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September 28th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Don't know much about religion? You're not alone, study finds

Odds are that you know Mother Teresa was Catholic, but what religion is the Dalai Lama?

How about Maimonides?

And - no Googling - what's the first book of the Bible? How about the first four books of the New Testament?

Americans who can answer all of those questions are relatively rare, a huge new study has found.

In fact, although the United States is one of the most religious developed countries in the world, most Americans scored 50 percent or less on a quiz measuring knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion in public life.

The survey is full of surprising findings.

For example, it's not evangelicals or Catholics who did best - it's atheists and agnostics.

It's not Bible-belt Southerners who scored highest - they came at the bottom.

Those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better.

Barely half of all Catholics know that when they take communion, the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ, according to Catholic doctrine.

And only about one in three know that a public school teacher is allowed to teach a comparative religion class - although nine out of 10 know that teacher isn't allowed by the Supreme Court to lead a class in prayer.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is behind the 32-question quiz, polling more than 3,400 Americans by telephone to gauge the depth of the country's religious knowledge.

Read CNN Belief Blog contributor and Pew adviser Stephen Prothero's take on the survey

"When it comes to religion, there are a lot of things that Americans are unfamiliar with. That's the main takeaway," says Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the think tank and one of the main authors of the survey.

Smith has a theory about why atheists did so well on the quiz - they have thought more about religion than most people.

"Very few people say that they were raised as atheists and agnostics," he explains.

About three out of four were raised as Christians, he says.

"They were raised in a faith and have made a decision to identify themselves with groups that tend to be fairly unpopular," atheists and agnostics, he says.

"That decision presupposes having given some thought to these things," which is strongly linked with religious knowledge, he says.

The single strongest factor predicting how well a person does on the religious knowledge quiz is education - the more years of schooling a person has, the more they are likely to know about religion, regardless of how religious they consider themselves to be, Pew found.

"The No. 1 predictor without question is simply educational attainment," Smith said.

The think tank also asked a handful of general knowledge questions - such as who wrote "Moby-Dick" and who's the vice president of the United States - and found a link between religious knowledge and general knowledge.

Very few people scored high on religion questions and badly on general knowledge, or vice versa.

People who were members of religious youth groups also did well, he said.

"Religious education is an important factor that helps to explain knowledge - people who participated in youth groups get an average of two extra questions right," he said.

Jews and Mormons were close behind atheists and agnostics as the group who did best overall on the religion questions, and white evangelical Protestants also tended to get more than half right.

White Catholics averaged exactly half right, followed by mainline Protestants and people who said they were "nothing in particular," both of whom got just under half right.

Black Protestants got just over a third of the questions right, and Hispanic Catholics just under a third, the Pew Forum found.

The survey was inspired partly by CNN Belief Blog contributor Stephen Prothero's 2007 book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know - And Doesn't."

Because the Pew Forum couldn't find any indication that such a survey has ever been done before, it can't say if Americans today know more or less about religion now than they did in the past.

And the organization doesn't claim too much for its 32 questions.

They "are intended to be representative of a body of important knowledge about religion; they are not meant to be a list of the most essential facts," the Pew Forum says.

Only eight of the 3,412 survey respondents got all 32 questions right. Six got them all wrong.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Atheism • Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture & Science • Islam • Judaism • Mormonism • United States

soundoff (1,855 Responses)
  1. MSUAtheist

    9/10 for this Atheist.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • gmotoman

      Another atheist here and another 9/10.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:53 am |
    • Luke

      Atheist. 10/10. Easy.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • shecky

      after reading the posts and replies in this article, i thank my lucky stars that whatever religion or lack of religion i may employ, it is mine alone. i will never ask another human to follow it, or understand it, nor will i utilize it in a way that belittles others. my firm beliefs are to not kill to the best of my ability, to not steal (also to the best of my ability) even though the social paradigm of my country encourages theft at all levels, to not covet y'alls wife (i dont believe marriage is truly beneficial to humans, so if your wife does, she aint for me). i could continue my list but you get the picture. my religion is at heart 'mine' i am the most knowledgeable human in this religion, and i know it will never kill or hurt another human maliciously, and is open to change if i do so without forethought, somehow. i believe that there is a high degree of interconnectedness between myself and everything else i can see, smell, taste, touch,hear, or otherwise detect, and i know that this connection is important. this connection will not end at the time of my death, as i will still exist here, and pass on any materials i have borrowed to the next user of them. I hope that user bears resemblance to me in many regards. y'all have fun beatin each other up over the 'test' i didnt take it since i would be the one who hung up on the operator that asked 'can i have 30 minutes of your time for a religious survey' total huge bigtime 'CLICK' 'behhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh'

      October 3, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • Muneef

      Or just lazying and do not want to read in search of the truth. Date of Judgment it won't help you to tell God what you just said? It will help you only that you were searching for the truth which your heart latter will lead you to it but this only comes with Focus,Read,Listen,consult. God bless and guide you to the truth that saves you from hell of fires and grant you space in paradise that God has promised believers with. Salam from merciful God.

