Evangelicals fare better than other Christians when quizzed on Bible, Christianity: poll

by Samuel Smith/CP, |
Attendees watch on during the 2019 Evangelicals for Life conference at the McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia on Jan. 16, 2019. | PHOTO: ERLC

A new Pew Research poll suggests that evangelical Christians are more knowledgeable about the Bible and Christianity than other American Christians, while American Jews are most knowledgeable about religion in general.

While most polls tend to present data on public opinion, a new Pew Research Center survey titled "What Americans Know About Religion" quizzed nearly 11,000 U.S. adults about their knowledge of world religions, the Bible, Christianity and Judaism.

The survey asked 32 fact-based multiple-choice questions that "span a spectrum of difficulty."

Some of the questions were labeled as easy — for example, "Easter Sunday commemorates what?" — in order to establish a baseline indication of "what nearly all Americans know about religion."

Other questions were more difficult — for example, "Which is one of Buddhism's four 'noble truths?'"— in order to determine those who are most knowledgeable about religion.

Less than half of U.S. adults surveyed answered at least 14 of the 32 questions correctly.

The survey finds that Jews, atheists, agnostics, evangelical Protestants, highly educated people and those with religiously diverse social networks seem to have higher levels of religious knowledge. Meanwhile, young adults and racial minorities seemed to have less knowledge about religion than the average respondent.

When looking specifically at questions dealing with the Bible and Christianity, the survey found that evangelical Protestants, on average, answered 9.3 out of 14 questions correctly, a higher average than respondents grouped in other categories of Christians.

On average, Christians answered 8.2 out of the 14 questions on the Bible and Christianity correctly, while mainline Protestants averaged 8.1 correct answers, historically black Protestants averaged 6.0 correct answers. Catholics averaged 7.9 correct answers and Mormons averaged 8.5 correct answers.

Jews answered an average of 8 out of 14 questions correctly related to the Bible and Christianity, while atheists averaged 8.6 correct answers and agnostics averaged 8.2 correct answers.

When trying to answer questions about other world religions (Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and global religious demography), Christian respondents did not fare as well as Jews, atheists, and agnostics.

On average, Christians answered 3.9 out of 13 questions related to other world religions correctly. Meanwhile, Jews averaged 7.7 correct answers and atheists averaged 6.1 correct answers.

In whole, Jews had the highest average of 18.7 correct answers out of 32, while atheists averaged 17.9 and agnostics 17.0.

Christians averaged 14.2 correct answers out of 32, with evangelicals again finishing with the highest average of any Christian category with 15.8 correct answers.

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