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Discussing religion, spirituality and values. Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. You can email her at
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Most Americans fail religion test

Atheists know the most about religion. And even they score a D on the test conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

On average, Americans could answer about half of 32 questions presented during the poll. The questions covered Christianity, world religions, the Bible and constitutional issues on religion.

Atheists topped the test, answering an average of 21 questions correctly. Jews and Latter-Day Saints came in second, scoring 20.

Other key findings:

  • Most Americans (89%) know that a teacher can’t lead a public school class in prayer. But only 23% know that a teacher CAN read from the Bible as an example of literature. That may be a key reason why Americans didn’t do so well on the biblical knowledge part of the test. Only 45 % could name all four Gospels.
  • Slightly more than half (54%) knew that the Quran is the holy book of Islam.
  • Many believers don’t know much about their own faith: 55% of Catholics understand transubstantiation–that the bread and wine are not merely symbols during Communion. Some 53% of Protestants don’t know Martin Luther inspired the Reformation. And only 19% of Protestants know that the religion teaches that salvation comes through faith without works.
  • Mother Teresa was the best known religious figure. But many couldn’t place the Dalai Lama or Joseph Smith within the correct faith.

Want to know how you’d score? Take a sample test here.

Want to talk about the survey? I’m working on a story and would love your input: or 540/735-1973.

ETA: Thank you, Joe, I wrote the wrong word for the doctrine. That’s what I get for writing fast and while I was on my way out the door. :)


  • Joe Honsberger

    Ttransubstantiation is the doctrine of the Catholic church that the bread and wine change into the the body and blood of Christ and are not symbols,not transfiguration. The protestant reformation split over this issue as well. I guess we really don’t know our religous facts.

  • testexam

    … “I guess we really don’t know our religous facts.”… this is funny. christians/catholics are the most schizophrenic bunch of followers. you guys want to believe in god so much that you not only dissect god into 3 figures: son, father, and ghost (even tho its all the same person in the bible) but you give Him a multiple personality disorder by the “founders” who “hear the preachings of god/jesus” and decide to write down “His/jesus” teachings to go out into the world to promote the faith. how is it “multiple personality” ? all your faiths only have theme: God + Jesus + Mary. everyone is secondary. but somehow, thru interpretation, “founders” like: Joseph Smith (mormon), martin luther (lutheran, protestant), jesus (catholic/christian), Charles Russell (jehova), etc. and on and on… they’ve all managed to twist Bible, god, jesus, mary into multiple belief system that trample over each other cos you all think your faith is more aligned with god/jesus than the other faith. you all try to proclaim that your teachings is the true path of god/jesus/righteousness. how many has Catholics and Protestants killed each other in the name of own faith ? how long has christians and jews warred ? Remember Puritans witch hunt ? yet, you all agree that jehovas are just too crazy. how idiotic have you people made god/jesus/mary/bible out to be. not only that, you try to preach black and white, but all of you live in gray areas, and try to justify it, using black and white philosophy. WOW! . . . . and btw . . .
    Ballard, Koresh, Jones, Hubbard, Wierwille, Hitler (yes, he was a christian) each with their own interpretation of bible and god … all are no different than the past “founding leaders” each preached with their own version of the same god/bible you all read from. only difference is now, the domination of current faith systems (but arrogant) easily disproves any new faiths or cultists. ironically, mormon, lutheran, pentecostal, 7th day, etc…. didnt you all start with just a few ? . . . . So of course americans would fail the religion test. with the denominations listed above, plus, baptist, presbyterian, latter day, methodist, and blah blah blah .. even God/jesus will fail the religion test !

  • Ken Knight

    Religion test? As far as any of the organized Abrahamic religions go, MOST of their adherents would FLUNK a real testing of their grit because almost none of them adhere to the tenets of their religion anyway, just pay lip-service to it because they fear death and what “lies beyond”.
    Here are questions to ponder:
    1) have you ever had sex?
    2) have you procreated?
    3) have you ever violently defended yourself/
    4) do you own property?
    5) do you have money in your wallet?
    ANSWER “YES” TO ANY OF THESE 5 QUESTIONS AND YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN! The Jesus of the Bible preached specifically AGAINST you doing/having these!

  • http://www.oca Jeff Howard

    Excuse me testexam but what you say reveals your ignorance of Christian Theology. You make a lot of value judgments and assumptions that are false or only half true. This is a far cry from the cool level headed reason of scientific investigation.

  • http://www.oca Jeff Howard

    Mr Knight you obviously know very little about what Jesus teaches.