      October 3, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  2. Bonnie

    10 for 10 and I am a Christian. If you are going to try to shove your beliefs down my throat, you'd better know what you're talking about.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • snwomack

      you should be proud of your knowledge. if i had to bet though, your probably not the type that goes around telling people who don't have similar beliefs that they are ignorant and going to burn for eternity. generally those are the thoughtless lemmings that only believe because they were told to. Cheers

      September 28, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  3. DeceivedSole

    10 out of 10 and an Atheist, plus I agree with Walker

    September 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |
  4. Larry

    The 10 question test interestingly had a couple of questions specificallly regarding Catholics and Muslims, and a question or two regarding Budhists and Hindus. Not one question had anything to do specifically with Evangelical/Protestant faiths. This may account for the "low" scores in the South and the "higher" scores among atheists. Those familiar with their faith know most about their own faith. In short, this "test" is no indicator whatsoever of our nations "knowledge" of religion.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • Guest

      Maybe not of our individual religions, but it shows the ignorance of the religious people about other religions. That is a major issue with the people in this country. They need to expand their knowledge to things they may not agree with. You can learn about something without having to agree with it. Tolerance is a word that a lot of the religious people in this country seem to have forgotten about.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:32 am |
    • Sacralicious

      except for the one about Martin Luther...

      September 28, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • aetna7011

      Larry, not to get on you, but this was just a ten question selection that CNN pulled out of the larger test administered to people at large. You are drastically oversimplifying something based on the limited information you have been provided.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:16 am |
    • MIghty7

      This was NOT the test this article is about. That is a CNN quick dirty poll they put here because they are that clever.

      This test is broader and more complex that this.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:18 am |
    • Frogist

      @Larry: the extended quiz had a number of questions about the bible. And you might want to know that Evangelicals actually scored fairly high on their own religion. (Not as high as mormons.) But they scored very low among other religions and the effect of religion in public life.

      September 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  5. John

    Ha! I'm an Atheist, yet I knew all the questions on the test, yet the people who lead their lives by the bible's example (most of America) averaged 5 of 10! Pitiful!!

    September 28, 2010 at 12:17 am |
    • Sherri

      This wasn't the full test. If you're so knowledgable, you would have been able to read the word "sample"

      September 28, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • jaypenn

      and if you really 'had jesus' you wouldn't be so angry.

      September 29, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  6. Ben

    More evidence that the any product of religion is a product of ignorance.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  7. Joe Mahma

    .

    I'm agnostic and got 9/10 only because I got lazy.

    It's appalling how ignorant Christians are of their own Bible. They seem to just parrot the crap they hear from other people without even reading their own scripture and they sure as heck don't know diddly about other religions.

    .

    September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • Guest

      They do that with political issues too...that's why there are so many ignorant, uninformed voters out there.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • bob

      How can you trust anyone that banters and disparages a man for being treated unfairly as Jesus Christ ?
      is there a problem with cnn leavimg such a post already posted as a reply or is Cnn starting a parrot plantation moral mega chuch ?

      September 28, 2010 at 4:23 am |
    • Jason

      Well, I am a Christian and I got all ten right. I'm pretty sure I'd do well on the full quiz, so don't generalize. There are dumb atheists just like dumb Christians.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:27 am |
    • gmotoman

      This is why Islam has become so dangerous in the modern world. Before that it was Christianity and prior to that it was Judiasm, before that it was... Ignorance, even in the face of hard evidence, bred by blind faith poses one of the greatest threats to human kind. Until we put a leash on religion and place it under the firm control of reason, we are all at risk.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:50 am |
    • ugghh

      Jason...but the whole point of this article is that there are A LOT more dumb Christians. 🙂

      September 28, 2010 at 6:57 am |
    • Kace

      I think I can tell you why, as a recovering Catholic (now atheist). They didn't teach that stuff in church. I was exposed to the religion for 18 years, and while I can tell you what's permitted and what's forbidden, and how the church feels about women, and that if you don't follow the church you're going to hell, I don't know Abraham from Joseph, nor do I have the interest to find out.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:27 am |
    • Crisp

      So what. I also got 9 out of 10 and I am a christian. I read Indonesia and thought India, doh! Not sure what it proves, you could be knowledgable in your own religion and get a low grade because you don't know much about someone else's religion. Now if they had a strictly christian, muslim, hindu, etc. test, then you could tell if the followers of one religion knew more about their own religion than the followers of another religion.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am |
    • Rebel

      "they" huh? It's just too easy to clump people into neat little groups to fit your worldview isn't it? Too much work to actually get to know an individual and base your understanding of them on your relationship with them. Pathetic.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:56 am |
    • Frogist

      @Kace: You were Catholic and you don't know Abraham from Joseph? That says something doesn't it... I'm not being insulting. It's just shocking that your church never taught you some fairly basic bible info. I'm recovering Protestant I guess... LOL! I do know my Abraham from my Joseph, but I'm not sure how as I was never really big on church. I did go to Presbyterian schools since I was a child, so that might be it.

      September 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  8. c

    I scored 10 out of 10..... that was way too easy.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • hello

      where in the Bible do you find but 2 of these questions? this was NOT a quiz on the Bible folks. HELLO
      i wounder what the other 22 questions were?

      September 28, 2010 at 6:49 am |
    • jaypenn

      has anyone implied that this was supposed to be a bible quiz? No. the point is that 'people of faith' are less informed about religion in general. this is not a test of how well 'christians' know the bible. although, i'd love to see one that tested christian folks about leviticus...does anyone know anything, aside from the whole gay thing, about that book? doubtful.

