Movie Mom

Movie Mom


‘God in America’ Comes to PBS

posted by Nell Minow

The US Religious Knowledge Survey, released Tuesday from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, found that Americans are more willing to say that they are religious than they are willing to learn about the history and beliefs of their religion. The highest scorers were the non-believers and the Jews. The survey asked for a fairly wide range of knowledge of different religious practices and beliefs and included two questions about what teachers can and cannot do under the terms of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
A new series on PBS can help American understand religion and its role in our culture For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of “American Experience” and “Frontline,” will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States. The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11, 2010.
To extend the reach of the series beyond the television screen, God in America has formed strategic partnerships with The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, the Fetzer Institute, Sacred Space International and other organizations. An integrated multimedia campaign set to launch six months prior to broadcast will include community engagement activities, media events and a comprehensive God in America Web site. The campaign will deepen public understanding of religion and spiritual experience in the life of the nation by encouraging the public to explore the history of their own religious communities and their individual spiritual journeys.



  • Dandini

    This 2010 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history:
    On questions about Christianity and the Bible, Mormons scored the highest.
    They also scored second only to Jews in knowledge of Judaism.
    As a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Latter-day Saints/saints/aka “Mormon”) I did find the quiz to be quite easy.
    However, surveys can be made to say anything you want.
    But the point is, practicing your faith is required for it to be real, not just learning knowledge.

  • http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx Rand Enno

    You said: “The highest scorers were the non-believers and the Jews”.
    The Pew research results actually said: “Mormons and Evangelicals Know Most about Christianity; Atheists/Agnostics and Jews Do Best on World Religions”.
    If you actually read the Pew website (and I hope your readers will, even if you won’t), you find what you might expect: very religious people tend to know the most about their own religion, and less about others; those who don’t identify an affiliation have broader knowledge. It’s also interesting that the survey concentrates religious figures, to the near-total exclusion of beliefs and core teachings.
    To say that “Americans are more willing to say that they are religious than they are willing to learn about the history and beliefs of their religion” is disingenuous. People know what they believe, and the survey results bear that out.
    You and the many other journalists who are crowing about the survey result’s first headline, “Atheists and Agnostics, Mormons and Jews Score Best”, obviously think Americans ought to learn more about the religious beliefs of OTHER PEOPLE, and I agree with you. But to insinuate that Atheists know more about what Christians believe than Christians themselves do is bunk.

  • Mike Barnhart

    I guess that I could see where an agnostic or an atheist might have a better grasp of the basic information about various religions in her/his mind. The agnostic may explore differing faiths and such in an honest effort to discover whether God exists or not.
    For many (not all)atheists who seem to have a near-religious passion against all religions, it is a simple matter of trying to dig up all the dirt they can about something that most (not all) have made up their minds to hate prior to ever truly and honestly seeking to find truth.
    It is not surprising to find that mainstream Christians are largely ignorant about their own, and other religions. A large number of churches in the U.S. focus their efforts and message on that which makes their attendees feel good. Education has been traded-off for entertainment. To teach openly and directly about judgement or hell might turn people off and they might stop coming altogether. If that happens, whose going to pay to get the parking lot repaved?
    M.B.

  • Dandini

    I took the quiz and it really was pretty easy.
    As a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was nice to know that “Mormons” scored highest in knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, and second highest in knowledge of Judaism, after Jewish respondents.
    But I agree that a survey can be used any way one wants, to come up with any kind of answer.
    It is living what you know that really counts

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Enno, but I did read the Pew website and what I said was a fair characterization — the highest scores required the broader knowledge you refer to, and Jews and Mormons, who did identify an affiliation, were the second and third top scorers. Minority cultures always learn more about the majority than the majority learn about them.
    Of all of the findings of the survey, the one that surprised me most was that Catholics, who in my experience generally have the opportunity for a thorough exposure and education on their religion’s beliefs and practices, did so poorly on the question about communion.
    My biggest concern about the validity of the survey was its small sample, both in numbers of people who participated and number of data points. As you said, not many questions focused on doctrine, though, as the communion question showed, even those that did were not necessarily answered correctly by their adherents. The survey was not just about belief but about religion in history, culture, and law. It accomplished its goal of getting the conversation started.
    I missed only one question on the survey, by the way — the one about Jonathan Edwards.

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