What Do Jews and Mormons Have in Common?
By Lisa Krysiak and Sala Levin
An above-average knowledge of the “core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions,” according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. As a group, Jews came in second, averaging 20.5 correct answers out of 32 questions. Mormons gave Jews a run for their money, though, averaging 20.3 correct answers.
It seems that religious minorities in the U.S. are better-versed in the fundamental facts of world religions than their more populous counterparts; white Catholics and white mainline protestants came in fifth and sixth, respectively. Jews make up about 2.5 percent of the American population, while Mormons account for roughly 2 percent.
Do these results reflect a higher priority on education among these two religious groups? Perhaps. But interestingly, the one group that trumped both Jews and Mormons in the survey was atheists/agnostics, who averaged 20.9 correct answers, earning them the hard-fought victory. Non-believers represent an even smaller fraction of the American population than Jews and Mormons: a 2009 report estimated them at a mere 1.6 percent. It’s possible, then, that atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons develop a more extensive knowledge of religion because they feel an obligation to defend the views they adhere to…or reject.
In a bout of friendly competition, and wanting to flex their mental muscles, Moment staffers decided to take the abbreviated online quiz and see how they stacked up against the national averages.
Questions varied in difficulty; an easier one asked which Bible figure was most closely associated with the Exodus from Egypt, while a harder one, stumping all but one of the staff, asked for the name of the preacher who participated in the First Great Awakening. [Spoiler Alert!] When asked which religion believed in nirvana (the state of being free from suffering), one staffer was misled by the name of a local Indian restaurant of the same name.
Surprisingly, many who took the full survey were baffled by questions about their own religions. 53 percent of Protestants did not know that Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, while 43 percent of Jews didn’t know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.
Fortunately, being religious doesn’t require a full knowledge of religion. You’re allowed to take it on faith.