Where Was Jesus Born? 1 In 3 People Don't Know
The Christmas carollers may have already been heard singing O Little Town of Bethlehem the length and breadth of the country. But it appears a huge chunk of their audience may have no idea why the town should be worthy of such reverence. In an alarming survey published today into knowledge of the Christmas story, it appears that one in four adults do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Among younger Britons - between 18 and 24 - the total for those who could not give the correct location rose to 36 per cent. Other religious blank spots included the role of the Archangel Gabriel - more than a quarter had no idea that Gabriel brought God's message to Mary at her home in Nazareth to say that she would give birth to a son. And the majority of those questioned - 52 per cent - did not know that John the Baptist was Jesus's cousin. More than 75 per cent were unaware that Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape from King Herod. Most thought they had fled to Nazareth, the family's hometown. Only 12 per cent of adults could answer all four questions about the Christmas story correctly. The survey of more than 1,000 adults was commissioned by the public theology think-tank Theos and is likely to reignite debate about the secularisation of Christmas.It follows the news last week that only one in five schools is planning to perform a traditional Nativity play this year. Paul Woolley, director of Theos, said the findings show that the public's understanding of Jesus's birth is "shaky". He added: "The fact that younger people are the least knowledgeable about the Christmas story may reflect a decline in the telling of Bible stories in schools and the popularity of Nativity plays. "No one seriously thinks that being a Christian or a member of the established Church is the same thing as being British today. "But at the same time, if we are serious about social cohesion, we can't afford to ignore the stories that have bound us together as a culture for 1,000 years. "Any attempts to play down the Christmas story in order to help social cohesion are likely to be counter-productive." Christian churchgoers were the best informed about the Nativity, with 36 per cent answering all questions correctly, compared with only five per cent of atheists. The survey also showed regional differences in how well people know Bible stories. The South East was the area with the highest percentage getting all four answers right, at 19 per cent. That was followed by the South West, which scored 17 per cent. Those who demonstrated the worst Biblical knowledge were in Yorkshire and Humberside and London. In both regions, 15 per cent of those questioned answered all four survey questions incorrectly.