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September 28th, 2010
12:01 AM ET

My Take: Why American public schools need religion courses

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Who knows more about religion - the arch-atheist Christopher Hitchens or Islam basher Rev. Franklin Graham?  Most likely the unbeliever, according to a U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

In this, the first major study of religious literacy among American adults, Americans as a whole flunked, answering correctly 16 of 32 questions about Christianity, the Bible and the world’s religions - for an embarrassing score of only 50 percent.

Atheists and agnostics, however, got 21 right, better than both Jews and Mormons, who rounded out the top three groups of scorers. Although this result (67 percent right, or a D by my calculations) was nothing to write home about, it was 5 correct questions above the national average.

If nonbelievers were the thoroughbreds in this race for religious knowledge, Roman Catholics, with fewer than 15 right answers on average, were the mules. In results that will surely prove to be a thorn in the side of Catholic educators, fewer than half (42 percent) of the Catholics surveyed were able to name Genesis as the first book in the Bible. Ouch!

Still, the big story here will likely be that those who think religion is a con know more about it than those who think it is God's gift to humanity.

As the author of the 2007 book "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–and Doesn't" and as an adviser to this Pew study, I wasn’t surprised by these results. I do hope, however, that this dismal data will serve as a spur to action.

In "Religious Literacy," I described our collective religious ignorance as a civic problem of the first order. How to hold politicians who pin their public policies to the Bible without knowing something about that text?  And how to make sense of religious conflict in the Middle East without knowing something about Judaism, Christianity and Islam?

Believers and nonbelievers obviously disagree on the virtues and vices of religion. But all careful observers of the world should be able to agree on this: From time immemorial, and for better or for worse, human beings have been motivated to act politically, economically and militarily by their gods, scriptures and priests. Without making sense of those motivations, we cannot make sense of the world.

It is time to address our national epidemic of religious illiteracy. I have called in the past for mandatory public school courses on the Bible and the world's religions to remedy this problem. The time for such courses is now.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Bible • Catholic Church • Christianity • Culture & Science • Education • Islam • Judaism • Middle East • Opinion

soundoff (546 Responses)
  1. Burton Desque

    Religion poisons everything.

    I'm all in favor of our schools teaching how disgusting and absurd religion is.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • peace2all

      @Burton Desque

      Well... at least they can learn it early through proper education.......

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:57 am |
    • Bill

      Burton,
      I'm curious ... Jesus preached love, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, grace, generosity, humility ... how exactly does that poison everything?

      September 28, 2010 at 9:21 am |
    • peace2all

      @Bill

      I'm just guessing here.... but, I am thinking he/she is more suggesting that it is a large % of so-called Christians, that think, speak and act..... far and away from what you mentioned of Jesus' preaching's:

      A whole lot christians are certainly *very* intolerant, unaccepting, etc...etc....

      Again, just a guess ... I am open to being wrong as to the posters actual *meaning*...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  2. Melissa

    Humans are a naturally aggressive animal. If we weren't fighting about religion, we would be fighting about something else. Religion is just an excuse and will always be an excuse. Schools don't need to teach religion. That's what religious leaders are for...or are they to molest our children?

    September 28, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • peace2all

      @Melissa

      Maybe...... If our young adults were taught comparative world religions and their impact on their own personal lives, economically, socially, culturally, etc.....

      Maybe.... We would have more 'educated' children and young adults that could be making more decisions about their lives.

      We should also increase the curriculum of logic and reasoning skills, along with math and science...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:10 am |
    • SprDg3014014

      Lumping 'humans' into one category is not useful or productive. Humans are a mix of aggressive, defensive, passive, active, warmongers, peacemakers and so on.

      Assuming we will always be fightng about something is an error in judgement. Perhaps we need to teach 'logic' before we try hot topics like religion.

      September 28, 2010 at 3:55 am |
  3. cupcake284

    I am Canadian, and took a "Comparative Religions" course as an elective in high school. It just gave a very neutral perspective on the basic principles and values which govern the 5 major world religions, without preaching, nor passing judgment. I can honestly say that when I watch the news, I feel that I have a better understanding of events that are happening in the Middle East, and am able to develop opinions based on my knowledge of their belief systems. It is very frustrating to listen to people who are ignorant with regards to Eastern religions, and pass judgment on folks who describe themselves as Muslim, for example. America needs to be educated. There is far too much division between cultural groups who live within the same country. American politicians do not help the situation, but instead, use religion to gain electoral votes.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • peace2all

      @cupcake284

      Very well said...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • SprDg3014014

      First of all, Yea Canada.

