New Book Claims that America is 'Religiously Illiterate'

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  • Religious Literacy
    (Photo: Amazon.com)
    'Relgious Literacy,' by Stephen Prothero, tries to give America a basic knowledge in religion.
By Kevin Jackson, Christian Post Reporter
March 6, 2007|10:45 am

America is one of the most religious countries in the world, but shamefully one of the most religiously illiterate places, a Boston University professor claims.

Stephen Prothero, writer of the new book Religious Literacy and chair of the Department of Religion at BU, notes that most Americans know little to nothing about religion, but states the importance of a basic knowledge in it.

He feels that it is so essential that he even promotes the teaching of religion in school, a controversial statement against the separation of church and state.

"We have a major civic problem on our hands,” explains the author on the Harper Collins website, the main company of the publisher of the book, HarperSanFrancisco.

Just as schools teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, Prothero thinks that religion ought to become the "fourth R" of American education.

According to the book, although 90 percent of people in the United States claim they are Christian, only a few know anything about religion.

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Only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions while 15 percent cannot name even one.

Prothero also notes that about two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life’s basic questions. Yet, only half of the adults in the country can name one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and most Americans do not know the first book in the Bible (Genesis).

The professor told Newsweek that when he gave a “religious literacy” test to his college classes, almost everybody failed.

"Given a political environment where religion is increasingly important, it's increasingly important to know something about religion," he said in Newsweek.

To fix this problem, Prothero supports the teaching of religion in school. He shared with the magazine that if there is a requirement for science, why can’t there be a requirement for religion?

In his childhood, Prothero grew up as a Christian, but he noted in Newsweek that he is unsure of where his faith is, describing himself as a “confused Christian.”

Despite his situation, he stresses the importance of having at least a general knowledge of religion to better confront the domestic and foreign challenges facing the United States.

Religious Literacy addresses the core beliefs of all the major religions and the differences between them. It also includes a dictionary of key beliefs, characters, and stories of Christianity, Islam, and other religions.

The book will be released on Mar. 13.

 

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