Americans Who Know Religion Best Hold Worse Views of Evangelicals

Pew: Religious literacy usually helps Americans appreciate other faiths. Evangelicals score highest when it comes to their own.

There’s an adage that sometimes comes up in the church: “You can’t love what you don’t know.”

Research has shown that people with the greatest understanding of other faiths tend to have more positive views of outside traditions. But a recent survey found one key exception: evangelical Protestants.

The people who know the most about religion—and scored the highest on Pew Research Center’s religious literacy quiz—actually had worse views of evangelicals than the average American or those with low scores.

“Higher scores on the overall (32- point) religious knowledge scale tend to be associated with warmer evaluations of most religious groups,” the researchers wrote. “One exception to this pattern is evangelical Christians, who are rated most warmly by those at the low end of the religious knowledge scale.

Meanwhile, evangelical Protestants actually know more than the average American about religion, due largely to their familiarity with their own faith. While few in the US can parse Protestant theology or define the prosperity gospel, evangelicals were among the top-performing faith groups in a religious literacy quiz, ranking after Jews, atheists, and agnostics and above other Christian affiliations and religious nones.

Evangelicals—in this survey, a multiethnic sample grouped by affiliation—know the Bible and Christianity better than anyone else, but when it comes to other traditions, their standings fall. Only evangelicals who said they regularly dedicated time to learning about world religions knew more than average about other faiths.

The issue of religious literacy matters more than ever in America’s pluralistic context, and evangelicals have …

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