A nation of adorable-believing-religion-illiterates

Newsweek writes about Prof. Steve Prothero's new book called Religious Literacy. I have to agree with the professor. I have written repeatedly about the extent of ignorance on the part of Americans regarding religion, most recently, yesterday, criticizing the NY Times Magazine for running an article about science and God that shows almost no understanding of religion. If those folk at the Times can roll merrily along oblivious to religion and without a care, then Prothero had his work cut out for him. Not too many happily ignorant people will jump on his religion-literacy-bandwagon.

But there is much more at work against religion literacy. People on the left fear religion wants to control their freedoms and pick their pockets. People on the right generally have already signed up for one of the religions and don't want to advertise the competition.

Leading rabbis of my own denomination - Modern Orthodoxy - have declared the study of world religions unclean and impure. Other Republicans consider most topics beyond vocational training to be unnecessary to what they define as productive literacy.

Our government is happy enough if citizens believe in a God that will punish them for immorality. That helps keep the costs of police forces in check. Yet after 9/11 public officials are increasingly unsure about teaching the other religions to the populace.
The Gospel of Prothero

A Boston University professor argues that Americans, though 'spiritual,' are woefully ignorant about religion...

In spite of the fact that more than 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God, only a tiny portion of them knows a thing about religion...

In Prothero's utopian world, Americans would have enough religious knowledge to debate ethics positions using holy texts, to understand Biblical references in political speeches, to question their own beliefs about God—and to encourage others to question theirs. Only then will we enjoy one of the greatest privileges of the educated, which is to change our minds.
You too can take the Religious Literacy Quiz. It's somewhat random and arbitrary and a bit on the tricky side. It makes the point in a foggy sort of way that ordinary citizens are not that educated about religion. Of course Jay Leno does things like this regularly on his TV show in a segment called "jaywalking" wherein he quizzes ordinary people in his area about simple facts and entertains us all with their cute displays of ignorance.

The line between entertainment and education nowadays is blurry, isn't it?

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