Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't

Front Cover
Harper Collins, Oct 13, 2009 - Religion - 384 pages

The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of shocking religious illiteracy.

  • Only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions and 15 percent cannot name any.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the Bible holds the answers to all or most of life's basic questions, yet only half of American adults can name even one of the four gospels and most Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible.

Despite this lack of basic knowledge, politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed—or misinterpreted—by the vast majority of Americans.

"We have a major civic problem on our hands," says religion scholar Stephen Prothero. He makes the provocative case that to remedy this problem, we should return to teaching religion in the public schools. Alongside "reading, writing, and arithmetic," religion ought to become the "Fourth R" of American education.

Many believe that America's descent into religious illiteracy was the doing of activist judges and secularists hell-bent on banishing religion from the public square. Prothero reveals that this is a profound misunderstanding. "In one of the great ironies of American religious history," Prothero writes, "it was the nation's most fervent people of faith who steered us down the road to religious illiteracy. Just how that happened is one of the stories this book has to tell."

Prothero avoids the trap of religious relativism by addressing both the core tenets of the world's major religions and the real differences among them. Complete with a dictionary of the key beliefs, characters, and stories of Christianity, Islam, and other religions, Religious Literacy reveals what every American needs to know in order to confront the domestic and foreign challenges facing this country today.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
1
4 stars
6
3 stars
6
2 stars
3
1 star
1

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - librken - LibraryThing

I had looked forward to reading this book since it was published, but it disappointed. The author stridently bashes us over the head for half of the book making his case that people knew more about ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - revslick - LibraryThing

The title is very misleading. It alludes to what we need to know when more than half of the book is spent by Prothero laying the groundwork what we've lost by our American religious illiteracy. When ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
ONE A Nation of Religious Illiterates
TWO Religion Matters
THREE Eden What We Once Knew
FOUR The Fall How We Forgot
FIVE Redemption What to Do?
SIX A Dictionary of Religious Literacy
APPENDIX Religious Literacy Quiz
Further Reading
Notes
Searchable Terms
About the Author
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

Stephen Prothero is the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One and a professor of religion at Boston University. His work has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, NPR, and other top national media outlets. He writes and reviews for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Salon, Slate, and other publications. Visit the author at www.stephenprothero.com or follow his tweets @sprothero.

Bibliographic information