Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The USA and Religion: Pew Research Survey--Knowledge vs Faith
Religions are on the blackboard, and religious believers should be at the blackboard, in this illustration for the highly respected Pew Research Center's U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. The results show that most Americans need teaching about aspects of their own religion, despite being strong in their faith, and about other religions. Agnostics, atheists and Jews scored the highest, with Mormons outscoring Protestants and Catholics. The full report is worth reading, or at least the Executive Summary.
I was surprised by the comparative results by religious group, Who Knows What About Religion?. "Race" plays a role in shaping religious knowledge for White, Black, and Hispanic Americans, even within their respective religions, ie Protestantism and Catholicism. Not only are the rituals different, the knowledge base is. This is consistent with impressions gathered about "The Black Church" from its adherents, and with the historical circumstances of these groups and their religious evolution in the USA.
Then again, religious knowledge scores increased with higher educational levels so perhaps the results reflect more on socio-economic status and access to higher education. Higher Education was the single most important factor, of the Factors Linked With Religious Knowledge, independent of age, race, gender (men scored higher than women), religious studies, or political affiliation (Republicans scored higher than Independants, and Democrats scored lowest).
Interestingly, Jews, atheists and agnostics were survey along with White, Black, and Hispanic Protestants, Evangelicals, and Catholics, but few Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists. The latter are included individually in the projections from the sample population to the total population, but the number of interviewees from each group was too small to report on these religious groups. More methodological details are available here. I am surprised that more interviews weren't done with these groups to include their results independently, given US demographics,: Christian (82.3%); Unaffiliated, including atheist or agnostic (11.6%); Jewish (1.2% to 2.2%); Muslim (1.0 to 2.0%); Buddhism (0.5% to 0.9%); Hinduism (~0.5 %); other (1.4%).
How well would you do? Interactive quiz.
If you take the quiz, and you want to tell, what were your results, areas of strength, and areas of knowledge gaps?
Were you surprised by key tenets of your own religion?
If you are American, how good is your knowledge of religion and the Constitution?
What are the implications of having strong faith in, but poor knowledge of, one's religion?
How meaningful is one's faith if one has little knowledge of other belief systems?
Should Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist Americans also been surveyed sufficiently in your opinion? Why/why not?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?