By Tom Fehn
Atheists and agnostics know more about major religions then Roman Catholics, Jews and Protestants, and most struggled giving the correct answers on their own religion, according to a recent poll that made national news last week.
The Impact conducted its own survey on Mercy College students and found similar results.
Atheists and agnostics in the Impact’s 15 question quiz scored the highest on average,getting 80 percent of the quiz correct. While Jewish followers scored next highest at 67 percent, Roman Catholics were a step below at sixty percent, and Protestants brought up the rear as they got fifty-four percent of the quiz correct.
“You have to know information about things you don’t like or believe in. That’s why you feel that way about that certain topic, so I’m not surprised atheists and agnostics scored the highest,” stated one of the test takers.
For the most part, the Mercy survey showed that it seemed as if most students knew more about other religions then their own.
Half of the Roman Catholics who participated in the study weren’t aware that according to the church’s teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but actually becomes the body and blood of Christ. Meanwhile, every atheist and agnostic believer who took the quiz answered that question correctly.
Also, sixty percent of Roman Catholics were not aware that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not one of the Ten Commandments, while 90 percent of atheist and agnostic believers as well as 75 percent of Jewish followers knew that was one o f the Ten Commandments.
Forty percent of Jewish followers thought that the Jewish Sabbath, which is considered a day of rest of the Jewish community started on Saturday, instead of Friday, while 80 percent of Roman Catholics and 90 percent of atheists and agnostics were aware that the Jewish Sabbath starts on Friday night.
The survey was based off a fifteen questions from Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teaching of different faiths, and major figures in religious history.
One hundred students and faculty of Mercy College were asked fifteen questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they knew what Ramadan was, who founded the Mormon and Protestant religions, as well as what the Eucharist is in the Catholic teachings.
Nationally, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life surveyed 3,500 people and also found similar results. More than half of Protestants quizzed could not identify Martin Luther as the inspiration of the Protestant Reformation. The average number of questions answered correctly out of the 32 question poll was 16. Atheists and agnostics scored the highest, an average 21 correct answers. Jews and Mormons averaged 20 correct answers, while Protestants and Catholics averaged 15 and 16.
While those who claimed they attended some sort of worship weekly did better overall on the test, the largest determining factor among quiz scores was the level of education of the test taker, said the Pew Forum.
The quiz showed that Americans knew the least about Hinduism, and that many Americans didn’t understand constitutional laws with regard to religion.
“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” said a Pew Forum researcher to the Associated Press.
About only half of the quiz takers knew what is regarded as common religion information such as that the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist, the Koran is the Islamic holy book, and that the authors of the four gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The research also added very interesting information about the habits of Americans when it comes to religion. Roughly a third read the Bible or other Holy Scriptures at least once a week, not including worship services. With regard to researching their own religion, Mormons, white evangelicals and black Protestants read books or research online often about their religion.