Numerous surveys have shown Americans consider religion to be very important, but a survey of religious knowledge shows that they are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions. Many are also unfamiliar with the teachings of their own traditions. For example, 45% of Catholics do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. A majority of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, and 43% of Jews cannot recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish. Americans fare little better in their knowledge of religion and law. Fully two-thirds incorrectly say public school teachers are not allowed to read from the Bible as an example of literature. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.