Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mormons Among The Highest Scoring Groups On Pew Research Center's Religious Knowledge Survey, Eclipsed Only By Atheists/Agnostics And Jews

From May 19th through June 6th, 2010, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted their U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, a nationwide poll of 3,412 Americans aged 18 and older to determine overall religious literacy, and they found that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were among the most religious-literate groups in the United States, alongside atheists/agnostics and Jews. Secular media stories from the Washington Post, The New American, and Fox News

To determine religious literacy, Pew administered a 32-question survey to those being polled. Pew found that on average, Americans correctly answered 16 of the 32 questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics averaged 20.9 correct answers; Jews and Mormons averaged 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively; Protestants as a whole averaged 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons performed better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education. It should be noted that Jews, Mormons and atheists/agnostics were deliberately oversampled to allow more meaningful analysis of these relatively small groups.

-- Read executive summary of report HERE
-- Read the full 78-page report HERE
-- Take the Religious Knowledge Survey for yourself HERE

The survey also revealed that while Mormons and Evangelicals know the most about Christianity, Atheists/Agnostics and Jews know the most about World Religions. In addition, the survey also uncovered significant public ignorance about Mormonism; around four-in-ten Americans know that the Mormon religion was founded sometime after 1800 (44%) and that the Book of Mormon tells the story of Jesus appearing to people in the Americas (40%). About half (51%) correctly identify Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS Church, as a Mormon.

Factors contributing to religious literacy: Across denominational lines, the following factors were found to favorably affect religious literacy:

-- Education: College graduates tend to be more knowledgeable, particularly those who take a course on religion.
-- Reading scripture regularly, at least once per week.
-- Discussing religion with friends and family regularly.
-- Attending religious services regularly, at least once per week.
-- Regular attendance at religious education classes or participation in a religious youth group as a child.
-- Private school education promotes slightly greater religious literacy than public school education, even if the private school is non-religious.

One factor not cited in the survey, which is more subjective but just as important, is opposition. People who belong to religions generating stronger public opposition tend to be more religious-literate because they study more in order to rebut public misperceptions. Mormons and Jews tend to attract more public opposition in the United States than others.

How do Mormons specifically promote religious literacy? (not addressed in the survey)

-- Education: The Church-owned Brigham Young University system, with campuses in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii, as well as Church-affiliated schools at Nauvoo University and Southern Virginia University provide a higher education outlet for tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints. Links to these schools are available on the left sidebar of this blog.
-- Church Attendance: The three-hour block on Sunday ensures attendees get thoroughly steeped in religious instruction, particularly in Sunday School, Priesthood Meeting, Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. All demographics are covered.
-- Weekday Religious Instruction: LDS primary school students attend seminary during each school day, either through release-time in Mormon-dominated areas, or before or after school in other areas.
-- Home Visitation: The Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching programs can provide extra religious instruction, although service to the family is the first objective. Oftentimes it is difficult to convince home teachers to fulfill their responsibilities, though.
-- General Conferences: Held twice yearly in Salt Lake City and viewed worldwide via the LDS Boradcasting System and other media, these enable Church leaders to provide an incredible amount of information and inspiration. This occasion serves to effectively recharge the spiritual batteries of many Mormons.
-- Missionary service: Being thoroughly indoctrinated at a Missionary Training Center and fulfilling a full-time mission significantly increases religious literacy. It is estimated that 30 percent of eligible LDS men fulfill a full-time mission; for men, it's almost considered a rite of passage. The flip side: Our sharpest critics tend to be ex-missionaries.
-- Blogging: Blogging increases religious literacy through research and discourse. The Bloggernacle and the Mormon Blogosphere are portals to dozens of unofficial LDS-oriented blogs.

Speaking of the Bloggernacle, it's been quick to weigh in on this story, with posts from the following sources:

-- Faith Promoting Rumor: A mixed reaction; pleased that Mormons are better-informed than others about these issues, but decries the fact that the "bar" is so low.
-- Mormon Metaphysics: Notes that education is the key factor.
-- The Seer Stone: Finds the religious literacy of Atheists/Agnostics intriguing. Opines that although LDS Sunday School manuals may be dated and over-correlated, they are still obviously useful.
-- The Mormons Are Coming

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