By now you probably know that:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.
On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.
If you are part of a minority group you’ll often get into discussions about religion. Since I “look” Hindu/Muslim and am pretty frank about my atheism I’ve gotten into discussions more frequently than most (perhaps the weirdest experience was a conversation with an evangelical acquaintance in high school who was ready to argue with me about how demonic Hinduism was; as I wasn’t Hindu, and I didn’t know much about Hinduism, it was somewhat disappointing for my acquaintance). By chance when I was 18 I was at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship event (I was young and wasn’t told about the nature of the “party”) and the pastor started talking about how “we all believe in Christ.” At that point I raised my hand and explained that 1) I didn’t believe in Christ, and, 2) I didn’t believe in God. Didn’t want to implicitly mislead. After a bit of awkwardness the fun went on.
Obviously over the years I’ve read up a fair amount on religion. You’d probably be aware of that if you read the blog. One of the weirder outcomes of my religious literacy is that it occasionally happens that people will simply refuse to believe I’m an atheist. I had a friend in college who was an evangelical and half-joked that I had to be some sort of crypto-Christian, and I’d eventually “come out” and accept in my heart what I obviously already knew with my head. In the end I wasn’t a fool. In a less amusing case I had a Jewish individual accuse me of being a crypto-Muslim intent on undermining the state of Israel, as I just knew too much about Judaism for there to be any other possibility.
You too can take Pew’s religious knowledge quiz. 15 questions which take only a few minutes. Since readers of this weblog are among the minority of humans which fall into the class intelligent I suspect you’ll beat the average American at this game (I scored a 15 out of 15).