20 May 2011

Atheists Best Informed About Religion

Earlier this month Florida pastor Terry Jones caused an international uproar when he threatened to burn copies of the Koran, Islam's holy book, despite the fact that he'd never read the book and doesn't know what it says.

It's one thing to not fully understand the basic tenets of a different religion. But recent research from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that Americans are often woefully ignorant not only of other religions, but of their own faith.


The researchers polled nearly 3,500 Americans and asked them 32 basic questions about world religions, their texts, main figures, and tenets. Most respondents got about half the questions wrong. For example, 45 percent of Catholics polled did not know that the Catholic church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are said to actually and literally become the body and blood of Christ. About as many Americans did not know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist.

In fact the poll found that atheists and agnostics knew more about religion than religious people. Among religious groups, Jews and Mormons scored highest.

That Americans don't know much about their own faith is hardly news. In one widely-seen video clip, comedian Stephen Colbert interviewed Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who co-sponsored a bill to require display of the Ten Commandments in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Colbert asked Westmoreland to name the Ten Commandments.

Discovery News