      September 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  9. Rob

    Who really cares?!?
    Oh that's right, the religious whack-jobs, no matter what religion they are and each only care about their own.
    Death to religion.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • Rebel

      Death to greed and superiority complexes. Oh and ignorance as well. And maybe obesity.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:53 am |
    • hates religion loves Jesus

      For being so open minded and being the ONLY CORRECT WAY to believe about god you atheists sure are rude, vindictive, show no love and are very judgmental and self righteous.

      September 28, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  10. Matt from So Cal

    Good article, lets get more light on this subject. Thanks, and good work.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |
  11. Dave

    I posted a comment several minutes that was slightly critical of CNN and it is still awaiting moderation while all my comments which were in direct response to other people are already approved....

    September 28, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • StevieBoy

      Well I've seen some of your comments and can safely say they're not worth being posted – now go read up on Jeebus like a good little Christian.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • Frogist

      @Dave: The filter is a very outdated one. Please check your post for offensive language even if it is a fragment of a word:
      The words docu-ment, const!tution, hom-os-exual, an@lysis etc etc all have words within words: cu-m, t!t, hom-os, s-ex, an@l...
      Unfortunately you have to be creative if you want to have your post not go into awaiting moderation mode.
      There is no CNN conspiracy against people who disagree with them.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:43 am |
  12. Paul. Angry Liberal

    Apparently one does not need to know what one is talking about to be a self-righteous zealot. Awesome.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • alex

      Actually, in most cases, knowing what you are talking about is a handicap in the self-righteous zealot line of work :p But seriously, as the article suggested, the great equalizer, crossing all religious barriers in terms of test scores, is education. My Christian beliefs have been strengthened by what little study I've done of other religions, and I have great respect for many of the people of other faiths that I have met.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:29 am |
  13. T

    Religion – the great artificial divider of men! If you didn't otherwise have a reason to oppose one another, religion will provide it!

    September 28, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • Vladimich

      history has proven your point

      September 28, 2010 at 4:04 am |
    • sw6blues

      true fact

      September 28, 2010 at 6:58 am |
    • hates religion loves Jesus

      Atheism has been a great divider, just ask Mao, Pol Pott, Lenin (not the Beatle). Actually more people were killed under atheism in the 20th century than all of recorded history including the 20th century, under religion. And yes they were killed because they refused to renounce their religion and adhere to atheism, because that was required under their communist system.

      September 28, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  14. BK Beach 4X4

    Religion is a part of history. As history is taught, so to must the religious powers that affected the outcome of history be taught or lessons will not be learned and we will continue to make the same mistakes.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  15. Roger

    The picture for question 8 does not match the answer -_-

    September 28, 2010 at 12:13 am |
    • KeithB

      i think its funny how the story is about how people dont know religions, but in the quiz the picture for the answer Muslim is actually a picture of a Hindus worshiping Ganesh

      September 28, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Frogist

      LOL! I noticed that too... I was like "Why is there a pic of Ganesh?"

      September 28, 2010 at 12:38 am |
    • johnnakrantz

      I'm glad you noticed that too! It's the only question I missed, darn it. mostly because i took my cue from the fuzzy image behind the question...

      September 28, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • charlottenumbernine

      LOL! it's true! It makes no sense..

      September 28, 2010 at 1:25 am |
    • rozewolf

      ...neither does the scratch an sniff part... oh wait...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • T_McA NYC

      Some types of Buddhism also have versions of Ganesh. Just do some simple research. I thought the same as you at first, but then I took a few moments to look it up. Everyone seems to assume they know, which is the point of this whole article and study. Do not assume you know, keep learning.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:58 am |
    • JainaJade

      I noticed that as well, wonder how long until someone at CNN fixes that.
      I would also be curious to find out how converts did in comparison to people raised in the religion. In many cases these individuals have studied not only their religion but also the religion they converted to and possibly a smathering of other religions along the way.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • Mitch

      @T_McA NYC – but the answer was Muslim, not Buddhism. So, in either instance, the picture is still wrong.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:29 am |
  16. Whatever

    Religion is only needed to brainwash people to do something for interests of few. Sometimes, this can be a good thing for country (otherwise there can't be any law and order) othertimes it creates maniacs that do things beyond reason. Religion in effect is just a tool to show power and maintain order.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:12 am |
    • Muneef

      Agree with you that it has been politicalized and made use of it's powers unhumanly in the dark ages unto date what has some and faiths caused to it's people to suffer! But does that mean faith was or is wrong or the wrong is with the people who misuse it for serving their corruption of socities??

      September 28, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • lovesJesus

      Whatever, you are correct as what you say does apply to religion. Christianity is not that at all. Jesus could be a Person Who did things beyond reason: miraculous healings (including mine when there was no cure); forgiving people who were caught in the "very act" of sin; forgiving those whom He KNEW were going to do Him wrong. All of these things are what we face today, and God's Word teaches us to act in the same manner (as Jesus did). Religion has no such teaching, which is where man goes wrong. Learn about God for yourself, and take your eyes off of man...

      September 28, 2010 at 7:52 am |
    • Sussay

      Amen to that noise!

      September 28, 2010 at 8:37 am |
    • Frogist

      lovesJesus: Christianity is a religion. Distancing yourself from the word "religion" does not make what you practice less so. It also does not make what you practice exempt from the problems of belief systems. Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc etc have the miracle stories, the idea of forgiveness, the basic tenets of kindness etc etc. just as much as Christianity does. What you are doing is hypocritical and it seems that a bit of experience of other faiths might bring you some much needed enlightenment. I don't doubt that you believe you are being kind, or that indeed you are a kind person, but when you put down other faiths to raise yours up... even by semantics... it makes you seem arrogant, which I know is not your goal.

