My family watches Jeopardy! every night. My husband, a well-read man with an excellent memory, gets most of the answers (er, questions) correct. But I struggle with trivia. Even if I've read the Shakespeare play, I cannot remember the characters' names. I can picture the map but can't recall the mountain range.
So far be it from me to overreact to a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey that showed that Americans are not religion experts. Still, it was embarrassing. Fewer than half of those surveyed could name the Gospels or identify who launched the Reformation. Only 16 percent knew that Protestants traditionally teach that salvation comes through faith alone. While white evangelicals knew this in greater numbers than other groups, nearly twice as many of those surveyed knew that the Qur'an is Islam's holy book as knew what Protestants teach about salvation.
The results weren't all dispiriting. Over 70 percent of Americans know Jesus was born in Bethlehem—a question even CNN's Wolf Blitzer missed while on Celebrity Jeopardy! in 2009. It's not that Americans are particularly ignorant about religion. They have about the same command of science, literature, and history facts.
Jews, atheists, and Mormons did slightly better than other Americans. But they still would have received Ds had they been taking an actual test, noted Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero.
It turns out that education was the single greatest predictor of how well respondents handled the quiz. College-educated respondents got, on average, eight more questions right than those with a high school diploma or less. Religious education helped too, from a college course in religion to regularly ...1
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