11/18/2010 - For three nights in October, PBS broadcast God in America, a six-hour documentary on the beginnings of the nation’s religious evolution and how the intersection of religion and public life has played out over the past 400 years, forging America’s ideals, molding its identity and shaping its sense of mission.
The Pew Charitable Trusts was the primary funder of the program, which The Washington Post called “commendably even-handed.”
In conjunction with the documentary, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of a survey on religious knowledge that had polled 3,412 adult Americans. While previous surveys by the Pew Forum have shown that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, the new poll showed that “large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the core teaching, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own.”
On average, Americans correctly answered 16 of the 32 questions in the poll. The study found that atheists and agnostics, who answered 20.9 correctly; Jews, who answered 20.5; and Mormons, who answered 20.3, outperformed evangelical Protestants, 17.6; Catholics, 16; and mainline Protestants, 15.8. Atheists, agnostics and Jews did particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life.
More on God in America, including details on purchasing the documentary on DVD, is at www.pbs.org/godinamerica. The Pew Forum’s religious knowledge report and an online quiz with 15 of the survey questions are at www.pewforum.org.