      Secondly, it is sad but I do not think 'religious studies' would be given a neutral approach in the U.S. Look at what the Texas Board of Education has been doing with history books. So sad. Their logic is that the winners get to write history. In this case, the losers are our students.

      So much of the U.S is a lost cause until more of the 'old school conservatives' go away. But with the dumbing down of the younger generation, it may be a long time before an educated Board of Education will even know what a 'neutral' approach is.

      September 28, 2010 at 3:49 am |
    • peace2all

      @SprDg3014014

      Wow... what a 'handle'.... So, I will just write this once, so I don't have to @yourmoniker everytime... From what you wrote, I am just going to assume we are in relative agreement on this. I thought what you wrote was well said....

      Now, If we can just agree on any other writings of yours, i won't have to post your moniker... 🙂 cheers..!

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:54 am |
  4. Fakegod

    Pastor Long & Haggard should be neutered, and send to jail to serve the other worshipers.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:01 am |
  5. Tim

    During and immediately after the Vietnam War, the National Council for Social Studies designated World History and World Cultural Studies to be necessary courses of study for US students. The fact that many Americans did not know or appreciate the nature of Asian cultures and their historis was deemed a factor in our misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the factors leading us into the conflict in Vietnam. Communist expansionism or national liberation or some of both. Needless-to-say, World History, which included world religions studies, was way down the list of priorities in most school districts. It seems, he said sarcastically, our Vietnam war dead and wounded did not inspire us to save our future children.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:58 am |
    • peace2all

      @Tim

      Well said.... I agree... These things, I believe should be taught....

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:07 am |
    • SprDg3014014

      I can attest that taking a Philosophy course in the mid 70's, I ask the instructor why we did not cover more Asian philosophy. Why just the Western view? I as into martial arts and so knew something about it. His answer was something to the affect that Asian cultures tend to make their philosophies a religion. Very sad when people justify ignorance of other cultures for what ever reason. We also did not learn about communisim because it was "Communism". Never mind the fallacy of circular logic taught in Logic studies.

      Another point. I wonder if the author would agree to add Athism as a course? I personally consider myself to be a 'non-theist' or an 'un-theist' since I was raised 'religious' but finally figured out that my 'early learnin's' just didn't add up. I guess those higher math courses finally paid off.

      At a time when my home state feels justifed in 'remaking' history books and dumbing down non-flattering topics, I doubt letting them add religion as a study would have the desired affect. Just imagine what the board of education (and misinformation) would do?

      September 28, 2010 at 3:25 am |
    • peace2all

      @SprDg301401

      Well said again.... I too, am a martial artist....... and... No, say it ain't so..... Texas...? School board.... 🙂

      Just checkin'

      Peace....

      September 28, 2010 at 4:30 am |
    • Aqua

      Very well said. And from the Vietnam War, we progressed to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, where again a lack of knowledge about those cultures and religions has hurt our cause.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  6. Tom

    Shocking, stupid people pervert something to fit their limited IQ.

    Honestly, as an atheist, I don't care for religion, but I have always thought there was nothing wrong with religion in principle. The problem is that most of the world is so stupid and uneducated that they pervert anything to make excuses to do whatever the hell they want.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Frogist

      @Tom: I share much the same view. It's the people that make any movement what it is. People are the ones who can choose what to follow and what to discard as evidenced by many kind and understanding religious people, or the alternative of many bitter and divisive non-religious people. And vice-versa.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:13 am |
    • peace2all

      @Tom

      Hence.... wouldn't the ideas being proposed in this article....i.e.... teaching comparative world religion.... help to stave off some of this stupidity and ignorance that you are railing against....?

