Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Well Do You Know Your Religion?

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for different levels of education.

On questions about Christianity (including the bible), Mormons and white evangelical Protestants show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews, atheists and agnostics stand out for their knowledge of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Jews, atheists and agnostics also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

These are among the key findings of the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey," a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.

Additional findings include:

• More than four-in-ten Catholics (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize, but actually become, the body and blood of Christ

• About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity

• Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish

• Fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist; fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly identify Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism; and only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) know that most people in Indonesia are Muslims

• There is widespread confusion over the line between teaching and preaching in public schools. Nine-in-ten Americans (89%) know that U.S. Supreme Court rulings do not allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. However two-thirds of people surveyed incorrectly say that Supreme Court rulings prevent public school teachers from reading from the Bible as an example of literature, and only 36% know that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools.

• Most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey's questions about the Bible. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) can correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible.

Data from the survey indicate that educational attainment—how much schooling an individual has completed—is the single best predictor of religious knowledge. On average, college graduates answered nearly eight more questions correctly than those with a high school education or less. Religious knowledge is also higher among those who have taken a religion course in college. Other factors linked with religious knowledge include reading Scripture at least once a week and talking about religion with friends and family.

For those curious about their own religious knowledge, the online presentation of the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey" includes an interactive quiz that allows Web visitors to answer a selection of questions taken from the survey and compare their results to the nation as a whole and with various religious and demographic groups.

In conjunction with the release of the survey, WGBH in Boston will debut "God in America," a six-hour series that interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews to explore the historical role of religion in the US, including its impact on society, politics and culture. initially it airs tonight and tomorrow.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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