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October 1st, 2010
04:28 PM ET

Your comments on religious knowledge quiz

There's a torrent of comments on our story this week about most Americans scoring 50 percent or less on a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life quiz measuring knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion.

(If you haven't yet taken our quiz, which includes 10 questions from the Pew study, you really should.)

Brian theorizes on why those with no religion outperformed religious Americans on the quiz:

Religion is the tool used by the few to control the uneducated.

This is why I am not surprised by this finding and why I, an agnostic, got 8 out of 10 on the CNN quiz. Faith unfortunately has come to mean "blindly follow what someone else tells you."

Wzrd1 claims to have learned quite a lot about religion in school - public school:

When I was in the public school system, we DID have comparative religion taught in our cultures class. It served me VERY well during my military related deployments over the years, as a nice and comfortable stepping stone when dealing with a local populace in a foreign land.

Of course, THESE days, school districts fear introducing such things, lest they find themselves in court.

And chellekd grew up in a theologically conservative Christian home in which she learned plenty about other faiths:

I got 9 out of 10 right. Not bad for someone who came from a WV Pentecostal background. With that being said I'm glad that my minister Dad always taught me to be open and tolerant to other faiths even if I didn't believe in them. I learned things from him outside of the Bible which gave me an appreciation for everyone's beliefs. Now if you'll excuse me I need to go learn more about Ramadan.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Christianity • Islam • Mormonism • Polls

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Faith

    3rd post continued..
    John assured us that “no man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Mortal men have seen visible m-a-n-ifes-tati-ns which God used to reveal Himself to them and to c-o-m-m–un–icate with them, as when God the Son took human f-o-r-m in a Be-thl–e-he-m m-a-n-ger. But they have never seen Him fully in His sp-i-ri-tu-al being. There is no way they could. Sp-ir-it-s are invisible.
    That can be a very comforting truth. Because God is invi–sible, not only can we know Him, but we can know Him apart from our p-h-ys-ical senses. We do not have to see Him or feel Him to know Him. We have sp-irit-s too, you see. God is spi-r-it, but we have sp-i-rits housed within our physical bodies. And when our spirits are made alive toward God through the new birth, we have the capacity to c-o-m-m-une with Him in our spirits, anytime, anywhere, and under any c-i-r-c-u-m-stances
    C-o-m-m-u-ni-on with God does not depend on external things because it takes place internally in the spiritual part of our being. That was the point of Jesus’ c-o-m-ment to the woman at the well. Since God is spirit we must wors-h-ip Him in spirit. Wors-hi-p is not primarily a matter of physical location, surroundings, form, ri-t-ual, l-it-u-rgy, or ceremony. It is not a matter of creating a certain kind of mood or atmosphere. It is a matter of spirit. Wors-hi-p is the response of our spirits to God’s revelation of Himself.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • NL

      If you feel an emotional connection to a piece of art, or a song, or a work of literature should we also assume that these things have 'spirits' that actually reach out to us? Not everything touches us so why not assume that each chooses to or not? Why can't they have individual spirits working just as your God spirit does?

      October 3, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Faith ?????

      Faith, I mean come on, . .really. I would bet the farm that if you happened to be born in the middle east you would be a Muslim. You would see Allah in your coffee and on your ride to work on a camel. The reason the religous use that line of dribble is because it cannot be proven, shared or quantified, so it can't not be disputed. People want to elevate themselves and feel a part of the divine. Trust me when I say I really wish some religions were true. I wish there was an almighty force that dishes out justice and rewards the faithful. But there is NOT> There is no justice in this world. If God was all powerful then why is there evil. Why would he allow it? He must not be all powerfull then. Or some Chritian appologists would say that God created our world and made us to have free will. Why would he do that knowing that wars would ensue, children would die from disease, famine, and genecide. I tried to be a good Christian at one time. I really tried, but I did not believe the people flaping on the ground speaking in tongues, or the faith healers laying on hands, etc

      October 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  2. Faith

    God is spirit. There is no article in the Greek text before the word spirit, and that emphasizes the quali-ty or essence of the word. Furthermore, the word spirit occurs first in the sentence for emphasis. The literal idea would be something like, “Absolutely spirit in His essence is God.” Jesus did not leave any doubt about this truth. God is spirit!

    Just about everybody knows that a spirit cannot be seen. We cannot even see a human spirit. The most int-i-m-ate of friends cannot see each other’s spirit and none of us can see God. Paul called Him “the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and “the King eternal, imm=ortal, invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17).