      My vote is yes concerning this area of discussion-context anyway........ Education=good...... ignorance=bad

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  7. L

    Religion is a cancer and it needs to be eliminated. For the people who worship are those imprisoned by their past. And war occurs because of this cycle that has been started. HELLO the church for spreading and starting anti jew laws and such started by the pope. And it was because of this that countless people suffered because of religious dogma. If religion never existed and that evil horrible pope never started this cycle would there be the holocaust where millions died due to this. And the pope living during ww2 could have stopped all this but he did not. And according to their religion and perspective of right and wrong the pope could have spoke out against the nazi atrocities. But he did not and turned a blind eye to the evil that was happening. And this is only christanity and this is only a tip of the iceburg of the very many calamities and evils that had happened due to this cancer. In my view religion is a curse that keeps the world from embracing the future it's a curse that prevents one from living they only go through the motions of life. You can not call that living it is dying slowly. I celebrate that religion is becoming more obsolete and forgotten. I celebrate that one day it will not bring sorrow and despair to people's hearts. I celebrate the day when it will be no more.
    I yearn for the future...

    September 28, 2010 at 12:54 am |
    • Religion is for the ignorant

      where is the like button when you need it?

      September 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
  8. Fakegod

    I can't believe people can spend their whole lives to study a freaking boring fiction. I bet there will be more dropouts if those stupid students are forced to study religious businese / scam.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  9. David

    there is no way ever we should teach religion, especially the Bible in schools. Our children can't read, can add, can't apply deductive reason, we don't need to pollute their minds with specific religious courses. Go to church if you like to read fantasy.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:48 am |
    • Aqua

      Its clear from the article that the author supports teaching students ABOUT religion, not teaching them religion. Just as a course about WWII does not equal turning kids into Na.zis, and a course about Russia does not equal turning them into Comm.unists. Kids need to understand the religious beliefs that drive the cultures of the Bible Belt, the Middle East, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • peace2all

      @Aqua

      Well said...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
  10. Epidi

    I am of the Pagan religious persuasion. I face religious persecution all the time. If religion is to be taught in the schools – all parents have to hear is that various forms of Paganism will also be taught such as Wicca and it would stop right then and there (due to ignorance). However, I agree that religion is a cultural issue and not for the schools – they have enough on thier plate already. Send your kids to a Catholic, Christian, or whatever your flavor is type of school if you want them taught religion as well. It should be a choice, not a coercion.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:45 am |
    • hello213456

      hard to take paganism too seriously though, we really need to teach the influential works– Bible, koran, marx, the major works that have shaped the world. some of the stuff taught in schools isnt worth reading... its not about religious indoctrination, its a matter of giving attention to a very important subject that is at the root of so many issues around the world

      September 28, 2010 at 1:18 am |
    • peace2all

      @Epidi

      I honor your paganistic beliefs... I say either educate them in ALL of the major religions, while also dispelling the falsehoods taught about the wiccan religion.

      I think if you start them early enough, then maybe you don't have as many uninformed religious zealots and extremists that obviously don't really even know what they are talking about.

      Or... Don't teach them any at all..

      However, my vote would be for Education.

      Peace..

      September 28, 2010 at 1:35 am |
    • Angela

      I agree with that except that a lot of parents are only teaching THEIR chosen religion, not an education on religion, so it would be just like not teaching it in schools. Someone has to educate on the differences and similarities as well as the origins, or else we will continue to have this raging battle over something which is supposed to offer us peace and support.

      September 30, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  11. Fakegod

    Christians are gullible, pedos, and trouble makers.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:45 am |
    • peace2all

      @Fakegod

      Come on now.... not ALL of them....

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:54 am |
    • obvious

      Don't feed the troll.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • peace2all

      @obvious

      I wasn't lookin' and he took a 'bite' out of me... 🙂

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  12. James

    Why is it necessary to teach mythology in public schools? You are trying to educate young minds and not fill them with nonsense. Instead why not teach kids proper nutrition? That is something that kids are obviously not getting at home that will actually benefit them for the rest of their lives. It is time our kids and mainly our adults to start to recognize the idiocy of teaching mythology as if it were real.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:39 am |
    • Sus

      Schools do teach nutrition. hmmmm.....

      September 28, 2010 at 12:50 am |
    • peace2all

      @James

      It is important because.... People form their world-views from said 'mythologies'.... and from those mythologies they believe and take certain actions...

      Actions that come to affect ALL of us on Planet Earth.

      There is nothing wrong with educating them in Comparative Religious Courses. If teacher teach the curriculum as 'literature' or as 'myth' while not attempting to push one religion over another.

