Religious Illiteracy Alarms Educators

October 2, 2009

Author: Graeme Hamilton

Source: National Post

Half of American high-school seniors surveyed recently thought Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A McGill University professor's reference to the patience of Job drew blank stares from students in his religion course. An art history teacher in France found children were mystified by the "strange bird" (a dove representing the Holy Ghost) common in Renaissance paintings.

Until recently, such confusion was little more than fodder for faculty-room jokes, evidence of the increasing secularism of Western societies. But educators attending a conference at McGill University yesterday heard there is growing recognition in Europe and North America that religious illiteracy creates serious barriers between cultures.

"There exists a widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe," Diane Moore, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, said. "The most significant consequence is that it fuels antagonism and hinders respect for pluralism, peaceful co-existence and co-operative endeavours."