      September 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Mike Speakman

    Another atheist here and I don't give a crap, except I've studied our enemy religion Islam most recently.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:12 am |
    • scorpioman

      Well good for you. And you too can become a martyr for allah.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • catlover8367

      @Mike Speakman – If you are an atheist, all religions are your enemy.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:32 am |
    • fancy book learnin'

      If you're an atheist, the organized religions are not your enemy, but you are their enemy. They are the one's full of hate and violence, that the rest of the world has to defend themselves against, and try to figure out how to survive their blood lust and destructive desires to rule the world.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:03 am |
    • RbnLegnd101

      If you are an athiest, all religions are your enemy, which is one more enemy than the belivers have. The athiest is usually safer though. The closer two sects are, the more they hate each other, and the harder they work at killing one another.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:05 am |
    • DummyHater

      Umm, I think he's referring to the "religion of our enemy" more than the fact that religion itself is an enemy of atheists. I'm an agnostic, and I don't consider religion my enemy, just annoying when it is allowed to affect government decisions.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • Mitch

      Why is every religion the enemy of the Atheist? I am an Atheist and do not consider ANY religion an enemy. I would consider some followers of certain religions the enemy however. Anyone that takes their religions teachings and turns them to hate and violence is an enemy to all. I have read about/studies many aspects of many religions. I know enough to realize that no "holy book" really says that violence is the way. It is simply individual interpretation that leads down that path. And if the hate-filled interpreter has enough power, a violent sect is born.

      I may not believe the way you do, but I will not fault you for believing that way. Religion has done a lot of good...as well as a lot of bad. It has fed the hungry, provided for the sick and given hope to the hopeless. To quote a great man that also explored his own beliefs, "whatever gets you through the night" (John Lennon).

      September 28, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • hates religion loves Jesus

      I actually can't stand religion (a system made by man that says it gets you to God or make him like you).

      But, you say that religion kills more people than the SAFE atheist. That is laughable. More people were killed in the 20th century than all other centuries combined. And the facts show that the atheists under communism killed more people than all the religions combined in this century and all of written history.

      And don't say that they killed cause of communism not atheism, because most of the people they killed they killed because thew refused to denounce their religion for one of the communist tenants in those communist nations: Atheism.

      As I said, I hate religion cause it kills, but atheism has killed more. Christian Spirituality that Jesus taught is Love and Peace. If all Christians followed Jesus and not the Christian religion then we would only have to fear governmental atheism and religions that didn't follow those principles. As Gandhi said its the followers (who made christian religion) that are bad not Christianity (what Jesus taught). ~ (Emphasis mine) & Paraphrased

      September 28, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Wei

      Remarks like this give the rest of us a bad name.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  18. Dave

    and Mr. Walker, don't get too excited about 10 out of 10 on this quiz. It was pretty basic.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:12 am |
    • T

      Which is why a score of 50 or less by so many Americans is so scary.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • Sharon

      Dave, it was also likely the 10 easiest questions on the test, in order for those of us who got all of them correct to feel smug and superior to "those poor, dumb 'christians'." I didn't take the full 32 question test - I may go looking for it.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:09 am |
    • Mitch

      FYI – for those that are citing this CNN quiz: This was not THE quiz that is referenced in the story. This is simply CNN's truncated version. This was 10 questions out of the 32 on the official quiz. I am not even sure these 10 actually came from the 32 official questions. But, I would imagine that my 8/10 would end up being at least 25/32. It is still a decent measure of (very) broad religious knowledge.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:05 am |
    • Luke

      No, what is scary is that America currently rankls 27th out of 30 developed nations in science; and 17th out of 30 in math.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  19. Guy Montage

    If I believed in God (I don't), then I would thank him for letting me find this article.

    Atheists are so much informed about religion then the religious, there's really no comparison.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • Dave

      Guy: please tell me where you drew that conclusion from

      September 28, 2010 at 12:13 am |
    • Chris

      Dave, because it's true... Those that hold strongly to their beliefs tend to have little understanding of what they believe. You know this to be true, you simply don't want to admit it.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Atheist Hulk

      @Dave- the article, duh. Did you even read it before you commented? It clearly states that Atheists know more about religion, and other things in general. Lack of religion is correlated with intelligence, studies have been showing this for years.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:26 am |
    • really?

      Apparently what atheists lack in basic grammar/spelling skills they make up for in something they actually care about.... religious history..................

      September 28, 2010 at 12:29 am |
    • opinionguru

      .....451 degrees of nothing

      September 28, 2010 at 1:00 am |
    • steven harnack

      Dave , didn't you even read the article? It was one of the first conclusions that the authors came to! It certainly makes sense to me. I didn't just one day decide to become an atheist. First I learned all that I could about all religions, then I figured out that man created gods, not the other way around.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:13 am |
    • TheRealDoris

      As an atheist I would have to agree, and I think it's because agnostics and atheists don't fly on belief, but reason – they're willing to question and examine. For most people of (blind) faith, that's discouraged. Questioning is akin to doubt, which is a short stones throw from hellfire and damnation. But when religous faith is mindlessly inherited from family, what's to question.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:41 am |
    • Brian

      Dave.

