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

de Stephen Prothero

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A religious primer serves as an argument for why the author believes that religion should become a mandatory subject in American public schools, contending that most Americans are not able to identify basic tenets of their faith.
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    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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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." 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 |
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 he finally gets down to the basic tenets we should all know it is a rapid-fire, bullet point checklist. There are far too many creative ways he could have worked the material into his thesis. It doesn't help his argument where he states we shouldn't know just the religious facts but also be able work with the teachings and then at the end reduces them to a checklist.. ( )
1 vota revslick | Jun 11, 2015 |
At least 75% of this book was just about Christianity; doctrine, scriptures, and history. That's not a very efficient way of teaching religious literacy. The author tries to make the case that since Christianity is dominant in America, we all owe it to ourselves as Americans to steep ourselves in the muck of the Christian faith (I'm paraphrasing and being intentionally mean about it). However, he just comes off as showing favoritism to Christian studies because he is one.

The narrative was very dry and the author did a very poor job at teaching anything useful about religion. His idea that religious content should be mandatory in public schools is laughable and self-serving (considering more religious-study majors would be needed ). All-in-all, this was a waste of time with virtually nothing to offer.

I will end this review with one positive note: the author does a very decent job of presenting other religious with little bias or distortion. Unfortunately, he spends so much time on Christianity that there is little time but to merely gloss over everything else. If this author wrote a more comprehensive book about world religions, I would read it. ( )
2 vota jimocracy | Apr 18, 2015 |
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A religious primer serves as an argument for why the author believes that religion should become a mandatory subject in American public schools, contending that most Americans are not able to identify basic tenets of their faith.

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