U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz reveals a lot of folks are idiots about religion.

There’s a meme about debating atheists that suggests they know the Bible better than Christians do that makes the rounds every so often on the Internet. There’s a little bit of truth in that meme. Ask any atheist and chances are they’ve had more than one discussion where it was clear the person they were talking to didn’t know much about their own religion or its history or, for that matter, other religions. It’s a never-ending source of amusement for many of us atheists.

Every now and then the folks at the Pew Research Center will conduct a poll on religious knowledge and the results always back up the idea that most American’s religious knowledge is pretty piss-poor. They just did another one consisting of 32 questions to 3,412 adults across the nation. The results of the poll do not paint Christians is a great light:

U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, 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 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. 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 differing levels of education.

It turns out that on questions specifically about the Bible and Christianity, White Evangelicals and Mormons do slightly better than atheists/agnostics (7.3 and 7.9 versus 6.7 correct answers out of 12, respectively), but once you start asking about history or other religions you find the atheists/agnostics second only to the Jews (7.5 to 7.9 out of 11). When you ask questions on religion in public life us non-believers come out on top (2.8 out of 4 with Jews second at 2.7).

If you’re curious, you can take a mini-quiz with 15 of the questions that the subjects were asked by clicking here.

usreligiousquizresults

As you can see above, I took the quiz and I managed to answer 14 of the 15 questions correctly for a score of 93%. That’s better than 97% of the public. I messed up on a question about the Jewish Sabbath that I probably should have gotten right had a taken a moment longer to think about it. If you want to take the quiz you should probably do so before reading any further because this next bit will spoil some of the questions.

What’s really amazing about this survey is how many believers are ignorant about major aspects of their own religion. For example:

More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (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.

How can you claim to be Catholic and not know about transubstantiation? They fucking drill that into you in most Catholic churches like it was the secret to the universe. I’m not as surprised about most protestants not knowing who the fuck Martin Luther is because that’s church history and most Christians don’t bother learning the history of their religion. I am surprised that so many Jews don’t know that Maimonides was Jewish.

When you start asking Americans about religions other than Christianity and Judaism, it gets much, much worse:

In addition, fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly associate Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism. And only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) correctly answer that most people in Indonesia – the country with the world’s largest Muslim population – are Muslims.

Then there’s the issue of religion in public schools were most folks (89%) managed to answer correctly that a teacher cannot lead a class in prayer, but…

…among the questions most often answered incorrectly is whether public school teachers are permitted to read from the Bible as an example of literature. Fully two-thirds of people surveyed (67%) also say “no” to this question, even though the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Bible may be taught for its “literary and historic” qualities, as long as it is part of a secular curriculum.2 On a third question along these lines, just 36% of the public knows that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools. Together, this block of questions suggests that many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are.

There’s a lot of folks who seem to think kids aren’t allowed to pray in school (that wasn’t a survey question). For the record, your kids can pray in school all they want so long as it’s something they decide to do themselves and they’re not disrupting class to do it.

Anyway, the whole report is worth a read and you should check it out. It should be somewhat embarrassing for believers that atheists/agnostics know as much — if not more — about not only the Christian religion, but other religions and their histories. It displays a profound lack of interest in one of the things many profess is the most important thing in their lives. It also leads to awkward conversations when you try to convert one of us to your particular belief system.

Christians are in decline while Unaffiliated are rising fast.

goodnewseveryoneThe folks at the Pew Research Center are back with another study of the religious landscape in the United States and it’s not looking good for Christians

America’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

Specifically speaking, since the last time they came out with this report in 2007 the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has dropped nearly 8 percentage points from 78.4% to 70.6% in 2014. That’s still a majority of Americans, but if this trend continues it won’t be that long before that’s no longer the case. Meanwhile, the Unaffiliated — a combination of atheist, agnostic, and “nothing in particular” — has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8% making it the fastest growing group. That works out to around 56 million people.

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxthis group — sometimes called religious “nones” — is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

The number of people self-identifying as Atheists has doubled from 1.6%  to 3.1% and Agnostics are another 4%. That may not sound like much, but there are now more atheists in America than there are Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews.

PR_15.05.12_RLS-00

While it’s true that the “nothing in particular” folks make up a majority of the Unaffiliated and many of them still consider themselves spiritual in some way, they’re on the decline as more and more of them come to accept the designation of Atheist or Agnostic.

As the unaffiliated have grown, the internal composition of the religious “nones” has changed. Most unaffiliated people continue to describe themselves as having no particular religion (rather than as being atheists or agnostics), but the “nones” appear to be growing more secular. Atheists and agnostics now account for 31% of all religious “nones,” up from 25% in 2007.

The main driving force in the increase of the Unaffiliated is generational replacement. Older religious folks are dying off while the younger generations just aren’t taking up religion like their parents did, but it’s not the only factor in play.

