Religious Literacy book cover

Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – And Doesn’t

HarperOne (2007)

Do you get tongue-tied when asked to name the Twelve Apostles? Do you think Adam’s wife was Joan of Arc? If so, join the crowd. The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of religious illiterates. Many Protestants can’t name the four Gospels, many Catholics can’t name the seven sacraments, and many Jews can’t name the first five books of the Bible. And yet politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed, or misinterpreted, by the vast majority of American citizens. The book also includes a Dictionary of Religious Literacy with key terms, beliefs, characters, and stories that every American needs to know in order to make sense of religiously inflected debates: from abortion and gay marriage to Islamic terrorism and the war in Iraq.

Acclaim for

Religious Literacy

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“Prothero does more than diagnose the problem; he traces its surprising historic roots ("in one of the great ironies of…history, it was the nation's most fervent people of faith who steered Americans down the road to religious illiteracy") and prescribes concrete solutions that address religious education while preserving First Amendment boundaries about religion in the public square.”

Publisher’s Weekly, March 2007

Compelling and Persuasively Presented

In "Faith Without the Facts," Jean E. Barker, calls Religious Literacy "a critical addition to the debate about Americans' civic education." The book's argument, she adds, is "compelling and persuasively presented" and its Dictionary of Religious Literacy "readable and sometimes entertaining."

SF Gate, April 8, 2007

Provocative and Timely

“In this book, the author combines a lively history of the rise and fall of American religious literacy with a set of proposed remedies based on his hope that "the Fall into religious ignorance is reversible." He also includes a useful multicultural glossary of religious definitions and allusions, in which religious illiterates can find the prodigal son, the promised land, the Quakers and the Koran.” – Susan Jacoby

The Washington Post, March 4, 2007