Much of what most Americans know about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad you could put in a thimble. But it would not be worth doing that because a lot of what they think they know is wrong or distorted.
It's one reason I'm glad that PBS is airing a series called "Life of Muhammad." The first part aired this past Tuesday, though I was unable to see it. The Religion News Service story about the series is here. And the Los Angeles Times' review of the show is here.
At the same time, PBS also has been airing a series on Buddha.
These series are efforts to improve something that badly needs improvement -- Americans' religious literacy.
That also was the purpose of a book by Boston University scholar Stephen Prothero, Religous Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't.
This excellent book will be the focus on the next gathering of Vital Conversations, a program of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. The link in this paragraph will tell you where and when.
In my experience, theological and biblical illiteracy is rampant among Christians. And people of other faiths tell me they run into something similar in their traditions.
So there are two areas that need work -- understanding and accurately articulating our own faith and then understanding something about other faiths.
There are many opportunities to fill in the gaps in your own knowledge, the PBS and Vital Conversations examples being just two. But more are needed. And more people should be taking advantage of what's already available.
Want to know where you are in terms of religious literacy? You might start with this brief quiz. It's really, really, really basic stuff you should know. Even I got 15 out of 15 right.
* * *
MORE ON EGYPT'S VULNERABLE CHURCHES
Yesterday here on the blog I wrote about the many ways the Coptic churches in Egypt have been under attack. A new Human Rights Watch report now details attacks on 42 different such churches. For the report itself, click here.
* * *
P.S.: My latest Presbyterian Outlook column now is online. To read it, click here.