Monday, March 26, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

The Deseret News in Salt Lake City recently published a thoughtful review of religious illiteracy in America, based on the work of Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University. Prothero uncovers a disturbing trend in American culture where a majority of people are falling into religious ignorance. For example, in one poll, 10% of respondents said Joan of Arc was Noah's wife, and 56% of born-again Christians did not know Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the Kingdom of Heaven" (the Sermon on the Mount).

But religious literacy entails more than remembering trivial facts from history. Religious references influence hot-button politics and major world events, including abortion, stem-cell research, capital punishment, and war in Iraq. As Prothero says, "Religion is the most powerful piece of culture. After 9/11 it's really hard to pretend anymore that religion doesn't matter; that it's not literally a life-and-death matter."

Prothero advocates talking about religion in public schools, not to indoctrinate young people in any particular religious philosophy, but to give them a basis to understand the role of religion in politics and culture. We would do well to understand the basis of our own religious views, as well as the views of others.

The full text of the Deseret News article can be found HERE.

Prothero also published a religious literacy quiz. You can read it HERE. Take the quiz and don't cheat by scrolling down to the answers. I scored 92.

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