Test your religious knowledge

Think you know a lot about religion? Well, the Pew Research Center has developed a “U.S. Religious Knowledge Quiz” where you can find out. The fifteen questions on the quiz test your knowledge of the Bible and of world religions. The online quiz is here.

After you take the online quiz (and find out how much you really do know), you’ll want to go on to read about the survey from which this quiz was extracted, the “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey.” Pew Research Center did a telephone survey in which they asked 32 religious knowledge questions of a random sample of U.S. residents. The average number of correct responses was 16 out of 32. Jews, atheists/agnostics, and Mormons scored best on this longer quiz. Scoring below average were white mainline Protestants, black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, and “nothing in particular.”

There were so few Unitarian Universalists included in the sample that they are not included in the statistical analysis. How well would we perform? Sometime I’d like to administer either the shorter quiz, or the longer set of survey questions, to young people who have gone through a UU religious education program. How well have we done at teaching our children basic religious literacy? Since religious literacy is not the goal of most UU religious education programs, my guess is that our kids would only do well if their day school taught them this information. And how about us professional religious educators, how would we do on this quiz? I scored 100% on the quiz, but I’ve been working in UU congregations for two decades, during which time I earned my M.Div. degree — back in 1994, when I started working as a religious educator, my guess is that I would have scored between 50-75%. Finally, how about our ministers?

Do we care? — that is, should religious literacy be a goal of Unitarian Universalist religious education (and should it be a goal for our ministers and religious educators)? I’d argue that in order to be good U.S. and world citizens, we do need a basic level of religious literacy, and that Unitarian Universalists have always aimed to produce good citizens; yet there are very good reasons to disagree with making religious literacy an educational goal.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Test your religious knowledge”

  1. It did come out in 2010; I think I got 15/15 then (just retook and got the same). BTW did you note the percentage of Catholics who got the communion question wrong.

    I think religious literacy should be a goal of a good education though what should be included in religious literacy?

  2. 15/15. I do have three degrees in religion and 15+ years’ experience as a minister, though–like you, I’d like to know how our ministers do across the board.

    BTW, my daughter announced the other day that she could name five religions, and she did. We pointed out one that she knew and hadn’t mentioned. So, six. Put that in the win column for UU religious education.

  3. Erp, as to what should be included in religious literacy, there are a number of answers. For a popular-yet-scholarly answer, Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University, wrote a book titled Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know and Doesn’t with some interesting suggestions. For educators, the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School offers a number of useful resources, including a set of guidelines for teaching religion in grades K-12.

    The question of religious literacy comes up regularly at conferences of the Religious Education Association (REA), of which I am a member. The REA is an international, interfaith group that includes scholars and practitioners (both congregationally-based practitioners, and practitioners based in religious schools and state-run schools). What I ahve learned from listening to others at the REA is that religious literacy should probably be driven by context. So if you’re teaching college students in Turkey, you may want to focus on Christian-Muslim relations. Whereas if you’re teaching in a Catholic high school in New York City, your students may encounter a bewildering diversity of religions in their neighborhoods, so you may want to cover a wider variety of religions. Similarly, teaching about religion in relation to the government is going to be a different task in Great Britain than it will be in the U.S. or Australia.

    Those are a couple of thoughts about what might be included in religious literacy. At UUCPA, we respond to the Bay area context by having middle schoolers make visits to other faith communities — including other UU congregations, Christian churches, and non-Western religious communities — in order to learn religious etiquette and culture. In the elementary grades, we focus more on a story-based approach, presenting some of the characters and stories from major religious traditions, with a slight emphasis on feminist interpretations of those characters and stories — one idea being that children get some exposure to knowledge they need to know to appreciate religious representations in the arts. But honestly, we haven’t quite figured out what constitutes religious literacy, or how it should be presented, or how to assess achievement.

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