    October 3, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  3. Faith

    TheRationale

    With the internet available, religious ideas are not safe from questioning and can't survive. Religion knows it can't stand up to any sort of rational test, which is why it makes a virtue out of faith – not questioning and accepting whatever answers you're given.

    I disagree. What do you coin "rational" test? Most of what I see is "prove" your God exists. Totally and idioctic comment. Can you prove what caused the Big Bang? No. Obviously, something caused it right? Just, you don't know what that was. How then can we ask you to "prove" what caused it?

    God is a spirit.
    Jesus had worked the conversation around to spiritual things and was responding to the woman’s comment about where people ought to w-o-r-s-h-i-p: “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you w-or-s-h-i-p the Father. You w–o-r-s–hi-p that which you do not know; we w-o-r-sh-ip that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall w-o-r-s-hip the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His wor-s-h-i-pers” (John 4:21-23). It was at that point in the conversation that Jesus said something about God which had never been clearly stated before. The truth was apparent from what had been revealed in the Old Testament, but it had never been put into plain words. “God is spirit,” He declared, “and those who worship Him must wor-s-h-i-p in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24

    Continued..... next pos

    October 3, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  4. Nan

    The questions were ridiculously easy. Can't imagine why so many U.S. citizens did so poorly. Not a good reflection on our general knowledge. With so many other areas that we lag in like science why this??????

    October 3, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  5. Nan

    Thr questions were ridiculously easy. Can't imagine why so many U.S. citizens did so poorly. Not a good reflection on our general knowledge. With so many other areas that we lag in like science why this??????

    October 3, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  6. Matt McHugh

    American public school kids are not taught religion objectively. That is absolutely the fault of Christian fundamentalists - and the spineless politicians who fear them. Despite the established legality of such courses, Christian fundamentalists protest at board meetings whenever a true comparative religion course shows up in a public school (remember, these are the same dolts who keep evolution out of textbooks). They don't want their religion taught on equal terms with dozens of other world religions. Might give kids the impression its not so special. Can't have that.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am |
  7. Joel Karafin

    I wonder why anyone is surprised by the results. The essence of religion, and the definition of faith, is belief without reason. So, why would believers care to learn facts? Those who care about facts, like to test our beliefs in the real word, and have the courage to say "I don't know", end up as athiests or agnostics. So we're the ones that know the facts. Simple.

    October 2, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • NL

      Maybe, deep down, most believers know that if they searched within their religion too closely what they will find will likely destroy their faith. That's why there is such a taboo against atheism, trusting intelligence and questioning dogma, and why faith has such a high value placed upon it.

      October 3, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  8. Hector

    @Lt. Dan - I agree. The folks in the South are the most God fearing people. The fact is, their behavior is more in line with Christian teachings than their doctrinal understanding. That is what religion is about, teaching people to be generous to others, feed the sick or hurt or homeless, treating others like you want to be treated, being honest, kind, loving, and generous.

    Previous generations in the South were taught the basic Christian principles and the culture of the South today reflects some of that teaching. Is it time to turn away from bashing religion and turn to looking for the good in each other?

    Just a thought.

    October 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
    • LT. Dan

      Hector, those may be Christian principles, but I think they are just basic human principles. I know lots of people that run non profits, people that give to charity and help the homeless because they are just decent people, they are not religous. So I think it is great that Christians preach the same principles, but they are not of themselves Christian principles. What I worry about is people that give to the homless, feed the needy because they selfishly want to be rewarded somehow for it. Would they do those same things if their religion did not dictate it? Humanity is what we need to get back to. We should do what is right because it is right.

      October 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  9. Thorrsman

    Seems a simple enough test. While most of the questions have a Christian element, even an old Pagan like me had no trouble answering all correctly. Hard to believe that so many people today are ignorant of such basic information.

    October 2, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  10. Iqbal khan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEpDNqfjmu4&feature=related

    October 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Peter F

    Just makes me want to learn more about other religions. Interesting findings...

    October 2, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • dw

      Must respond to Lukes' prior comment:
      A little harsh David, but study after study after study indicates that there is a direct correlation to lack of faith and intelligence across the globe in every developed society. So while not technical idiotic, they are certainly less intelligent not only in common knowledge but also in newly developing ideas. The real kicker is that intelligence itself continues to grow and expand at an exponential rate, therefore deep religious faith causes one to fall behind the curve at a geometric rate, rather than a linear rate. Basic mathematics. From a societal point of view, this scares me. We've built a global society out of science and technology, but we as a population (particularly in America) don't properly understand science and technology. When people don't understand something is when, frankly speaking, bad sh!t happens. Take a look at the financial crisis for example – CEOs didn't understand risk. Traders built derivatives few could digest, home buyers didn't understand basic mortgage loan contracts, mortgage lenders didn't grasp loan to risk ratios, etc, and it blew up in everyone's face. Imagine what will happen when technology blows up in our face. Better build a bunker, David.

      I don't think the human GREED within the financial industry has much to do with understanding science and technology. Anyway, back to the PEW quiz on religion: Congratulations to agnostics, etc. out there who scored higher than most "religious" Americans. I don't blame you for hosting an online pep rally. But generalizing, patronizing, bragging and name calling is in itself uncivilized, ignorant, immature, and divisive....the very things you detest, right?

      October 2, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  12. NL

    People who love food, for example, will be much more knowledgeable about all things related to food than people who have a limited love for food, or only eat a specific, small cuisine. Atheists usually love the subject of religion, whereas fundamentalism is a small cuisine. Not too adventurous. Just meat and potatoes, maybe.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
    • Lt. Dan

      It really is not surprising to me. If anyone has ever traveled through the bible belt in the US you will see some of the most ignorant god fearing people on earth. They are willing to give up their last dollar to the pastors who laugh all the way to the bank.

      October 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
    • NL

      Like Tea Partiers who will vote for someone campaigning to take away the very same government handouts that they themselves rely upon. A lack of critical thinking skills, I suppose.

      October 3, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  13. Luke

    I've got an article due. Hmm. I know! I'll just write an article about comments on a previous article! No work required!

    October 1, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  14. Catholic Answers Apologist

    I took the Pew Forum quiz which have 15 questions. I got 15 out of 15 correct. I then a google search on the quiz and I found the 32 question on religion. I got 32 out of 32 correct. I am a Catholic Christian Apologist. I score higher than Americans who are atheist, agnostic, Jews, Mormons, Evangelical Protestant Christians, and ordinary Catholic.

    I am not surprise with my own score because I took REL 101 in College and religious education is my favorite subject.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
    • NL

      Religious education is your favorite subject? Mine too. Give your interest in religion 10 more years and we'll be in the same group.

      October 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • Magic Man

      Quite an achievement. Now maybe you can take an English Composition 101 course to learn how to write, your syntax and grammar are terrible. I usually don't nitpick, but if you're going to brag it would help your cause to communicate effectively.

      October 2, 2010 at 2:50 am |
    • Luke

      Congratulations. Now, when you take basic statistics in college and start to learn the rule of proper population samples and the rule of large numbers, get back to me. You ever heard of outliers? The reason we poll a lot of people is to gather statistically significant numbers with P values below 0.05. You scored 100% – you're rad. I did too, actually.The basket you fall into, however, scores at the bottom. I'd love to see your math and science scores. Can I test you?

      Copy and pasted from above as it applies to both questions.

      October 2, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  15. Tyler V

    you really wanna know why people fail the test? Because churches hace actually have tried to STOP being doctrinal or historical and have tried to be "relevant" (in the cultural sense)and sought to entertain rather than educate. So the problem is not with some conspiracy to subject people to mental servitude, but in the church's bending its knee to our gratification culture.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • Luke

      Then why do I, a man that has been inside a few churches in his lifetimes solely for the purpose of absorbing the lovely architecture of lovely buildings across the globe in different societies, know more about world religion than you do and the rest of your flock? Additionally, why does my basket of people – skeptics – score better in math, science, literature and history and contain a majority of the world'a artists, poets and musicians?

      October 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  16. Tyler V

    10/10 and I'm a youth pastor. Sorry guys. Dont mean to ruin your half baked theories about some wide spread conspiracy theory to keep the masses in ignorance. Nothing like a little bigotry and propaganda in the name of reason right?

    October 1, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Eric G.

      I think you are confused Tyler. There is no conspiricy theory about keeping the masses ignorant. Religion just caters to the ignorant masses. Sorry, but the proof is in the fundies.

      October 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
    • Luke

      Congratulations Tyler. Now, when you take basic statistics in college and start to learn the rule of proper population samples and the rule of large numbers, get back to me. You ever heard of outliers? The reason we poll a lot of people is to gather statistically significant numbers with P values below 0.05. You scored 10/10 – you're rad. The basket you fall into, however, scores at the bottom. I'd love to see your math and science scores. Can I test you?

      October 2, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Lt. Dan

      Yeah, I mean just watch a faith healing. People really believe that stuff. Look at Scientology, L Ron Hubbard made a bar bet with a fried that he could create his own religion. He did and people believe in that. One day hopefuly we will live in a society without religion. It will just be a part of history. " many years ago humans used to think the earth was flat and a long haired, white man lived in the sky and watched your every thought and if you pray hard enough he will give you goodies" But until then we will just have to wait it out and hope that the religous fundamentals don't kill too many people for not believing in their version of GOD.

