You probably know somebody from a different culture or set of beliefs. They may not celebrate the same holidays as you or have the same customs as you. You know the name of their religion, maybe some of the holidays they celebrate, but you probably don’t know the basis of their beliefs, their practices, or what higher being they worship, if they believe in one. And that’s where religious literacy ties in.
What is religious literacy?
It’s knowledge about the different religions of the world and their practices. This includes the holy text, the laws that they live by, if they believe in a deity or god, and which one or ones they do, as well as other important facts. Someone who is religiously illiterate isn’t culturally enlightened, and may have trouble being open-minded. A lot of religion-based prejudice comes from a lack of understanding, therefore creating a lack of acceptance. Stephen Prothero wrote a book about it’s importance that inspired this post, which I plan to read sometime.
Why is it important to be religiously literate?
Not only will you be able to better understand the people around you, you will have a greater acceptance of people who believe different things. It will increase your cultural knowledge, and people will thank you for understanding and accepting their religion. As you learn more about different religions, you can help to erase the misconceptions and narrow-mindedness. You will also be able to get in touch with your own spirituality (or lack thereof) and learn things about your religion’s history that you never knew. Or, you may decide that you do not want to be part of any category. It is an internally rewarding journey as well as one that will help you and others to understand.
How can you improve your ‘religious IQ’?
I’m taking a religious study class over the summer
because I’m required to. (But seriously, I think it will be a very good opportunity for me to become more religiously literate, and the class is actually very interesting! Yes, though, I am required to by my school.) You can search online about different religions, purchase a book or check one out from your library, ask your friends about their individual customs, or attend a talk or workshop. I promise it will make a difference!
And finally, a shout out to the Bonsai ruler of religious literacy…
That’s right, Mary, I’m talking to you! We can’t thank you enough for inventing and taking on the project of Spotlight on Religion. It’s definitely enlightened us and the readers, and we eagerly await all the posts from that category!