Regular readers of this blog and of my words in other venues know of my interest in increasing the religious literacy of Americans (and, well, everybody in the world).
So I've been working with a special project of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council to create a religious literacy initiative in Kansas City in partnership with the University of Missouri-Kansas City. I wrote about that here a few months ago.
One of the leaders in this field has been Harvard University and its Divinity School's Religious Literacy Project. In fact, I wished I had had enough time on a recent speaking trip to Harvard to visit the project and learn from it, but my schedule was way too tight.
Harvard's project, I now learn, is beginning to offer free online classes on religious literacy. The Huffington Post story to which I've linked you reports that "The courses are being offered via an online learning platform called edX, which Harvard University launched with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. For those interested in earning a certificate of achievement at the end of the series, edX offers a non-audit track for $50."
I don't view Harvard's effort as any kind of competition with what we're trying to build in Kansas City. In fact, let a hundred religious literacy flowers bloom, I say. This need is so great that we can't have too many options.
The story reports that Diane Moore, director of Harvard's project, "suggested that religious literacy should include an understanding that religious traditions are 'internally diverse,' ever-evolving, and play complex roles in people’s lives." Right she is. Not only is each religious tradition internally diverse, but so, in my experience, is every congregation, including the one I'm part of at Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.
If you're looking for a good book to start you down the religious literacy path, let me recommend Stephen Prothero's Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't.
And let me know how it went if you sign up to take the Harvard offering.
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THE HATE CRIME OF BURNING MOSQUES
Among the people who need religious literacy education are those who have been setting mosques on fire in the U.S. As this report notes, there have been several in recent weeks. To say nothing of the Olathe shooting.