      Better to be educated than not.....

      And oh, by the way..... I believe that 'nutrition' is being taught..... they may not be doing a very good job at it yet, but it is being taught.

      Peace....

      September 28, 2010 at 1:30 am |
    • Karl

      Well to some catholicism would be no more myths than the norse gods and goddesses. If you were to narrow religious studies down to just that of Christianity it would be akin to teaching world history, but only events that involve the US.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • peace2all

      @Karl

      I am sincerely interested in hearing more about your thoughts here... If you are out there or re-visit this.... Please elaborate a bit more... Thanks...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
  13. Fakegod

    100% agree! Public schools need religion SCAM courses. We already have too much gullible christians and rich pedo pastors out there. They should all go to HELL according to their freaking bibles. Our next generations need to be smarter.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:39 am |
    • peace2all

      @Fakegod

      Well said.. albeit very bluntly...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:05 am |
    • peace2all

      @Fakegod

      Please 'scratch' my first post to you above this one.

      Education=good.... ignorance/bigotry and hate=bad.

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  14. Joshua Eaton

    Dear Other Commenters:

    The fact that I was made to read Girl Interrupted and High Fidelity in school, but never made to read the single most influential book in the history of Western civilization (The Bible) or the single most influential book with regards to current U.S. foreign policy (The Quran) is nothing short of an atrocity.

    How can we possibly expect to raise educated citizens who understand what's going on in the world around them?

    September 28, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • hello213456

      For college i had to read this journalist's book about how women were oppressed around the world– absolutely useless, it is impossible to get to the heart of such problems without a working understanding of the quran, which i did not have. Seriously, whether people like it or not, these relidions have drastically influenced culture and civilization over the centuries. The three most influential books ever written, the Bible, the Quran and the Communist Manifesto, are scarcely ever taught anymore it seems. All are on my reading list...

      September 28, 2010 at 1:16 am |
    • automagic

      Somehow, I bet you would disagree if another religion's holy book were forced on you.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • peace2all

      @Joshua Eaton

      Agreed... Well said.... Education is an absolute...!

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:50 am |
    • peace2all

      @automagic

      I read and re-read your post concerning @Joshua Eaton's.... First, I could be wrong, but I think you are presupposing you know of Josh's religious beliefs...

      Second, my read on what Joshua said, leads me to believe that he would actually ....Welcome another religion's holy book.

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:53 am |
    • Peter F

      I definitely agree with peace and Joshua on this one. I have a particular faith, but I would have been quite excited to study other influential religious texts in school. It's true, I may not agree on everything that is discussed (and who would?) but it would really help me understand why people function the way they do, what motivates them, ya know?

      September 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Peter F

      Hey Pete..! Sounds like we have found some 'common ground'... ?

      Hope that you are well...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  15. Greg

    "From time immemorial, and for better or for worse, human beings have been motivated to act politically, economically and militarily by their gods, scriptures and priests. Without making sense of those motivations, we cannot make sense of the world."

    There is no making sense of religion, other than that it has been the cause of every major conflict, and the center of nothing good on a major scale since it began. This is precisely why the only thing that should be taught about religion in school is the harm that it does by spreading ancient lies.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:35 am |
    • Jeremy

      Nothing Good?

      End of Slavery, Civil Rights, End of child labor laws... the list goes on and on. Careful about your prejudices they are clear and a little scary. Check your history also read Nietzches great complaint against Christianity was that it cared too much about the voiceless and marginalized.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • Pope Jon

      Now hold on there Jeremy,

      Child labor and slavery were all justified under the name of Christianity in the first place. Christianity justified the genocide of the American Indian long before Hitler came on the scene. To say civil rights would not have come along without Christianity is more then a stretch. And slavery ended for economic reasons and uniting the country as a Union, not because of Christianity. I think you need to read up a little more on history and stop getting your historical facts from the likes of Glen Beck.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:57 am |
    • peace2all

      @Jeremy

      Yep... I am with @Pope Jon on this one... Slavery, oppression of others, including women, etc... 'was' due to Christian biblical justification to a great deal in the first place.

      Careful there.... to say that Christianity was somehow the cure to all of these atrocities..... is not accurate. Yes, you need to read up on your history a bit...

      Peace...

      Peace....