      October 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  17. raven

    I only got the last question wrong because I'm not American and I don't know whether it's legally okay in the States to read from the bible in public schools. I'm Canadian and know Canadian laws on such things. Everything else was pretty standard and easy. I'm surprised many people didn't know these basic religious answers, but that only shows we just need to read more, educate ourselves more. Not nessarily a bad thing, I think.

    I am a Christian who attends a Pentecostal church, but I'm pretty liberal in my views as well and don't always agree with my fellow Christians about certain heavier topics. It's a struggle sometimes to follow God and leave the churches view behind when they differ.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    My theory, on the low scores of fundies, is that they are idiots. I bet my theory is never falsified.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:16 pm |
    • Luke

      A little harsh David, but study after study after study indicates that there is a direct correlation to lack of faith and intelligence across the globe in every developed society. So while not technical idiotic, they are certainly less intelligent not only in common knowledge but also in newly developing ideas. The real kicker is that intelligence itself continues to grow and expand at an exponential rate, therefore deep religious faith causes one to fall behind the curve at a geometric rate, rather than a linear rate. Basic mathematics. From a societal point of view, this scares me. We've built a global society out of science and technology, but we as a population (particularly in America) don't properly understand science and technology. When people don't understand something is when, frankly speaking, bad sh!t happens. Take a look at the financial crisis for example – CEOs didn't understand risk. Traders built derivatives few could digest, home buyers didn't understand basic mortgage loan contracts, mortgage lenders didn't grasp loan to risk ratios, etc, and it blew up in everyone's face. Imagine what will happen when technology blows up in our face. Better build a bunker, David.

      October 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  19. TheRationale

    With the internet available, religious ideas are not safe from questioning and can't survive. Religion knows it can't stand up to any sort of rational test, which is why it makes a virtue out of faith – not questioning and accepting whatever answers you're given.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • peace2all

      @TheRationale

      Agreed...

      Peace...

      October 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Frank

      If you think the Internet is going to kill off religion, you're sorely mistaken. People are just coming up with new/old religions: transhumanism, hedonism, materialism, nihilism, existentialism, pagan/Eastern syncreticism, New Age, UFO/science cults, etc and on and on. Religion will never go away. Just watch (well, until you're dead).

      October 2, 2010 at 3:19 am |
    • dutchblitz1

      Sort of like how Voltaire predicted that the Bible would disappear within 100 years of his death?

      October 2, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • Betty Anne

      I'm afraid religion has been questioned and tested long before the Internet.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • TLF

      I beg to differ. If you haven't read any of William Lane Craig's work or the work of others like him such as Alvin Plantinga, then may I suggest them to you? WLC especially provides solid, rational arguments for belief in theism and, in my opinion, demonstrates exceptionally well how belief in a God is not at all irrational.

      If you have not read any of his work, reasonablefaith.org is where you can read most of it.

      I agree with you that too many people of faith do not question their beliefs. This is a great tragedy. They choose to remain in ignorance for whatever reason and are then unable to provide an adequate defense of their belief when confronted by those who do not believe. This, of course, has lead many non-believers to conclude there is no rational argument for belief in theism and some believers to become non-believers because they discover can't defend their belief. Still other believers elect to ignore rational questions and criticisms of their belief and continue to remain in the dark, unable to provide any kind of defense for their belief aside from "it just feels right" or "I know it in my heart". A shame, really, because there actually are good, rational arguments for belief, if they'd only take the time to do some questioning, criticizing, and research.

      Philosophers and thinkers like William Lane Craig are well worth your time to read even if you disagree with their conclusions. Many atheists and agnostics have asked WLC questions which he has answered on his site (he does a Q&A every week), and a fair amount of them have stated that they think he has provided excellent and rational reasons for belief in theism even though, ultimately, they reject that world view for whatever reasons they have.

      I hope this comment was useful. 🙂

      October 4, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • Linda Lorah

      I agree with you that much religion does this, but not all. I belong to a wonderful church where we welcome (encourage) diverse points of view and seek to learn all we can about different religious traditions. Knowledge is power and 'truth' is different for different people.

      October 5, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  20. Frogist

    Shout out to Wzrd1

    October 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Frogist

      Hey there...! How are ya'....? Have you heard from Kate or Critter....lately....?

      Peace...

      October 1, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
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About this blog

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.