Monday Graph: Aheists, Jews and Mormons most knowledgeable about religions


Jay Livingston at Sociological Images writes about a Pew quiz on religious knowledge.

Turns out, it is the Atheists and Agnostics who scored best on the quiz, followed closely by Jews and Mormons; whereas Catholics and Protestants seem to fall behind.



As for the explanation, Livingston has got a quite provocative-one:

“One reason for their higher scores might be education – college graduates outscore high school or less by nearly 8 points out of 32. It may be that nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons are more likely to have finished college. […]

But another reason that these groups scored higher may be their position as religious minorities. Jews and Mormons have to explain to the flock how their ideas are different from those of the majority. Atheists and agnostics too, in their questioning and even rejecting,  have probably devoted more thought to religion, or more accurately, religions. On the questions about Shiva and Nirvana, they leave even the Jews and Mormons far behind.

For Protestants and Catholics, by contrast, learning detailed information about their religion is not as crucial. Just as White people in the US rarely ask what it means to be White, Christians need not worry about their differences from the mainstream. They are the mainstream.”

Read Jay Livingston’s full article here.

More data on US Muslims and attitudes to terrorism


Right as I was posting yesterday’s Monday Graph, Libby Anne of Love, Joy Feminism was writing about US Muslims and attitudes towards violence against civilians as well; in response to the infamous “Why I Absolutely Am Islamophobic”, an article by a pastor named Gary Cass calling for nothing short of genocide against American Muslims.

Libby Anne is looking at data from a 2011 Pew Report study, and the results are consistent with the ones in the 2010 Gallup poll I was talking about:



We can also see that the attitudes of Muslims in Pakistan concur with those of American Muslims; and if we look at the Gallup poll again, we can also see Muslims in Indonesia and Turkey not being more likely than most American religious groups to believe actions by individuals/small groups hurting or killing civilians to be at least sometimes justified.


Looking at the responses of Muslims in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon may paint a more worrisome picture; however, let’s look at the Gallup poll again:



It looks like Muslims in Lebanon and Egypt are no more likely to believe suicide bombing and other actions against civilians are justified to defend Islam than American protestants are to believe that at least sometimes military action targeting and killing civilians is justified.

Monday graph: US Muslims more likely than any other group to believe violence against civilians “never justified”.


313744_v1Found this image on, courtesy of Michael Voli; and the source appears to be this 2010 Gallup poll.

Here are the original graphs with less frills:

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This is very obviously quite useful for debunking the “Muslims in the Western world support terrorism” scare rhetoric. What I find particularly interesting, on the other hand, is that Muslim Americans are the religious group with the least discrepancy between opinions on whether a small group is ever justified in violence against civilians and whether the military is ever justified in killing non-combatants.

This may be quite telling of how Muslims in general being associated with terrorism in public discourse is, in turn, shaping their own opinions and reactions: on the one hand, they may feel a need to disassociate themselves from the very idea of terrorism, in a way that -say- Christians or the non-religious do not; on the other hand, if military action in the name of “the war on terror” is to harm and kill innocent civilians, it may be that they fear more than any other group that it would be their own people.