In addition, people in older generations are increasingly disavowing association with organized religion. About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious “nones” in recent years.

As the shifting religious profiles of these generational cohorts suggest, switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to the evangelical tradition, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

By a wide margin, religious “nones” have experienced larger gains through religious switching than any other group. Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) were raised in a religious faith and now identify with no religion. Some switching also has occurred in the other direction: 9% of American adults say they were raised with no religious affiliation, and almost half of them (4.3% of all U.S. adults) now identify with some religion. But for every person who has joined a religion after having been raised unaffiliated, there are more than four people who have become religious “nones” after having been raised in some religion. This 1:4 ratio is an important factor in the growth of the unaffiliated population.

The study goes on to mention that interfaith marriages are more common now than they ever have been before and a large part of that is because there’s plenty of Christians out there who are marrying people in the Unaffiliated group.

There’s a lot more detail in the full report which is worth reading, but the upshot of it is that this is an ongoing trend for the better part of a decade that shows no signs of slowing. Given the huge number of Christians out there making an ass of themselves over things such as gay marriage — or making wedding cakes for gays — I fully expect the trend to continue.

Here’s a few more highlights that made me smile:

  • Although it is low relative to other religious groups, the retention rate of the unaffiliated has increased. In the current survey, 53% of those raised as religiously unaffiliated still identify as “nones” in adulthood, up seven points since 2007. And among Millennials, “nones” actually have one of the highest retention rates of all the religious categories that are large enough to analyze in the survey.
  • The percentage of college graduates who identify with Christianity has declined by nine percentage points since 2007 (from 73% to 64%). The Christian share of the population has declined by a similar amount among those with less than a college education (from 81% to 73%). Religious “nones” now constitute 24% of all college graduates (up from 17%) and 22% of those with less than a college degree (up from 16%).
  • The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.
  • More than a quarter of men (27%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 20% in 2007. Fewer women are religious “nones,” but the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one-in-five women (19%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13% in 2007.

One thing that’s clear is that the increase in the number of atheists and agnostics who are speaking up about their lack of belief is having an impact in changing minds. I suspect that our numbers are actually higher than this study says as a lot of the “no particulars” are probably atheists or agnostics who are “in the closet” for whatever reason. Hell, I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few self-identifying Christians/Muslims/Jews/etc. who are really closeted atheists and agnostics. That makes standing up all the more important.

So keep up the good work,everyone. We’re making a difference!

Are you more scientifically literate than the average American?

the-stupid-it-burnsThe state of science education in the United States is appalling and it’s only getting worse. Thanks to stupid policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act which places an exaggerated emphasis on testing to determine whether kids are learning anything resulting in schools “teaching to the test” and cuts to science education over the years, most people these days fall far short on basic scientific knowledge. It doesn’t help that there has been a systematic attempt by the Far Right in this country to undermine the teaching of well established scientific theories such as Evolution. Is it any wonder that the Discovery, History, and Science channels are resorting more and more to running shows like Ancient Aliens and The Supernaturalist?

It’s helpful to understand just how bad things have gotten so the folks at The Pew Research Center take the time every so often to poll Americans with a simple science quiz to see how they do. When I say simple, I mean ridiculously simple. There are 13 questions and only one of them made me pause for more than half a second to think about the answer.

You can take the quiz yourself here: Do you know more about science and technology than the average American? Go ahead and take it before proceeding with the rest of this entry. I’ll wait.

Done? OK, how’d you do? I got 13 out of 13 correct. There were several questions that I couldn’t believe they were seriously asking. Surely everyone got all of these questions correct, yes? According to the results I scored better than 93% of the Public and the same as only 7% of other quiz takers.

PewScienceQuizResults

Granted I’m probably more scientifically literate than the average person just because it’s a topic I’m interested in, but it’s not like I spend all my time studying science books nor are these questions in any way esoteric. The vast majority of them were laughably simplistic. If you’re paying attention at all you should get all 13 right.

When you get into the demographic breakdowns of the quiz it gets a little more interesting. Men did better than women on most of the questions except for those related to health. Generally speaking, the more education you have the better you’re likely to do — “collage graduate” scored better than “some college” which was better than “high school” — but it was surprising that only 20% of folks know which gas makes up the majority of the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s middle school science class for crying out loud. And the older you are the more likely you are to score low (probably because you’re beyond the point of giving a shit).

So what do we do to fix this problem? Hey, how about we get rid of that stupid No Child Left Behind program and allow teachers to, you know, teach and then properly fund education and science initiatives?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Like that has a chance in hell of happening.

My ranking on the Pew “News IQ” test.

I like to think of myself as fairly well-informed on current events, something my old high school history teacher Mr. Nuss would scoff at I’m sure, but I didn’t realize I was this well informed:


Click to embiggen!

