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Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans

Original post made by Laurie, Amador Estates, on Oct 3, 2010

Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: September 28, 2010

The New York Times

Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

"Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey," said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

Comments (10)

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Eh. I took the quiz and got 14/15, but I thought that some of the questions were worded were rather weirdly.


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Posted by Liz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

Quite interesting, considering "other religions" ie: Protestant Christianity has many different beliefs. Who judged what was the "right" answer? There are many different sects of Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist and non-denominational Christianity.


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Posted by Liz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

Forget my earlier post...found the quiz. So, the issue is that Christians know the least about other religions...There's nothing on the summary of the poll to show what questions refering to "their religion" Christians got wrong. But a lot of people identify with the Christian religion and don't know the Bible.


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Posted by Fact finder
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

First, is it a giant coincidence that Laurie posted this thread, and a Laurie wrote the Times article ?
Last week, I read an article about this test and politically 'registered Independents' scored the highest, which I know to accurate.... "thinking" people, who don't follow rumors, dogma, and fairy tales in religion or politics....people who want facts not superstitions.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm

So what's the point? There is little to no religious eduction in schools because many groups freak out. Only private religious affiliated institution require religious education. I'm not sure a christian needs to details about the bible to act like a christian and has little or no need to learn about other religions to lead a christian lifestyle. (you can replace christian with whatever religion you like for the most part). Some religions are more strict with learning details then others. I do not know a lot about different religions, so am I a horrible person? its rhetorical, please don't answer, just think to yourself :-)


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Posted by David
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 8:32 pm

The Catholics didn't know that the wafer and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ. Liz, I read an article about the quiz yesterday that stated that.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 9:29 pm

So atheists are smarter about world religions, but religious people (children) are more well behaved and adjusted. Take you pick.


"A 2007 study authored by John Bartkowski, a sociologist with Mississippi State University, examined the impact of religion on the development of young children.

Dr. Bartkowski's team questioned the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 children, asking the adults to rate the children - most of them age six - on self-control, frequency of poor or unhappy behavior, and their ability to respect and work with peers. The results were compared to the parents' rate of attendance at church services, how frequently they talked about faith with their child, and whether or not there was arguing over religion in the home.

The children of parents who regularly attended church services and talked with their child about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as showing better behavior, self-control skills and social skills than children from non-religious families. Children whose parents both attended church regularly were rated as having the best behavior and being the most well-adjusted."


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Posted by Kevin
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

The Religious Research Association "generously funded" Bartkowski's study. it's always important to know who gives a researcher money. Bartkowski is the President - Elect of the RRA. Members of the RRA include clergy, theologians, religious educators and " church planners."


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Yes, we need to be VERY VERY skeptic of who funds research, but just because a group funds research and the results are in line with that groups position does not mean the research is bad. I'm not aware of follow up research, but since this was a few years ago, I would guess that those who oppose this research have conducted their own study. I can't seem to find anything though, so if you could point me in the right direction it would be appreciated.


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Posted by Kevin
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:56 am


Bartkowski et al. noted that parents might be biased and provide socially acceptable answers to questions about religious participation as well as about their children's development. The absence of objective measures of development in this study makes it difficult to support the conclusion that religious participation was "good for the kids.

In spite of their implied conclusion that religious involvement caused improved child development, Bartkowski et al. acknowledged that the DIRECTION of CAUSALITY (if any) was UNCLEAR. However elaborate the statistical analysis, a study of this type is severely handicapped with respect to interpretation, making it impossible to conclude that one of the measured factors caused another.

Bartkowski (author of The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men and Remaking the Godly Marriage) opens his article on the study with three admirable caveats: (1) The benefit is defined primarily by how well-behaved children are, (2) the data, based on parent and teacher interviews, are ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE, and (3) the data were gathered from a survey conducted for a different purpose and from a cohort consisting almost entirely of first graders.

Having acknowledged these three caveats, Bartkowski largely disregards them. By the middle of the paper, he has declared that "the findings that emerge from the present investigation are robust and quite clear."

In fact, the data are a bit too robust. The study's data tables indicate that many variables other than religion show significant effects — some even GREATER than religion — but those go undiscussed in the study. Bartkowski cherry-picked religion and declared it the cause of the child's "goodness."

Dr. Jean Mercer wrote a response to the Bartkowski piece, "Bartkowski acknowledged that the direction of causality (if any) was unclear… A study of this type is severely handicapped with respect to interpretation, making it impossible to conclude that one of the measured factors caused another.

Dr. Mercer also considers the subjective data problematic. "It appears that there were no objective measures of child development employed. Instead, parental and teacher assessments of children's emotional characteristics and 'approaches to learning' were analyzed."

Given the fatal flaws in the Bartkowski study, I'd suggest the evangelical leanings of the researcher colored his research design and skewed his conclusions, which were then lapped up by an eager Fox (news).


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