Saturday, February 29, 2020

Religious Literacy - The problem of religious illiteracy


Chapter Ten
The problem of religious illiteracy.

Unfortunately, US citizens today lack this religious literacy. As a result, they are too easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right. Few Americans are able to challenge claims made by politicians or pundits about Islam’s place in the war on terrorism or what the Bible says about homosexuality. This ignorance imperils our public life, putting citizens in the thrall of talking heads and effectively transferring power from the third estate (the people) to the fourth (the press).

Prothero, Stephen. Religious Literacy (p. 10). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Religious illiteracy and lack of memory about the development of religious institutions have imperiled the ability of Americans to be effective participants in their democracy and play a viable role as global citizens.

Some might argue that “ignorance is bliss,” that Americans don’t need to educate themselves about the religious traditions of the world. What good is knowledge about religious traditions? And then they find themselves waging war in Middle Eastern countries having been told they are ripe for democracy only to find that identification with religious thought systems have a greater hold on the hearts and minds of these populations than some, for them, irrelevant dream of Western democracy.

How stupid are the American people and their leaders? Really stupid. And what is the price of their stupidity?

If Americans can’t count on their governmental leaders for a sound foreign policy because they are ignorant of underlying cultural dynamics fueled by religious belief who is to hold America’s governmental leaders accountable? In a democracy it is “we, the people,” but if “we the people” are ignorant too, we have the blind leading the blind and disaster awaits this war business.

Unitarian Universalists identify “wisdom from the world’s religions” as the third of six sources of their “living tradition” which sounds good in theory, but in practice leaves a lot to be desired for there is no evidence that UUs, in spite of their profession of faith, are any more religiously literate than the rest of their fellow citizens.

To what can one attribute this ignorance? Might the lack of congregational leadership and UUA leadership be a contributing factor? If UUs were to commit themselves to enhancing their religious literacy where might they begin? A good place to begin is in making UUs aware of their own ignorance so that they request more religious literacy services.

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