      September 28, 2010 at 2:29 am |
    • Val

      Thank you Jeremy for being the poster boy for this article. Your ignorance is understandable because you are just parroting what you have heard from others, but you are very wrong. The bible was used as a back up for all of the laws that subjugated women (still is) and condoned slavery and promoted intolerance. Rather than get defensive about it, I hope that you will actually READ about what you say you believe in so strongly. If your faith is unshakable then you should not have a problem with it. Brainwashing is BAD. For anyone to suggest that public schools need to be teaching religion, you need to either pay for a private religious school of your choice or read about why we as a people oppose mixing church and state. If you've ever studied British history it would be VERY obvious why a country should NEVER endorse a religion. If people are ignorant about religion, then they should read about it as a young adult so that they can become informed without becoming indoctrinated into something they don't understand or maybe wouldn't agree to if they did. Isn't this the problem that we have with the Taliban?? That they indoctrinate small children before they even understand what it is that they are expected to believe??? Because everyone knows that if you want to carve something on someone's brain that you need to start very young. I always wanted my sons to do their own thinking.

      September 28, 2010 at 7:37 am |
    • mark

      Couldn't agree more.
      Well said

      September 28, 2010 at 7:49 am |
    • Frogist

      @Val: One of the questions on the quiz was whether according to the Supreme Court religious studies could be taught in schools. And the answer was yes, the Supreme Court ruled that religious studies could be part of a curriculum. I think you might be mistaking classes on comparative religion vs indoctrination into one religious school of thought. I have always thought it necessary to be familiar with multiple faith traditions and the cultures associated with them. Because in becoming familiar we are less likely to demonise those who believe differently because of fear of the unknown. I truly think it is this fear that is propelling the divide between christians and muslims in the US today. And this fear would dissolve if we were more familiar with those who are different from what we are used to. For all the talk about America being a melting pot, I have always wondered why people are still so fearful and ignorant. I have a multicultural background and saw none of the divisions to this degree in my childhood as I see today as an adult. I am partially grateful to my education for instilling a familiarity with different cultures. My schooling included taking time to celebrate many different religious holidays. I think promoting a comparison of religions in school and a celebation of diversity would go very far in teaching children to be critical and think for themselves while at the same time appreciating another person's traditions.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • peace2all

      @Val

      First half or so of your post.... I pretty much agreed with you... Second half.....? No one is discussing *indoctrination* nor *brainwashing*..... Nor proposing or endorsing 1 religion.

      The whole idea was to look at the value of a comprehensive course to teach religion-At least a good portion of the majory, and even some of the minor World Religion's.

      Their impact on our history, society, economics, cultural understanding's, etc..etc... is undeniable.

      Why not educate... again in this context on this topic, I believe, in my humble 'opinion'.... Education=good... ignorance=bad

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  16. Michael Brooks

    "motivated" ? Narcissism + Fear = Religious motivation

    September 28, 2010 at 12:33 am |
  17. Bman

    Religion is a vector of culture. Perhaps some day people will see the errors of their forbears, and be smart enough to replace it with something less threatening to our own brothers and sisters, yet more enlightening toward our own existance.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • automagic

      I always thought of the origins of religion as an early form of government. It was a tool to keep people in line, and to explain things they didn't understand, like why there is a drought in the Nile river valley.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • agreed

      Touche automagic. religion was just a way to control people that were too stupid to think for themselves. Unfortunately the majority of people in this world are still too stupid to see through it.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  18. MSUatheist

    What about the Torah, the Quran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, The God Delusion, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and all the other texts on religion? Are you going to teach those? Schools don't have time for this.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • automagic

      Ramen. He is only in favor of the "mandatory" teaching of religion if it includes primarily his.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:17 am |
    • Matt

      RTFA. He's clearly in support of a humanities based comparative religions class. This idea alone would go leaps and strides for acceptance and tolerance in this country.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • peace2all

      @Matt

      If said course is not just an idea, but actually implemented..... Yes, agreed.... leaps and bounds towards tolerance,... and understanding at the very least...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:47 am |
    • peace2all

      @MSUatheist

      Ahhhhh the 'Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster'

      –Ra-men to you brother...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  19. Sandy

    Please, nothing more for the public schools to have to handle. Religion should be taught by parents and churches.