      I think that your comment clearly shows how true THE ARTICLE's statement is.

      Or perhaps you'd understand this better: DDDDUUUURRRRHHHH.

      Moron.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:47 am |
    • Dan

      I"ll copy/paste for those who didn't actually read the artcile: "it's not evangelicals or Catholics who did best – it's atheists and agnostics." Direct quote.

      September 28, 2010 at 5:13 am |
    • pete

      Dave: Isn't it obvious why atheists are smarter than you/the religious? You believe a primate had magical powers...atheists don't. You believe that god made the earth 6000 years ago in seven days.....atheists don't. You believe the jesus story is original...pagans create the story staring Mithra the sun god thousands of years before the jesus story...atheists know that you don't. You religious freaks are worshiping cave painting BS...therefore...you are dumb....atheists are not.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:23 am |
    • matticus

      Couldn't agree more. I work with a guy who is a Christian and he constantly tries to "save" me by proselytizing me to death. When we finally had a discussion on Christianity, he couldn't actually tell me anything about it other than that there is a God and that he created everything and if you don't believe in him, you'll go to hell. After about 10 minutes of listening to him tell me absolutely nothing, I proceeded to tell him about Christianity, ending with "It's sad that an atheist is telling a Christian about Christianity. Hell if I were a Christian, I'd make a hell of a Sunday school teacher".

      September 28, 2010 at 6:29 am |
    • Andacar

      This is very interesting. Dave asked for a simple verification of an unsupported viewpoint. All the atheists ganging up on Dave are asking him to accept what they say as a “well, duh.” In other words, Dave wants facts, which is following the scientific method. The atheists are demanding he accept what they say on faith. I reinforce his request. Show me a poll, statistic or other scientifically produced fact that proves conclusively atheists know more about religion than us faithful, because frankly I’ll bet you can’t.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:39 am |
    • Deano

      @ Pete: God actually created the earth in six days and rested on day seven. Just saying...

      September 28, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Kt

      This was shown as Southern Bible Belt believers didn't know much about the religion. Which in fact it didn't hardly have anything to do with the Bible. Most Southern Bible believers study Christ not Luther and Mother Teresa. Also other religions in other countries. This was a bad lead on to think you make it was about the Bible.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:48 am |
    • Andacar

      Oh, and I did read the article by the way, and got an 8/10. This idea that atheists run exclusively on reason and are automatically smarter than everybody else is pure BS. Wile E. Coyote, "super genius" believed that just before he fell off of a cliff. You guys are as dogmatic as the most proselytizing Christian. You begin with a conclusion, just the opposite one, like the religious people you so despise. That’s hardly “scientific.” If you watched the ravings of fanatics like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchins with an open mind you’d see this, but you swallow everything they say as blindly as the worst of the faithful.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:50 am |
    • Luke

      Dave – Well, not only are you ill-informed and out of touch with reality, you clearly didn't read the article or ignored the point of the study, only further cementing the theories presented by these above mentioned data. Wow. Just wow, Dave.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:13 am |
    • Sevres Blue

      I think that people who did well on this test (and I'm one of them) had some sort of education in comparative religions. Probably live in more diverse areas, too. I don't think atheists are smarter, I think that educated atheists are more likely to run across this 'quiz'. There are plenty of people in Christian communities who secretly don't believe. And I think it's actually RELIGION they're opposed to, not God per se. Organized religion is organized for the sake of the hierarchy, not the flock...

      September 28, 2010 at 7:13 am |
    • Abraham Lincoln

      Maybe all you "faithful" should have read the article. It clearly states that atheists and agnostics are more knowledgeable about religion than you cultists. There's your poll, your evidence.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:15 am |
    • bobincr

      He should say that he KNOWS there is no God simply because he has traversed the WHOLE universe and has come back with the results. There is no God because I've been there and didn't see him. He is exercising FAITH that there is no God because he can't prove that God does not exist. Amazing!

      September 28, 2010 at 7:42 am |
    • lovesJesus

      It' good to have knowledge, which the atheists and agnostics profess, however, God is the One Who provides wisdom, the ability to "appropriately" apply knowledge (which is to not bash others, but to learn how to love others regardless because Christ loved us first). Maybe you missed reading that when you were gaining your religious knowledge instead of God's wisdom. That's Bible, y'all.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:47 am |
    • abacobeachbum

      Andacar, who said anything about Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins??? A lot of us were able to come to the conclusions we have through years of thought and education, something the article mentions. By the way, I haven't read one thing these two guys have written. You see, as the article states, a lot of us grew up in religious surroundings and going to church every Sunday, and a lot of times on Wednesday too...but then something miraculous happened, we entered the real world and actually grew up. Nice try buddy

      September 28, 2010 at 7:57 am |
    • thisISme

      With all that knowledge, its sad to see you still don't know the difference between "then" and "than". My point being that just because a few people with a similar belief are smart, doesn't also make you smart.

      The article states "The single strongest factor predicting how well a person does on the religious knowledge quiz is education." So don't assume that because you are an atheist you are smarter than Christians.

