And so, I started giving this quiz that’s in my book. Paul would be getting the olive branch from the dove and – (laughter) – Jesus would be parting the Red Sea. Most Americans probably don’t know that reference to David and Goliath.It’s my religious literacy quiz that’s been published in some of the newspapers and magazines you all work for. So that was part of it for me, talking with my own students.Prothero says the impact of religious illiteracy on foreign policy is even more significant, arguing that he doesn’t think we understood Iraq as a place where people are, in many cases, primarily motivated by religion.Speaker: Stephen Prothero, Chairman, Department of Religion, Boston University Moderator: Michael Cromartie, Vice President, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Senior Adviser, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Navigate this Transcript The religious literacy project Religious illiteracy as a civic and political problem Religious illiteracy and foreign policy Religious literacy throughout American history A proposal for promoting religious literacy Q&A with journalists MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Welcome to Key West and to the Pew Forum’s event. We’ve been doing this since 1999, and we’re delighted you can be here. I was tempted to call this session “Religious Literacy: What Every Journalist Needs to Know and Doesn’t.” But we decided not to do that.
But I think one thing that I noticed when I moved from Atlanta – I used to teach at Georgia State University – to Boston was that my students didn’t seem to get the references that I was making to religion as much as I expected that they would. So I gradually realized I have to do explain this stuff: Matthew, which is one of the four Gospels, which are books in the New Testament, which is a scripture in Christianity, which is one of the world’s religions.One of the presenting problems there for academics was whether to even talk to the media.There was a guy on the panel who was saying that we shouldn’t do that and that he doesn’t do it, and he used to be the president of the American Academy of Religion.Let me say at the very beginning, though, that there are two ways to talk about religion.This is a message that I’ve figured out only by talking about my book over the last year.(Chuckles.) The other thing that I want to say by way of introduction is that the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to try to be writing more and more for the general public instead of for academics.I found it depressing to write books that took me 10 years and were bought by 500 people and read by 50 people, where my mother was 2 percent of the reading public.(Laughter.) So it’s interesting to me to reflect on that.I was talking about the importance of talking to the media.And I think there’s a fear in the general public that there’s only one way to talk about religion-the religious way.And so, if you’re going to talk about religion, you’re going to be doing some kind of churchy sort of thing that we need to be careful about.