Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How ignorant are we?

On Sunday, Nicholas Kristof had a column saying that Americans don't know much about religion.  The two specific items he mentioned were "only one-third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 10 percent think that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife."  I can't find any record of the second question in iPOLL.  There was one about the Sermon on the Mount, and indeed only 34% could answer correctly (it was free response, not a multiple choice question).  But that was in 1954, so I hope that wasn't what he was citing.  I did run across a question that has been asked a number of times since 1950:  whether you can name the first four books of the New Testament:  

            Correct          Partly        DK or Incorrect
1950        35%                12%              53%
1990        37%                13%              50%
2010        45%                  6%              49%

So there seems to have been a small gain in knowledge.  Given the rise in educational levels, you might expect more.  On the other hand, there has been an increase in the number of non-Christians and non-religious people.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

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