During industrialization, Protestants were more literate than Catholics. This paper investigates whether this fact may be led back to the intrinsic motivation of Protestants to read the bible and to what extent other education motives might have been involved as well. We employ a historical data set from Switzerland which allows us to differentiate between different cognitive skills: reading, numeracy, essay writing and Swiss history. We develop an estimation strategy to examine whether the impact of religious denomination was particularly large with respect to reading capabilities. We find support for this hypothesis. However, we also find evidence which is consistent with the view that Protestants’ education otives went beyond acquiring reading skills.