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

de Stephen Prothero

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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.… (més)
  1. 02
    Don't Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned de Kenneth C. Davis (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: If you didn't find the answers you wanted in Prothero's book, try Don't Know Much About the Bible instead.
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Es mostren 1-5 de 29 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Not very far in, but already frustrated with the presentation. Examples are provided to illustrate religious ignorance via the wrong answers given by students on quizzes. The frustrating part is the author’s failure to state the correct response.

From other reviews, this information is apparently provided in the second half of the book. In theory, I will get there, eventually.

Withholding rating until I’m a bit further along.
——-
I ended up skipping the first half of the book where the author tlks about how dumb we all are. I went to the second half where the information is. The educational stuff saved the rating, as it was worthwhile.

I recommend starting there, if your goal is to learn something without being made to feel bad for not already knowing it. ( )
  AMKitty | Mar 24, 2024 |
NF
  vorefamily | Feb 22, 2024 |
About the author: quoting from the book's dust jacket, "Stephen Prothero is the chair of the religion department at Boston University. His book 'American Jesus' was named one of the best religion books of 2003 by 'Publishers Weekly' and one of the year's best nonfiction by the 'Chicago Tribune.' He writes and reviews for the 'New York Times Magazine,' 'Wall Street Journal'. . .and other publications. He holds degrees from Harvard and Yale." www.stephenprothero.com About the book: the reviewer for 'Publishers Weekly' said of this work: "Prothero does more than diagnose the problem; he traces its surprising historic roots. . .and prescribes concrete solutions that address religious education while preserving First Amendment boundaries. This book is a must-read not only for educators, clergy, and government officials, for all adults." The last chapter of this work is an alphabetic listing of religions, significant religious leaders and religious practices. An appendix is provided with a religious literacy quiz. Also provided is a list for further reading. Extensive notes include print and website sources. The work is well indexed.
  uufnn | Aug 16, 2017 |
Prothero's book is a long complaint about the lack of religious literacy in America today. The author is particularly upset because of the supposed importance of religion in modern American society has not led to a better understanding of what people say they believe. The problem with the book is that it is, too a very large degree just saying the same thing over and over again.

The second half of the book is more interesting as he explains the history of religious education in the US schools and explains that the main reason religion is not taught in schools today is that protestant fundamentalists did not want it to be taught. One of their reasons was that they were anti-Catholic. The book concludes with a plea for mandatory courses about religion to be introduced into public schools and colleges.

There are nevertheless two good reasons to read the book: (1) it shames you into wanting to understand all religions better and (2) it provides some real head-slapping examples of people's total ignorance of the religion they feel strongly about. The book is worth reading for its collection of "bloopers" alone like the statement from students that the epistles were the wives of the apostles. ( )
  M_Clark | Feb 28, 2016 |
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 religion than they do now. In doing so he bypasses obvious questions which needed to be addressed: teaching children to read in colonial America with catechetical books does not mean that they retained the religious instruction. Does this make them religiously literate? How much did the average American in the late 1700's know about Islam? About Buddhism? Frankly there is just a big disconnect between the author's opening thesis that Americans are woefully ignorant of basic religious facts, and the next 50% of the book which dwells on how we used to know so much about Christianity. Also I cannot totally buy into the implied statement that knowledge of religious facts makes you more religious, and that the move in the past 200 years toward a more feeling, charismatic approach to our relationship with God is a bad thing. The saving grace of the book is a concise, alphabetically organized collection of the basic facts of the world's major religions. ( )
  librken | Jan 23, 2016 |
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To my daughters, Molly and Lucy Prothero
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Both the Religious Right and the Secular Left feel besieged.
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Wikipedia en anglès (2)

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.

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