October 03, 2010

A little test on a Sunday evening: Are atheists better at religion?

This is pretty interesting stuff. According to a survey published this week by something called The Pew Forum, atheists seem to know religion better than religious people do... among other findings. What can I say? It's sort of unsurprising. It certainly confirms my experience as an atheist in discussions about religion. If you're going to actively denounce something, it makes sense to find out a lot about it. Also, atheism is an effect of knowledge. Not a necessary effect, but still. The fact that atheists in general are better educated than religious believers may also play in a bit. I'm sure there are many other factors involved, I won't go too deep into it. Most of all I'm a bit chocked that the people in the survey scored so badly! On average they only answered half the questions correctly.

I took the sample quiz on the Pew Forum website just for fun and scored 15/15. Although it should probably be 14/15 'cause one of them was a lucky guess. Take the test yourself, it's a fun way to review the data and the questions are pretty interesting.

Again, I'm a bit chocked that the scores are so bad. A few of the questions were tricky, but most of them could have come from my 9th grade religion exams back in school. There is probably something to be said about the differences between the Swedish and the American educational systems there. Anyway, I won't go too deep into the findings, although they are sure to generate a lot of debate and there is much to be said, I just can't resist an online quiz.

If you want to read more about it you can read the full report on the Pew Forum website. I also recommend these interesting commentaries on The New York Times, Epiphenom and Pharyngula.


  1. Congrats for your score! I am sure that fact that we score so much higher than the "average religious person", is due to the fact that when comparing the "average religious AMERICAN person" to the "average atheist EUROPEAN person", you're not comparing religion but rather educational systems, as you already said.
    Whether it is good to teach so much religion in public schools is another question, although there's probably no such thing as too much knowledge.

  2. Religion was actually one of my favourite subjects in school. I still enjoy reading about it a lot. I think what I liked about it was that often they let us work independently with it and do reading on our own and writing essays. I liked that way of working. I wrote my final essay on atheism btw and got the highest grade. ;)

    It's probably a good thing to have a good measure of COMPARATIVE religious studies in the school curriculum. One, because I think more people will become atheists the more they know about religion (hehehe) and two, because like it or not religion comes into almost everything that surrounds us. As long as it's taught objectively and critically I have no problems with it.


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