Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

Stephen R. Prothero, Author . Harper San Francisco $24.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-06-084670-1

Prothero (American Jesus ), chair of the religion department at Boston University, begins this valuable primer by noting that religious illiteracy is rampant in the United States, where most Americans, even Christians, cannot name even one of the four Gospels. Such ignorance is perilous because religion "is the most volatile constituent of culture" and, unfortunately, often "one of the greatest forces for evil" in the world, he writes. Prothero does more than diagnose the problem; he traces its surprising historic roots ("in one of the great ironies of…history, it was the nation's most fervent people of faith who steered Americans down the road to religious illiteracy") and prescribes concrete solutions that address religious education while preserving First Amendment boundaries about religion in the public square. Prothero also offers a dictionary of religious literacy and a quiz for readers to test their knowledge. This book is a must-read not only for educators, clergy and government officials, but for all adults in a culture where, as Prothero puts it, "faith without understanding is the standard" and "religious ignorance is bliss." (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 03/01/2007
Genre: Religion
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