The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

It's embarrassing to be an American sometimes.

In the spirit of feeling like I don't know anything about anything, I took the Pew Forum's Survey on Religious Knowledge, feeling confident that I could answer all 15 questions. It was so gratifying to see that 100% score. In the saddest way (haha) it was a reminder that I actually have learned something about religion in the last 4 years. But what was devastating was, looking at the nationwide results, how many people haven't learned anything about religion lately. The quiz we are able to take is only 15 questions, whereas the actual survey contained 32. Just, FYI, I guess.

On the 32-question survey, Jews and those professing atheism or agnosticism scored the highest, overall, and particularly on questions about non-Christian religions and religion in the public sphere. On questions dealing specifically with Christianity and/or the Bible, Mormons and Evangelical Protestants scored the highest.

What does this tell us? That Mormons and Evangelicals are experts in self-centeredness, and Jews and atheists/agnostics are most likely to give a shit about the rest of the world. It's not surprising to me that atheist and agnostic Americans have the most knowledge. If they're properly atheist, they've done the research about all of the choices. If they're agnostic, they're in the process of researching all the choices and making informed decisions.

But what's generally embarrassing to me is the random information at the end of the results:

On world religions other than Christianity, about six-in-ten Americans (62%) know that most people in India are Hindus.

About half know that Ramadan is the Islamic holy month (52%) and can name the Koran as the Muslim holy book (54%).

Roughly one-third (36%) correctly associate striving for nirvana with Buddhism.

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 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a Mormon.


I'm glad 62% of Americans can figure out the word-of-origin link between the "India" and "Hindu" enough to figure out that Indians are, generally, Hindu. I'd like to know what religion the other 38% thought was practiced there. And Remember a few weeks ago when that crazy guy in Florida was going to burn the Qur'an? Only 54% of Americans even know what the Qur'an is. I'm sorry, but what the hell are we so aggressively fighting in the Middle East if people in this country don't even know who and what they're hating? There is (obviously) a general trend of lack of education in this country. And that doesn't just apply to religion:

In addition to questions about religious knowledge, the survey included nine general knowledge questions (on history, politics, science and literature) for comparison purposes. These show, for example, that about six-in-ten Americans can name the vice president of the United States (59%) and understand that lasers do not work by focusing sound waves (60%). More than seven-in-ten (72%) correctly associate Susan B. Anthony with the movement to give women the right to vote, while just 42% know that Herman Melville was the author of the novel Moby Dick.
Overall, people who score well on the general knowledge questions also tend to do well on the religion questions. Atheists/agnostics and Jews correctly answer an average of roughly seven of the nine general knowledge questions. Among the public overall, the average respondent correctly answers 5.2 of these general knowledge questions.


Only 59% of respondents could correctly identify the vice president of the United States. And then they're going to go out and vote in November. Who and what are they going to vote for? I wish that informed voting still existed on the grand scale.

This has turned into a totally disjointed rant about how much people in this country suck. For which I (sort of) apologize. This is just one of those times where I sit back and pray that the rest of my generation is, at some point, going to step forward as the grossly over-educated group that we are and say something about this. Someday we'll teach our children to love their neighbors and to love school and to love sharing and to work for peace. Because, apparently, the last few generations have done a rather poor job of doing so.

Tell them it gets better.

My arms are much too tired to swim.