According to the Pew “News IQ” Test I score in the 97 percentile along with approximately 3% of the public where as the national average is a pitiful 50%. The site lets you break things down further by gender, educational level, age group, question by question, and demographic by question. It frightens me to think that with just a year and a half of college under my belt I still scored better than people with a college degree (63%). There’s only 12 questions on the test and most of them were pretty softball questions. For that matter, the only reason I did as well as I did was because it was a multiple choice test. If you asked me outright who is chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board I’d probably stammer for a couple of moments while trying to recall his name, but when I see it amongst a list of other possibilities it makes picking it out easy as hell. Only 28% of people knew the correct answer to the question: Since the start of military action in Iraq, about how many U.S. military personnel have been killed? That’s something I’d have guessed everyone knew—they don’t—more people knew the answer to Which of the following recently declared its independence from Serbia (46%) which was the question I figured most folks would get wrong.

The thing is, I’m hardly a news junkie. I get most of mine from a little morning news before work, a little NPR while in the car, and just reading various blogs around the web. I don’t sit around with the TV tuned to CNN all day or with NPR on the radio at work. I have to take most of my news in small chunks so as not to get horribly depressed. Well, I do watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on a semi-regular basis (once or twice a week) as he makes it a bit more palatable by pointing out the absurdities, but otherwise I don’t generally tune in to news programs. This explains why I’m so often saying to people: How do you not know that? It’s all over the frickin’ news!

Found via ***Dave who apparently missed one question himself.

Latest Pew Research religious survey brings some good news.

It appears that there’s a fair bit of turmoil in America in terms of religious affiliation. Not only are more people leaving the faith they were born in for a different one, but the number of unaffiliated people—sometimes referred to as the “unchurched”—is also on the rise:

Pew Research Center: The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey Reveals a Fluid and Diverse Pattern of Faith

An extensive new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details the religious affiliation of the American public and explores the shifts taking place in the U.S. religious landscape. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion—or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

A quarter of the younger generation are unchurched. While that doesn’t mean they don’t hold some God belief it’s still very good news as those folks tend to be the most likely to eventually give up said belief and become atheists in the long run. The good news doesn’t end there, though:

The Landscape Survey confirms that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country; the number of Americans who report that they are members of Protestant denominations now stands at barely 51%. Moreover, the Protestant population is characterized by significant internal diversity and fragmentation, encompassing hundreds of different denominations loosely grouped around three fairly distinct religious traditions—evangelical Protestant churches (26.3% of the overall adult population), mainline Protestant churches (18.1%) and historically black Protestant churches (6.9%).

You can bet that’s going to have more than a few Protestant leader’s panties all in a bunch. Expect to hear alarm bells ringing in churches all across America if this trend continues. The Catholics aren’t faring much better either:

While those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation, Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes. While nearly one-in-three Americans (31%) were raised in the Catholic faith, today fewer than one-in-four (24%) describe themselves as Catholic.

These losses would have been even more pronounced were it not for the offsetting impact of immigration. The Landscape Survey finds that among the foreign-born adult population, Catholics outnumber Protestants by nearly a two-to-one margin (46% Catholic vs. 24% Protestant); among native-born Americans, on the other hand, Protestants outnumber Catholics by an even larger margin (55% Protestant vs. 21% Catholic). Immigrants are also disproportionately represented among several world religions in the U.S., including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

This gives me hope that Americans aren’t as stupid as they sometimes seem to be. I’ve said before that after the scale of the Catholic pedophile priests scandal became clear that I couldn’t understand how anyone could accept the Catholic church as any kind of moral authority. It seems that scandal may have had quite the impact on Catholics deciding to leave the faith behind.

Of more interest to me, however, is the overview on the aforementioned unchurched population:

Like the other major groups, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (16.1%) also exhibit remarkable internal diversity. Although one-quarter of this group consists of those who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively), the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” This group, in turn, is fairly evenly divided between the “secular unaffiliated,” that is, those who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and the “religious unaffiliated,” that is, those who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population).

This is good news indeed and will probably mean that we’ll see more and more people, particularly from the “secular unaffiliated” group, come around to identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics at some point in time. Best of all, the unaffiliated group is growing in size:

The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace, as every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the biggest gainer in this religious competition—the unaffiliated group. People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4% of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group. This means that more than half of people who were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group. In short, the Landscape Survey shows that the unaffiliated population has grown despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all “religious” groups.

So, yeah, some unaffiliated people, and even some atheists, do eventually switch to being believers, but at least we’re gaining more than we’re losing and doing so at a rate higher than any other group. A few more of the highlights I found interesting include:

  • Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
  • Mormons and Muslims are the groups with the largest families; more than one-in-five Mormon adults and 15% of Muslim adults in the U.S. have three or more children living at home.
  • The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.
  • People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20% and 59%, respectively.
  • In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.

Good stuff and the full report can be read here for those of you who want the nitty gritty details.