American Catholics and Protestants know less about their beliefs and practices than agnostics, atheists, Jews and Mormons, according to a wide-ranging study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
In answer to a question about Holy Communion, 45 per cent of Roman Catholics had no idea that their church teaching was that the wine and bread ‘became’ the body and blood of Christ.
More than 50 per cent of Protestants didn’t know that Martin Luther was the man who inspired the Reformation. This compared with just four in 10 Jews who didn’t know that Maimonides was a Jewish rabbi and scholar.
The survey was intended to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The survey comprised 32 questions of varying difficulty.
However, atheists and agnostics scored highest with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
According to a report on news site Huffington Post, those who said they attended worship at least once a week and considered religion important in their lives often performed better on the overall survey.
However, level of education was the best predictor of religious knowledge. On questions about Christianity, Mormons scored the highest, with an average of about eight correct answers out of 12, followed by white Evangelicals, with an average of just over seven correct answers.
Jews, along with atheists and agnostics, knew the most about other faiths, such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism.