LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Knowledge of the Bible is in decline in Britain, with fewer than one in 20 people able to name all Ten Commandments and youngsters viewing the Christian holy book as "old fashioned," a survey said on Sunday.
Forty percent did not know that the tradition of exchanging Christmas presents originated from the story of the Wise Men bringing gifts for the infant Jesus, while 60 percent could not name anything about the Good Samaritan, the Durham University study found.
Youngsters were particularly disillusioned, telling researchers that the Bible was "old fashioned," "irrelevant" and for "Dot Cottons" -- a reference to the church-going EastEnders' character, the National Biblical Literacy Survey 2009 showed.
"It is the first recognition of something which we all knew in our gut. We knew it was there but we weren't exactly willing to face up to it," said Rev Brian D. Brown, a visiting fellow at St.John's College in Durham University.
One respondent to the survey said David and Goliath was the name of a ship while another thought Daniel, who survived being thrown into the lions' den, was "The Lion King."
Brown said the survey showed the need to push for greater religious education among young people as knowledge of the Bible among the under-45 age group was in decline.
"We have got to recognize that it (the Bible) is the foundation of our society, upon which our whole culture has been based," he told Reuters. "To understand it and to live in it you do need an understanding of the Bible."
Atheists, however, were not unduly worried about the decline in the Bible's popularity.
"It shows really that religion is becoming less important to people," said Pepper Harow, campaigns officer at the British Humanist Association.
"The fact that people have little knowledge of the Bible perhaps suggests that it's becoming less and less relevant to people in the 21st century," she said.
Despite the lack of enthusiasm about the Bible among the 900 respondents, three-quarters said they owned one and almost a third said it was significant in their lives.
Editing by Steve Addison