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Most people think of 'the pope,' not 'God,' when they hear 'Catholic'

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When asked about Catholicism, most people think of the pope, according to a newly released survey from the Pew Research Center. 

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By CNA News
3/19/2020 (2 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: POPE FRANCIS, WASHINGTON D.C., US

Washington D.C., (CNA) - When asked about Catholicism, most people think of the pope, according to a newly released survey from the Pew Research Center. 

The survey, published on Tuesday, March 17, found that over half of respondents 54% replied with either "the pope," "Pope Francis," or "Pope John Paul II" when asked who is the first person to come to mind when they heard the word "Catholic." Of that number, 47% replied with simply "the pope," and only 5% said "Pope Francis." 

A further 18% of respondents named a figure from the Bible when asked what came to mind when they heard the term Catholic. Of that percentage, 12% replied "Jesus," and 5% said the Virgin Mary. An additional 2% said "God." 

Six percent of respondents cited themselves or a Catholic family member as the first person to come to mind, while 13% either refused to answer or said they could not think of anyone.

Pew also asked people to name the first person who came to mind for other religions, including Buddhism, evangelical Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism. 

For evangelical Protestantism, the person who was named the most was televangelist Billy Graham, who was named by 21% of respondents. Jesus and Martin Luther were each named by 5% of respondents.

A total of 46% of respondents declined to answer or said they did not know when asked who came to mind when they heard the term "evangelical Protestant." 

Fittingly, 55% of respondents said that "Buddha" was the first person who came to mind when they heard the term Buddhism. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, came in second with 7% of responses. Mahatma Gandhi, who was not a Buddhist, was named by 3% of respondents. 

Just over a quarter 26% of respondents said that "Mohammad" was the first person who came to mind for Islam. The second-highest response was "God" at 8%, followed by "Osama Bin Laden" with 5%. Mahatma Gandhi, who was not a Muslim, was cited by 1% of respondents. 

About half of the respondents cited a figure from the Bible as the first person they thought of when they thought about Judaism. Twenty-one percent said "Jesus," followed by 13% saying "Moses." An additional 8% said "Abraham." 

Asked about the term "atheism," the top four people respondents cited were Richard Dawkins, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, physicist Stephen Hawking, and television host Bill Maher.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair was one of the founders of American Atheists, and brought several cases to the Supreme Court against prayer in public schools.

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