      When I get phone calls about taking a survey I decline them. Let us not forget that 100% of the people that took the survey had nothing better to do than answer 32 random questions from a phone call that most Americans would have ignored.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:33 am |
    • James

      Thank god for that, because your spelling and punctuation are lacking. Almost every "Atheist" I've seen on here has some kind of negative quip towards those of us that are religious. W/e I'm a Christian young man and one of my friends is a Satanist. We don't talk religion. Wow! Easy huh? I have a novel idea, instead of trying to get under eachother's skin (for whatever reason) why not just let it be?

      September 28, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • Anne

      I have to say that it isn't just atheists or agnostics that are doing well on this quiz. I got 8 out of 10. I forgot that the Sabbath begins on Friday, not Saturday and that Indonesia's main religion is Muslim. I'm not an atheist nor an agnostic. I a actually follow a faith path that wasn't even touched upon in this article – I was raised Methodist and currently practice a pagan faith-path.

      It's really those who thought about how they worship, who wanted to know more, who decided to think for themselves that can accurately answer these questions. In my opinion, the article is pointing out just that – as a country and as a culture, Americans are forgetting to think for themselves about some of the most important parts of our lives. I actively chose my path – how many people who took that test can say that? It's time to think – if you choose Christianity, Islam, Bhuddism or Asatru let it be because you made an informed choice.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:44 am |
    • JackoB

      I think you're all forgetting the most important part of this article – that hardly anyone actually aced it. Just because Atheists did better doesn't mean they're not lacking, and just because the Theists didn't do as well doesn't mean they don't know anything about their own religion. The whole POINT is that American education is lacking!

      September 28, 2010 at 8:47 am |
    • Rebel

      You do believe in a god, it is just yourself you think is god.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:48 am |
    • Ex-Christian

      Yes! I am the granddaughter of a preacher who was jailed twice and got off a third time for molesting very young girls. (And yes, I was one of them). His very religious "good Christian" wife told everyone in our very large family that I was a liar and just trying to get attention. When she died more than 30 years later, long after my grandfather had passed, she still had never forgiven me and never once hugged me or spoke to me with affection, although my younger sister got plenty of both. I became an atheist at the age of 12 (the molestation happened when I was six, but there were later incidences as well). Then when I was in my 30's several very strange occurrences happened which had no explanation in my logical, educated world and I was forced – yes, forced – to acknowledge that there is actually a God out there and began an extensive study of every major and not so major religion in existence. My findings were that every organized religion there is is pretty much a load of crap that offends my personal belief system. So now I am my own religion, worshipping in the way that feels right to me.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:51 am |
    • Luke

      Ex-Christian – Please go to Richard Dawkins' website and post your story. Richard will personally reply and contact you. He will aid you in getting your story out through the proper means. He is currently dedicated to helping those in your situation as much as he can.

      http://richarddawkins.net/

      September 28, 2010 at 9:13 am |
    • Denis Logan SR.

      I am a Christians, but I have to admit you are right. My sister a Gay?Athist, when I visit her and her friends,I find they really act towards each other, helping, loving, caring, looking after than the members of our Church. They come closer to treating others the way Christ taught, than people that claim they believe in Christ.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:22 am |
    • DN3

      My opinion is that many people here misunderstand one thing: religion is not the relationship between you and the church, it is the relationship between you and the Deity(ies) you believe in. Just because the religious organization is full of crap (or more commonly, some of its members are) should not tarnish the religion itself, ie. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc etc. I don't care how much anyone knows about basic facts about religion, if they don't understand its meaning, then it's all pointless. I suppose this study group feels that the more informed one is about religion(s), they will be morre tolerant of other people and their religions. Well, I don't have to do a study to find that this is not true. How many times have the bad actions of a few caused most people to color the entire group negatively? Come on, be honest. It happens all the time. And for people who are trying to argue that religious people are better people than non-religious people (eg. atheist) and vice versa, that's a load of garbage. One's religious beliefs or lack thereof have nothing to do with how good a person they are. Living life and turning on the TV recently should have taught this. I happen to be Catholic but that is by choice and yes, I admit there are many faults within the Catholic Church and I won't defend its serious mistakes. However, I believe the spirit of the Bible (note I did not say the literal words) makes sense to me as to how we should treat each other. If one is an Atheist or Agnostic, I don't believe that any loving God would send them to Hell. This is just ridiculous and very simple thinking. If there is a God, and he were a vengeful God as portrayed in the Old Testament (note how the New Testament redirects this) this world with its current issues and ills would have been destroyed long ago. So clearly God is pretty tolerant. So should we all.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • kls1957

      I think the best conclusion that can be drawn about the test scores is that people who change their denomination will have higher average test scores, because these people have a high correlation with those who have at least thought about religion. There are a significant number of people who simply stay in a denomination because they were born into it and just never think about it. Athiests who were born into an athiest family would also have a lower average score. Of course, there are many people who are one religion all of their lives who do know a lot, but the ones who do not ever think about their religion skew the average to the lower test scores.

      September 28, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Sevres Blue: The quiz that the article is referencing is a poll taken by phone and the respondents were asked about their religious affiliations after they took the phone call. So atheists did not happen upon the quiz because they were looking for it, the Pew Research group happened upon atheists.
      Also the quiz on this page is not the same quiz that was done for the poll. There are a number of other questions. A more comprehensive list of questions can be found on the Pew Research group's page. And one could guess that the number of high scores by people on this page indicates a bias of people who come here. Naturally, if you take the time to comment on religious blogs you might have more knowledge than the average respondent to this survey.

