Funny Thing About Surveys

I had read the headlines, and perused the blogosphere which boasted “Atheists know more than Theists when it comes to religion” in reaction to survey results released by Pew Research in a study called: U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey back in late September.  The results were broken into two parts, first a general overview,  and part two dealing with the specifics, as well as a breakdown of the factors linked with religious knowledge. The Atheists were all atwitter about the results.  I remember reading things such as, “that’s because the more you know about religion, the more you know it’s BS” and statements of that nature.  Simple searches of  Google and Google blog search, will unearth a plethora of results.  The results did not come as much of a surprise as it did disappointment.  As a Christian who takes considerable time researching other religious systems and their claims, as well as my own; I find many Christians are content simply playing on their home field.  This leaves them at a disadvantage for evangelization if questions about other religious systems arise as well as providing informative substantial reasons for why they hold to their convictions. 

But, whether Theists generally, and Christians specifically have more or less knowledge of other religious systems than Atheists or adherents of other religious systems, that has no bearing to the truth of theism or Christianity or even atheism for that matter.  So I had little interest in the survey until I just saw one too many boasts.  I decided to check the results of the survey and see just how poorly Theists did, and how much Atheists knew.  The results were absolutely shocking, I was not fully prepared for what I was about to see.

When it comes to the Bible, Atheists answered an average of 4.4 and the Christian 4.2 of 7 questions correctly.  On questions pertaining to Christianity (of which there were questions on Mother Theresa’s religious affiliation, influential players in the Reformation, and who was key in the First Great Awakening.  These types of questions are geared more towards events in history which involved Christians and Christianity, rather than testing knowledge of Christianity proper, which is something to take into consideration), Atheists scored 6.7, and Christians 6.2 of 12 questions correct.  Elements of Judaism, Atheists 4.0, and Christians 3.5 of 7.  Of questions pertaining to Mormonism, Atheists 2.1, and Christians 1.3 of 3 questions asked.  Testing the knowledge of world religions in general resulted in Atheists correctly answering 7.5 to the Christians 4.7 out of 11.  Lastly, on the definitions of Atheism and Agnosticism, Atheists scored 94% and 86% respectively correct on the multiple choice question and Christians 85% and 60%.

While in each category the Atheist on average answered more questions correctly, it was by a very slim margin and in all but one category was less than a one correct answer advantage.  Their collective joy and in-your-face claims to intellectual superiority had initially led me to believe they had really achieved something substantial.  It apparently doesn’t take much to get them excited and build their self-esteem.  Considering the celebration, who would have thought it to be such a meager victory?  Let them have it.

After reading the questions in the appendix, it does not really surprise me why the results were as reported.  However, there is no excuse for anyone to not be fully versed when it comes to their own belief system regardless of what it is.  In fact it is my opinion that everyone ought to be at least moderately versed in the world’s religions in order to make an informed decision; if you don’t know what everyone else believes how do you know they aren’t correct?  Either way, the boastful Atheists really have little to boast about, and have made much ado about nothing.


  1. Like you I am not that surprised by the results sadly. I am happy to say, after looking at the links you gave, I would have gotten every question correct. For me survey results such as these just show what needs to be taught in churches in America today. I will continue to pray for the state of the American church and Christians in America.

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