WASHINGTON (RNS) Who can best answer questions about religion in America?
Based on a new survey released Tuesday (Sept. 28) by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, it's your atheist or agnostic neighbor, followed by the Jew or Mormon down the street.Overall, agnostics and atheists, Jews and Mormons scored the best on a quiz of 32 questions â€" from citing the first book of the Bible (Genesis) to naming a preacher from the First Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards).
David Silverman, president of the group American Atheists, said he wasn't surprised that atheists answered more questions correctly than others, and hopes the findings will help people realize that atheists understand the religious beliefs that they reject.
"It certainly underscores the fact that atheists are not atheists due to ignorance," he said.
In fact, Smith said, eight in 10 of the atheists and agnostics polled in the survey were raised in a faith, including three-quarters who were reared as Christians.
Mormons' high levels of religious knowledge can be credited to four years of early-morning classes in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Mormon church history during high school, said Terryl Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond.