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Religious Literacy


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About the Author

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 or follow his tweets @sprothero.


For a nation brimming with religion, Prothero wants to know why so many people lack genuine knowledge about their religion as well as others. Believing that American culture seriously lacks knowledge about the fundamentals of most world religions, he argues that schools need to teach classes that legitimately explore all world religions. In the tradition of E.D. Hirsch, he provides a collection of quintessential terms that define the current religious landscape. While the dominant presence of Christianity may cause resentment among secularists, the author is fairly objective in his discussion and justification for such reliance on Christianity. In terms of sound quality, the editors missed several vocal shifts, points where the author begins reading a new sentence in a distinctively different voice than the previous sentence. As narrator, Prothero proves competent but not entirely compelling. His pacing and emphasis certainly work well with his material, but his soft voice and relaxed tone leave something to be desired. Though these are his own written words, he doesn't command the text in the way one would expect. (Reviews, Nov. 20). (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Prothero (chair, religion department, Boston Univ.; American Jesus) first builds a case for, then makes recommendations for, the teaching of religion in public schools and in higher education. Citing example after example, he demonstrates that Americans lack even basic religious knowledge. He traces the decline of religious knowledge and then shows how this decline can be reversed, all in accordance with recent Supreme Court decisions. Prothero illustrates that, more than just for moral character, biblical literacy is important. There are, however, obstacles it faces, e.g., public opinion, the inability of the secular Left and religious Right to compromise. He then helps the reader get started with an 85-page "Dictionary of Religious Literacy." Prothero builds a convincing and important case. His book will probably not appeal to general readers, especially when they are reminded of their lack of religious knowledge for a good portion of the first third. But it is particularly recommended for academic institutions that train our future teachers.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"This book is a must-read not only for educators, clergy and government officials, but for all adults."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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