      September 28, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • ves

      Actually, if you look at the actual source data (http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx), the average scores of atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons are so close as to be statistically insignificant. So at least two religious groups are just as well informed as all you proud atheists. Cool your jets, people.

      I'm a Mormon, with 9/10 on this little sample quiz. I had no idea who Maimonides was & had to look it up.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
    • ves

      Ahem...sorry...the *difference between* the average scores of those groups is statistically insignificant. Important distinction. 🙂

      September 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Stan

      It's no surprise that those who know most about religion (atheists) have no use for it. That's because they know the most about it. Let's face it. If god answered everyone's prayers, we'd all be dead. Most people wish that followers of other religions, or different political views, or stand in their way regarding money,position,success or love wish the opposition dead.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:24 pm |
    • Gabe

      Guy is correct, atheists and agnostics actually question belief so they tend to read about it. I was raised Catholic and had parents who insisted I deepen my understanding by reading about not only Catholicism but all religious belief, as no-one should believe without knowing why they do (or not believe as the case maybe)...I thank them for it..I did the online questions today and am proud to say I got 32 questions correct (and didn't google anything) :-)...read about what you believe....

      September 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • guest2

      I took the quiz and as a Southern Baptist I scored 8 out of 10. Religion has nothing to do with being a true believer of God and Jesus...nothing at all. So it is not surprising that atheists know so much.

      October 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • Wei

      Amongst my peers I have the secondmost knowledge about religion and the Bible than my devout peers–second only to another agnostic friend. Hmn.

      This has been true for all of my college classes involving Biblical literature and/or references. No surprise to me, but I'm glad this article and survey exists.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
    • D

      Actually, that is true....there's a movie called "god save me from your followers" where they actually go around to the universities and test the Democrats and Republicans knowledge of God and the Bible, sad fact was the Republicans always lost, most times they didn't even get anything right. But facts are many of the people who aren't very religious, don't just decide to be that way...they take time to learn about it then make their own decisions...and in most Christians today, they don't bother to learn, they are to busy trying to dictate what is right and wrong around them without focusing on themselves first. Not saying this to be spiteful, because I absolutely do believe in God...I just wish people 'would stop speaking for him'.

      October 26, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  20. John

    Might as well call the headline "Americans' IQ lacking" Because that's what this is all about...

    September 28, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • Kevin

      Amen, brother!

      September 28, 2010 at 7:41 am |
    • Josh

      If we are so stupid then why are you patronizing our news site? If you don't like American culture then why don't you find something better to do then mock someones way of life. Saying American's are stupid is an ignorant blanket statement because you can find stupid people everywhere and not just in America.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:15 am |
    • Checkmyfact

      Just because he is critical of our collective hypocrisy doesn't mean he hates America. If fact loving something uncritically is the same as not caring. If it's called tough love we need more of it. We ARE becoming dumber in this country BECAUSE we don't want to hear about what makes us weak.

      A football player that is fast but fumbles the ball doesn't try to become a faster runner. He tries to learn how to stop dropping the ball. We need to focus on using our intelligence in public life instead of yelling at those that point out the we don't.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:32 am |
    • Dale56

      @Josh I believe that John was just stating the obvious. Fed. gov. statistics state that 40 % of americans cannot read past a fourth grade level. That is considered illiterate. Many americans know very little of world or even local news, let alone the contents of the bible. As far as "your" website goes CNN is an international news agency which is why they do not only cover american news. Why do you assume that John is not american? I am and I agree with John!

      September 28, 2010 at 8:36 am |
    • David

      Chill out Josh. John didn't say Americans are stupid. He said that's what the article implies. Maybe he believes that, maybe not. Oh, and maybe you should brush up on your grammar, lest you prove the point.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:39 am |
    • kh

      Apparently that includes you, because IQ does not really change regardless of education.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • Donovan

      Add driving, parenting, dieting, common courtesy, responsibility, to the list

      September 28, 2010 at 8:53 am |
    • jesus

      Virtually every evangelical did NOT know;
      1. How the Bible was created (i.e. First & Second Council of Nicea & the involvement of Emperor Constantine)?
      2. Why the Book of Giants was excised from the Bible?
      3. That slavery,and death by stoning (for violating any one of 7 of the 10 commandments) for having another God before you is sanctioned in the Bible.
      4. That if you marry a woman who has previously had another man, it is OK to slit her throat and dump her at the doorstep of her father (See Deuteronomy).
      5. That Jesus approved of the Mosaic laws that required the implementation of such punitive actions.

      The Bible is simply evidence of how a society lived in the bronze age.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • L.A. parent

      My daughter attends Los Angeles public schools (obviously NOT in the bible belt) and the students there receive instruction in all major religions. She is jewish, and not only do all her classmates know about and respect her religious beliefs, but she is just as knowledgeable and respectful of muslims, hindus, buddhists, etc. If all schools taught religion in this manner just imagine how much more tolerant and knowledgeable the entire population of this country could be within a generation. But unfortunately, we all know the Christians in the predominately Christian parts of the country would never allow their children to receive instruction about other religions 😦

      September 28, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • Jenni

      @ John, I agree, although I would say it's more a lack of education than IQ. A large segment of our culture seems to take pride in being uneducated, although I cannot for the life of me figure out why.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:44 am |
    • Frogist

      @Jenni: I've heard people put down intellectuals too as some kind of evil elitist being. And I cannot understand why. What is wrong with learning about the world around you? Sometimes it seems like the high school mentality of jocks vs nerds is how we deal with everything.

