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Posted on Tue, Feb 8, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Stephen Prothero on religious literacy: What every American needs to know (and doesn't)

By Pam Stout

Prothero Graphic Web.jpg
Stephen Prothero, professor of religion at Boston University, author and commentator on the importance of religious literacy in cultural and political matters, will speak about "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn't" on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. in Rackham Amphitheater at the University of Michigan.

The talk is free to the public and is sponsored by the Association of Religious Counselors at the University of Michigan, a multi-faith professional organization of counselors for student religious groups.

Prothero, author of multiple books including "God is not One: the Eight Rival Religions of the World and why their Differences Matter" and "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn't" offers an unusual take on interfaith religious understanding, according to Rolf Bouma, director of the Center for Faith & Scholarship, who was a student of Prothero's and instrumental in bringing him to the University of Michigan.

While there is a growing tendency in interfaith circles to minimize differences, Prothero argues that understanding "differences not only between but also within religious traditions is crucial," explained Bouma. For example, it is important to know the differences between different types of Islam (Sunni and Shia), and even different branches of Christianity, to understand current events, Bouma said.

Prothero argues that religious literacy is the "fourth R" that has been neglected in American education and advocates for increased education about religious traditions for a well-informed citizenry.

Watch a YouTube video of one of Prothero's recent lectures below:



Sat, Feb 12, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

I describe this as a problem of Science literacy. Religious thoughts are based upon common experience and shared observations. The lack of convergence between Science and Religion leads to ignorance. While most religions describe man as a Spiritual Being, Science refuses to investigate the basis for man's spirituality. There is lack of scientific understanding about man's essence and existence. Science has to come to an understanding about man's status in nature, define Life, and establish the basis for the existence of Life in the natural, physical world. If the living cell is known as a system that is thermodynamically unstable; a system which needs continuous supply of energy, and in the absence of energy acquisition, life gets dissolved into non-living molecules. Man leads an energy dependent existence. Spirituality reveals the connection between man the energy seeker and God his energy provider. Without basic scientific literacy, man would not comprehend the nature of his spiritual connection.