Atheists, Agnostics Score Highest in Pew Poll On Religious Subjects
Many express ignorance on their own faith in poll
A 32-question telephone poll of more than 3,400 Americans asked general questions about religion. The results were very surprising. Many respondents couldn't name the first book of the Bible, many who described themselves as Catholic were unfamiliar with transubstantiation, few knew what the religion of the Dalai Lama was and most surprisingly - atheists and agnostics scored the highest in the poll.
According to a telephone poll, barely half of all Catholics know that when they take communion, the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Furthermore, Bible-belt Southerners scored the lowest, those who believe the Bible is the literal word of God did slightly worse than average, while those who say it is not the word of God scored slightly better.
While the United States is one of the most religious developed countries in the world, most Americans scored 50 percent or less on a quiz. Barely half of all Catholics knew that when they take communion, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ according to Catholic doctrine.
Only about one in three respondents knew that a public school teacher is allowed to teach a comparative religion class - although nine out of 10 know that teacher isn't allowed by the Supreme Court to lead a class in prayer.
"When it comes to religion, there are a lot of things that Americans are unfamiliar with. That's the main takeaway," said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the think tank and one of the main authors of the survey, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Smith has a theory about why atheists did so well on the quiz - they have thought more about religion than most people. "Very few people say that they were raised as atheists and agnostics," he explains. About three out of four were raised as Christians, he says.
"They were raised in a faith and have made a decision to identify themselves with groups that tend to be fairly unpopular," atheists and agnostics, he says.
"That decision presupposes having given some thought to these things," which is strongly linked with religious knowledge, he says.
The strongest factor predicting how well a person did on the religious knowledge quiz was education. The more years of schooling a person has, the more they are likely to know about religion, regardless of how religious they consider themselves to be.
"The No. 1 predictor without question is simply educational attainment," Smith said.
Only eight of the 3,412 survey respondents got all 32 questions right. Six got them all wrong.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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