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USA Religious Literacy: Americans Don't Know Much About Religion

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Tejwant Singh, Sep 28, 2010.

  1. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

    Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

    More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

    The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

    Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.

    Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

    Not surprisingly, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey. However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. The top-performing groups on the survey still came out ahead even when controlling for how much schooling they had completed.

    On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers. Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Less than half of Americans know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, and less than four in 10 know that Vishnu and Shiva are part of Hinduism.

    The study also found that many Americans don't understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

    "Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are," Pew researchers wrote.

    The survey of 3,412 people, conducted between May and June of this year, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, while the margins of error for individual religious groups was higher.

    ____

    Online:

    Pew online quiz about religion: http://features.pewforum.org/quiz/us-religious-knowledge
     

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  3. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    I have just been informed that Christians do not need to know about other religions because they are wrong anyway.

    In fact, it's best Christians NOT know about other beliefs because these will simply cause confusion.


    OK. Got it?

    icecreamkaur
     
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  4. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    These are not good averages even if atheists, agnostics, Mormons and Jews performed better than other groups.

    If you are not familiar with American norms and lifestyle, consider my hypothesis: Sports more than any other cultural institution defines the American way of life. All other leisure activities fail to match sports in terms of defining the true America.

    welcomekaur

    From a 24 hour day, subtract time spent at work for both husband and wife, and in school, along with meals, hours sleeping, chores, shopping and other duties related to the home. The remainder is the time left to learn, study, extend one's horizons beyond the immediacies of life. For many an American sports is the sponge that soaks up that remainder of time.

    Here is a short list of what a red-blooded American is likely to do in his/her spare time. This may also very well be in the approximate order of importance -- measured as time spent doing each one.

    Watch sports events on television, especially the dozens of cable channels devoted solely to sports, be a spectator at spectator sports, engage in sports (actually participate), take children to sports events (little league games), and take them to lessons (karate) and cheerleader.

    So why would any rational person expect Americans to have time, or want to make time, to learn about their own religion or other religions?

    Let's be real! whistlingkudi

    Sports is even more important than eating one meal a day together as a family in the US. And there are data to support that last comment.
     
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  5. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    What about hollywood TV serials ? How much time they soak
     
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  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Good point! But I did not forget about that. If the choice is to be made between a TV serial or Monday night football, there is no argument in many households. In fact television programming by major networks takes sports events into consideration.

    p/s Now what percentage of the American public is going to chose to watch public television programming about religion: Sikhs, Muslims, Mormons, religious fundamentalism, archeology in the Holy Land. The ones who chose this type of television, are probably from the groups who would get the high scores on the test. LOL
     
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  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Then Religions should be in School Curicullam .I also like to mention that civilisations that are economically ahead don't want to gain knowledge about countries or people that are behind them.In India one can question about Africa and I can bet you will hardly found anyone Who is going to answer about their culture or Religion.For most of Indian they are kaaley(Blacks) and all are same
     
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  8. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    I definitely agree that comparative religions should be part of the public school curriculum. There is a model program in Modesto California that has received some headlines recently for the quality learning that it delivers. I cannot say personally because have not seen it.


    http://www.cpjustice.org/content/religion-classroom

    Religion in the Classroom

    February 26, 2010

    In a recent issue of Newsweek, religion editor Lisa Miller took Harvard University to task for failing to seriously educate its students in religion. This gap exists in part because of the pressure of some faculty who contend religion should not be prioritized in the core curriculum due to its perceived irrationality and incompatibility with modernization. Harvard neither requires a religion course, nor does it have a full-fledged department of religion.

    Yet to truly understand individual behavior and the driving beliefs of most cultures and nations, students must understand religion. Religion is important in providing transcendent meaning and purpose for its adherents. It is not only a basis for conflict, but a means of reconciliation. And it often plays a fundamental role in holding governments accountable to the common good and serving as a voice for the voiceless. That is not to say that all major religions are the same and serve the same functions; they are, however, worthy of evaluation and understanding.

    The public school system of the small city where I grew up (Modesto, CA) could teach Harvard a lesson. As Stephen Lazarus highlighted in this very space a few years back, Modesto has taken a forward-thinking and pluralistic approach to the incorporation of religion in the classroom. This has offered students the opportunity to learn about all major world religions, the history of American religious liberty, and the importance of religion in public life altogether. Indeed, Modesto’s is the only school district in the country to require a world religions course. After nearly ten years, scholars have found that, overall, students maintain their commitment to their own faiths, but also increase their commitment to the religious freedom of others, instilling respect versus suspicion.


    The article continues at the above link. :)
     
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  9. Tejwant Singh

    Tejwant Singh United States
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    I apologise for tooting my horn here again but there is something I would like to share with you all.

    I had the meeting with Trimaan's teachers and with the Dean yesterday. Trimaan is a sophomore in Magnet High School. Those who are not familiar with Magnet schools in the US, here is a bit of introduction. Magnet schools are for the gifted kids and they have one more class period than the normal schools.

    Trimaan has AP(Advanced Placement) International History which is normally given to the kids in the 11th grade -Junior year and English Literature Honours. The interesting part is that they both work in tangent and compliment each other. Both are more like college courses. They have a chapter on world religions where Sikhi is lumped as a part of Hinduism and Islam. Trimaan told the teacher that it is not true and the teacher will let him explain the difference among the three religions. When he got into his English Literature class the first day, his teacher complimented him and said that finally she gets to meet the most exciting person in the school.:)

    So, this is the first time I have heard that some schools are spending time on world religions.

    Tejwant Singh
     
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