Another Quiz on Religion

October 10th, 2010

By Tom Carter

In Test Your Savvy on Religion in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof addressed the recent Pew Forum survey that examined religious knowledge among different types of people, categorized by their religious beliefs.  Then he presented his own quiz, which is reprinted below.

I discussed the Pew survey in an earlier article, Religious Knowledge Survey, including a link to a quiz that included some of the questions asked in the survey.

As Kristof notes:

…religious people turned out to be remarkably uninformed about religion. Almost half of Catholics didn’t understand Communion. Most Protestants didn’t know that Martin Luther started the Reformation. Almost half of Jews didn’t realize Maimonides was Jewish. And atheists were among the best informed about religion.

Kristof’s quiz focuses on extremism and fundamentalism.  He didn’t have responses from a representative survey population, so there’s no analysis of data and no conclusions drawn.  However, the implications are pretty obvious.

Here are his questions, followed by a link to the answers:

1. Which holy book stipulates that a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death?

a. Koran
b. Old Testament
c. (Hindu) Upanishads

2. Which holy text declares: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”?

a. Koran
b. Gospel of Matthew
c. Letter of Paul to the Romans

3. The terrorists who pioneered the suicide vest in modern times, and the use of women in terror attacks, were affiliated with which major religion?

a. Islam
b. Christianity
c. Hinduism

4. “Every child is touched by the devil as soon as he is born and this contact makes him cry. Excepted are Mary and her Son.” This verse is from:

a. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
b. The Book of Revelation
c. An Islamic hadith, or religious tale

5. Which holy text is sympathetic to slavery?

a. Old Testament
b. New Testament
c. Koran

6. In the New Testament, Jesus’ views of homosexuality are:

a. strongly condemnatory
b. forgiving
c. never mentioned

7. Which holy text urges responding to evil with kindness, saying: “repel the evil deed with one which is better.”

a. Gospel of Luke
b. Book of Isaiah
c. Koran

8. Which religious figure preaches tolerance by suggesting that God looks after all peoples and leads them all to their promised lands?

a. Muhammad
b. Amos
c. Jesus

9. Which of these religious leaders was a polygamist?

a. Jacob
b. King David
c. Muhammad

10. What characterizes Muhammad’s behavior toward the Jews of his time?

a. He killed them.
b. He married one.
c. He praised them as a chosen people.

11. Which holy scripture urges that the “little ones” of the enemy be dashed against the stones?

a. Book of Psalms
b. Koran
c. Leviticus

12. Which holy scripture suggests beating wives who misbehave?

a. Koran
b. Letters of Paul to the Corinthians
c. Book of Judges

13. Which religious leader is quoted as commanding women to be silent during services?

a. The first Dalai Lama
b. St. Paul
c. Muhammad

Now you can read the answers to the quiz, along with the original questions.

Kristof concludes:

…the point of this little quiz is that religion is more complicated than it sometimes seems, and that we should be wary of rushing to inflammatory conclusions about any faith, especially based on cherry-picking texts. The most crucial element is perhaps not what is in our scriptures, but what is in our hearts.

I would add that one of the oddities of religion is the way believers pick-and-choose among the many contradictions and inconsistencies in their basic books.  Some Christians, for example, profess to believe in the literal truth of the bible, while at the same rejecting or ignoring many parts of it.  I’ve never met a Christian who believes that “a girl who does not bleed on her wedding night should be stoned to death” despite that command in Deuteronomy 22:20-21.  I also never met a Christian who believes (or will admit to believing) that homosexuals should be put to death, as commanded in Leviticus 20:13.

It’s hard to understand the intellectual gymnastics necessary to profess literal belief in a book while at the same time rejecting this part and ignoring that part.  It’s easier to see how extremists can focus on one part to justify absurd behavior like murdering doctors.  After all, there are even a few Christians who use Mark 16:17-18 and Luke 10:19 to justify dancing around with poisonous snakes while babbling in unknown tongues.

Perhaps the lesson is this:  Before we criticize the beliefs and practices of others, we should look first at ourselves.  Matthew 7:1-5


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