Did you know that most people in Indonesia are Muslim? That American public-school teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature? That only Protestants traditionally teach that salvation comes through faith alone?
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Did you know that most people in Indonesia are Muslim? That American public-school teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature? That only Protestants traditionally teach that salvation comes through faith alone?
Chances are you did not.
A new survey being released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that large numbers of Americans know little about the world’s major religions, including their own.
It comes at a time when religion underlies some of the most contentious social and political issues of the day, from immigration reform to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.
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The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, a first-of-its-kind attempt to gauge the nation’s religious literacy, found wide gaps. More than 3,400 people asked 32 questions over seven topics: the Bible; elements of Christianity, Judaism and Mormonism; knowledge of world religions; atheism and agnosticism; and the role of religion in public life.
Among the findings:
• Atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons scored the highest, outperforming evangelical and mainline Protestants and Catholics on the survey.
• Mormons and white evangelicals knew the most about Christianity and the Bible.
• Jews, atheists and agnostics were most knowledgeable about world religions and the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.
• Nearly half of all Catholics surveyed did not know their church teaches that the bread and wine in Communion actually become the body and blood of Christ.
• More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.