Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Poor Performance By Catholics On U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey

The Pew Research Center has the results of a telephone survey, “U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey”. The results don't look too good to me regarding the average American's knowledge of not only their faith, but a lack of knowledge about other faiths as well.

The amazing result of this survey is, that Agnostics and Atheists scored a higher number of correct answers than did those who identified themselves as Protestant, Catholic, or “Nothing in particular”. Of the 32 questions asked on this survey, people who identified themselves as: Atheist/Agnostics averaged 20.9 correct answers; Jewish 20.5 correct answers; Mormon 20.3 correct answers; White Evangelical Protestant 17.6 correct answers; White Catholic 16.0 correct answers; White Mainline Protestant 15.8 correct answers; Nothing in particular 15.2 correct answers; Black Protestant 13.4 correct answers; and Hispanic Catholic 11.6 correct answers.

What disturbs me the most is the less than acceptable (IMHO) per cent-age of Catholics who answered correctly the question regarding the Catholic teaching about the bread and wine used for Communion. The question was answered correctly by 59% of White Catholics and 47% of Hispanic Catholics. This means that too many Catholics either do not understand or do not know the teaching about the Holy Eucharist. If this is not a blatant example of poor catechesis in the United States today, I don't know what else is!

I am a convert, as many of you who read this blog regularly already know. Awhile back, I wrote a post here regarding a “cradle Catholic” who had written on his blog how much he disliked converts to Catholicism. In that post I wrote where he said “we are overzealous, far too eager to discuss our faith, and even far too eager to share it. He more or less said that he did not need any convert to tell him how to be Catholic and that we need to realize that we don't know everything about Catholicism.”

True, I don't know everything about Catholicism, and I certainly have never claimed to. I am always trying to learn and to grow in my faith. There is a great danger however, when people have complacency in their faith, think they have learned all there is to learn, and actually dwell in blissful ignorance of what Catholicism is, and teaches.

Perhaps it is not such a bad thing when converts to Catholicism are “overzealous, far too eager to discuss our faith, and even far too eager to share it”.

Catholics who took the survey did a little bit better on questions about who Moses is and about the Ten Commandments, but did very poorly on the question of what Bible figure is most closely associated with remaining obedient to God despite suffering.

There is an online version of the survey that you can take, and then see how your answers compare to the survey participants. The online version has 15 questions instead of all 32 that are in the original survey.

I took the online version, and I won't say what my score was. I'll just say it was better than the majority who participated in the original survey, and I am not bragging, just stating the fact.

If you want, you may share your score here by using the comments from Disqus at the bottom of this post.

You can also see the report from Pew Research by clicking here.


  1. Patricia Milot9/28/2010 07:08:00 PM

    I wanted to know more about my Catholic faith so my husband and I are taking a Diocese three year course called ILM, Institue for Lay Ministry. In just two classes we learned alot about our Catholic faith and the bible. We look forward to learning more and more about our Catholic faith. By the way ,my husband and I are cradle Catholics.

  2. Good for you and your husband! Please don't take my post as one chastising or belittling cradle Catholics. That was not my intent. I mentioned that older post as my feeble attempt at showing we should never just take our faith for granted. Unfortunately many do, both cradle Catholics and converts. I think it shows the poor level of catechesis in this country, as well as it points out that many people do not understand or know what the Church teaches. They tend to go to Mass our of habit only, and never know the “why’s” for Mass. I was shocked that so many Catholics do not understand that the bread and wine becoming the flesh and blood of Christ is not symbolic, but occurs from the power of God. I have even had one Catholic from Australia tell me that there was no consecration at the Mass. So, people do need to learn, and understand.

  3. I read the full report, and it seems to me that the 32 questions offer a good outline for a course in adult education--just general religious knowledge (as the survey pointed out, churchgoers don't know much about their own faith, and even less about others'!). I'm thinking of starting a program here in Chicago using the survey as a guide...

  4. Sister Anne, I think your idea for a course is an excellent one! I recall when I was in RCIA, there were some "cradle Catholics" who would occasionally sit in on the class which was given by our priest. Many times I heard them say that they had learned something about our faith that they did not iknow. I think we all need to always strive to learn and grow, if not in a formal class setting, then taking the time to read the Catechism from time to time if for no other reason to refresh our memories or to learn something "we did not know". I am also surprised at the large number of Catholics who do not read the Holy Bible, and I have been told on more than one occasion, that Catholics don't need to read the Bible for we hear it at every Mass. I did a post about Catholics reading the Bible a few years ago, and I feel that reading the Bible is still an essential part of our faith. The post I wrote then is here: http://faithofthefathersapologetics.blogspot.com/2005/07/why-dont-catholics-read-bible.html

  5. I keep meeting more and more Evangelicals who are coming to believe John 6:51-65 . . . . They are, of course, missing the link of the priest.
    Tragically many Catholics have no clue.
    I hate to hear these statistics about our brother's and sister's ignorance about transubstantiation. We need to help our fellow Catholics and if that means being "overzealous, far too eager to discuss our faith, and even far too eager to share it” ---well, OK then.
    How to approach some of those complacent souls, I don't know.
    Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in then=m the fire of your love!!!!!



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