to the quiz.

  29. Al Dente says

    I knew about Maimonides, also known as Rambam from a Hebrew acronym of his name Rabbeinu Mosheh Ben Maimon, because I came across a reference to Rambam and wondered who had such an unusual name.

  30. boadinum says

    It’s always struck me as strange that religious people don’t believe that atheists know more about religion than they do. I took the quiz to keep the atheist score up there, and I was disappointed that I wasn’t asked to indicate my lack of belief at the end.

    The only one I got wrong was #12, “Which of these religious groups traditionally teaches that salvation comes through faith alone?” I said Both Catholics and Protestants, and the answer is Only Protestants.

    I was brought up Catholic, and I cannot remember what else supposedly leads to salvation. The munching of the wafer, confession, being buggered by a priest…it escapes me, and I do not feel like looking it up.

  31. John Morales says


    boadinum @37,

    I was brought up Catholic, and I cannot remember what else supposedly leads to salvation.

    I too was brought up Catholic, but I haven’t forgotten: one needs to participate in the Communion of the Church, including its Sacraments, and be free from mortal sin at the time of one’s death.

    (That’s why excommunication is supposedly a big deal to Catholics)

  32. DutchA says

    Had the same question as #37, so thanks John Morales for answering that.
    Got 97%, not so bad, even though it might be below atheist average.

  33. says

    The issue I have with the test is the general trivia nature of it. I’d much have preferred questions about religion such as:

    What is the chief disagreement between Shiite and Sunni Muslims?

    Which priest wrote down the majority of the Canaanite beliefs that fill the Old Testament?

    Things like that, not “Was Mother Teresa a Catholic?”

  34. says

    @37 Boadinum

    I was brought up Catholic, and I cannot remember what else supposedly leads to salvation.

    Read the following:

    “The Seven Sacraments are the necessary means established by Christ through which his redeeming, life-giving, sanctifying grace is imparted to individuals’ souls. You must centre your life upon the sacraments established by Christ if you want to save your soul. Means of salvation. … The sacraments are the source of your real life, the divine life that will unite you with God in this world and in eternity. Let nothing make you think that you can get along without the sacraments. Without them your soul must die. … If you don’t receive the sacraments at all, you don’t receive grace. If you don’t receive them properly, that is, if you receive them seldom and with little devotion, you receive less grace” (L.G. Lovasik, The Eucharist in Catholic Life, pp. 14,15).

    Thus one see that the Roman Catholic plan of salvation is faith in Christ PLUS baptism PLUS continuing in the sacraments. It can be frightening stuff for lapsed Roman Catholics to swallow, as the church has such a way of making them feel fearful and frightened for having turned their backs on Roman Catholicism. So very different from those of other denominations who are deemed saved because they’ve been ‘born again’ through the baptism of the spirit.

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