      September 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jorge

      Josh-True you can find more dim folks anywhere else in the world, only not as empowered to do damage because of it.

      September 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Saca

      I thought the same, that the format of the questions was more like a IQ test. But think that in a 90% Christian Societyfor every atheist there are about 99 christians so it is easier to find the illiterate ones more often than the educated ones and I'm sure that in those 98 there are more than one that will put the atheist to shame. Knowledgeable doesnt mean smart. Atheists turn down God for Science. Now you tell me how smart is that! Smell the sulphur already? Repent and come back home to your father that still loves you, prodigal sons & daughters. May the Lord bless us all and have mercy on your souls.

      September 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • Bonnie

      The report does not accuse Christians of not knowing their religion; only that American are not fluid in other religions which is true. How many of us have been raised not to discuss politic or religion in polite company. We have taught our children those people on the street corner should be pitied not listened too, how about knocking on your door? We need know the truth so well we can recognize a phony a mile a way, If we do not know what they believe how do we win them for Christ. And yes I took the quiz I got 9 out of 10 right.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm |
    • Miles

      IQ lacking? The way I see it the less bothered people are with their story books the better.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
    • Ron

      It's sad..I am American, but I know that many people in this country don't know who the first president of the United States was much less questions about their faith. The first President was George Washington, by the way.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
    • jended

      I agree - American's aren't being taught to reason, read, write, and don't ask anyone to do any math beyond adding and subtracting. I work in the public safety industry as a supervisor and my people need to write incident reports and they can't. I tell them to just write what happened and they can't. They can't write a coherent sentence. It's extremely disturbing. People have a basic lack of skills that are necessary in negotiating everyday life. They don't understand basic instructions and they're proud of their ignorance. It's very difficult to get people to complete basic reports because they need to go back to grade school and take grammar again. I just don't have the time to teach my people grade school grammar because that's what it is. I don't know what we're going to do but something has got to happen soon before we become an Idiocracy.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • Firefight

      @Hesus you discredited yourself with your first point. The Council of Nicea. That was about the divinity of Jesus and The Holy Trinity. They were combating Arianism. Have you ever heard of the Nicene Creed? After you research that I will gladly enlighten you on the rest of your flawed perspectives. May God soften your heart and open your mind.

      September 28, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • CJ

      I scored 10 out of 10 does that mean I'm an Atheist? What will I tell Jesus? We sort of have an understanding 8-}

      September 29, 2010 at 6:33 am |
    • Jorge

      Jended-You can say that again, I arrived to Georgia from Puerto Rico five years ago and the redaction/elocution skills among my fellow workers are appalling, I get high-browed and leered at whenever I mention my place of origin and I have had to crash-course colleagues on many points of my skill set on the orders of my superiors so that they could apply for a higher position within our department, a position that I knew better than to apply for because I, to quote a popular expression in this state, "ain't from here." Sometimes I wish I could turn back time five years.

      September 29, 2010 at 8:01 am |
    • Star

      You don't even claim a religion which makes it appear that you are speaking out of the side of the mouth. Do you really believe in an all-knowing higher being?For those of us who are pagan and agnostic and whatever you want to call us I can promise that we have not only read the Bible but all other major religious works. We have more ethics and set ourselves to a higher standard of morality than most "Christians". The Golden Rule is how we live. The "IQ" of Americans is terrible and getting worse. Why don't you get some education and common sense?

      September 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • Poppy

      10 out of 10 you losers. I pity you and your exisitance.

      September 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
    • FormerMemberofMensa

      "American IQ lacking" is an oxymoron. IQ is a relative measure so it cannot by definition be lacking for the entire group. That said, by a perfect bell shaped curve definition of IQ 50% will have less than 100 and 50% will have more with the 82% of the population falling between 80 & 119 and 50% falling between 91 & 110. You cant say that IQ is lacking in America. You can say "worldliness" is, as we are a selfish isolated culture who is consuming the planet.

      IGNORANCE, BRAINWASHING, BIGOTRY and ISOLATION are IMO the primary cause for people scoring so low. BTW, I got 10/10 and have an IQ of 150+ but the reason I did so was not because of IQ. Its because I'm Jewish and actually know more about other peoples religions than they know about mine and others.

      October 3, 2010 at 6:18 am |
    • me

      This has nothing to do with IQ, which is an inborn ability to process information. It is all about education, which is adding information into the brain.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:09 am |
    • me

      L.A. Parent, that is a very stereotyped and foolish assumption. I come from a very Christian Midwest town and a fundamentalist family. I also have an IQ in the 99.9th percentile and got a perfect score on that simple quiz. If you want to pretend you are worldly and bright, you might have to drop your closed mind that seems to hate Christians.

      October 4, 2010 at 12:13 am |
    • Duh

      @Josh Including yourself.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • Mr A

      Muslim here, scored 8 out of 10. It's sad that so many Americans lack understanding of the various religions around them – this is what breeds intolerance.

      October 7, 2010 at 3:03 am |
    • Noman

      It is not completely true that Americans lacking I.Q. If they does, then they shouldn't be the Super Power. Besides being a Muslim what i have learned from my religion is I have to respect all the religions. And if i do not, then i may lose my faith as a Muslim.

      January 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.