Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Testing Religious Knowledge; Teaching Religion in Public Schools

How much do you know about religion? Take the Pew Forum's 10-question pop-quiz here.

The Pew Forum has administered a 32-question survey to 3400 Americans and found them woefully ignorant on the subject. Boston U's Stephen Prothero writes: "In this, the first major study of religious literacy among American adults, Americans as a whole flunked, answering correctly 16 of 32 questions about Christianity, the Bible and the world’s religions - for an embarrassing score of only 50 percent."

Prothero makes an appeal for mandatory religion courses in public schools. He writes:

"In "Religious Literacy," I described our collective religious ignorance as a civic problem of the first order. How to hold politicians who pin their public policies to the Bible without knowing something about that text? And how to make sense of religious conflict in the Middle East without knowing something about Judaism, Christianity and Islam?...

...From time immemorial, and for better or for worse, human beings have been motivated to act politically, economically and militarily by their gods, scriptures and priests. Without making sense of those motivations, we cannot make sense of the world.

It is time to address our national epidemic of religious illiteracy. I have called in the past for mandatory public school courses on the Bible and the world's religions to remedy this problem. The time for such courses is now."

I've had a number of opportunities to speak on worldviews and comparative religions at Monroe High School in my community. (Michigan) My experience is that students want to learn and talk about such things. Given the massive influence religion has, has always had, and will always have on our world, it seems a no-brainer to proactively teach it in public schools.