    September 28, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • Sara

      I think you are confusing Religion and Faith. Faith, I would agree is something that should be left to family. Religion being taught is a beautiful thing. My kids go to a Waldorf school where they take a entire school year celebrating holidays, cover traditions, bake traditional dishes, and learn the practices and beliefs.
      1st grade they keep it light with fables and myths, 2nd grade they learn about the Saints, 3rd grade they are learning about Judaism. Just tonight we had a small Sukkot festival by building a Sukkot and eating soup from the harvest out of the kids garden at school. There is nothing wrong with educating children about the World and all the aspects of it. I don't know if our public education system could ever incorporate this into its day because of all of the fear and ignorance that is already deeply embedded. Having religion in curriculum has been a lot of fun and my kids are excited to hear about how their Jewish friends in class spend the holiday. We are Buddhist and even with all the talk of Saints and their glory all of last year my daughter is still very clear on the fact that she is not Catholic.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • cupcake284

      I don't think you understand what this author is trying to say; he is not suggesting that schools preach certain religious values, but rather that they educate students about world religions, to better understand our neighbours. And not young children, but young adults who are beginning to develop global opinions, and are able to comprehend the world at large.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:14 am |
    • peace2all

      @Sandy

      Obviously...... from the study and the whole article here.... churches and parents aren't doing a very good job of it. Seems that they are creating (in general) uneducated fundamental religious bigot's and zealots...

      Comparative World Religion Courses taught appropriately would benefit our young adults. Education = good... Ignorance=bad.

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • peace2all

      @cupcake

      Yet again....very well said...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:02 am |
    • white

      @Sara,well,yeah you want the schools teaching religion,why because your jeeew and the schools will mainly focus on teaching judaism,not christianity or Islam.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:12 am |
    • LK

      You are correct!!!!! Teachers have enough to deal with now that they are now expected to spend all day disciplining children that dont learn how to behave at home.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • Sara

      White@ I'm Buddhist, not a Jeew. The focus is only on Judaism for one year.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • peace2all

      @white

      If you are going to comment on someone's posting.... Please accurately read before commenting on said post. You obviously didn't read @sara's posting where she very clearly says....."We are Buddhist's"...

      Instead, from what I can see you were more interested in a 'racist' slant... calling her a "Jeeeew"

      Please.... that is why ignorance and bigotry should not be tolerated ...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • peace2all

      @white

      And by the way..... In your posting....Way up yonder(above)... I believe you said.."It is (hatred) that causes wars"

      Hmmmm seems like possibly your little 'racist' ...keystroke mistake may be having you show your 'true' colors ...so to speak about you...?

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • eighthgrader101

      I couldn't agree more. If they were to teach about religions in public school, it should be on purely "dappling" level, literally the different types of the religion (such as humanistic,hassadic, or orthadox jews), who the religion's "God" is, what countries have citizens who follow that religion, and where they first appeared. (Yes, that would include saying Iraq as where the first jew was). I would add of course the level of "craziness" (excuse my athiest language, I should say "religousness" if it's a word) a person believes in it. Like most Muslims are not terrorists!

      October 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  20. Steven

    I SAY YOUR OPINION IS NUTZ.
    i mean lets look at it for one second here.
    What is the exact cause right now opf EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM ON THIS EARTH?
    HMMMMMM...COULD IT BE....RELIGION?
    Religion celebrates our DIFFERENCES and wgat this world needs is for all of us to start celbrating our SIMILARITIES.
    IF KIDS NEED TO BE TAUGHT SOMETHING IT IS THAT ALL RELIGIONS ARE DIVISIVE AND THE WORLD WOULD BE A MUCH MUCH BETTER PLACE WITHOUT ALL OF THEM.
    PERIOD !

    September 28, 2010 at 12:18 am |
    • The Big Easy

      Someone went straight to typing without reading the article. If you're not going to read his stuff, we won't read yours.

      September 28, 2010 at 12:47 am |
    • nice

      true dat

      September 28, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • hello213456

      All these anti-religion posts, the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history as atheism became more prevalent. Cause and effect relationship? Maybe, but im certain religion wasn't the main cause of that bloodshed. Face it people, religion doesn't kill people, people kill people.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:06 am |
    • hello213456

      And i love the liberal mindset "lets all just get along"... Sorry, that collectivist philosophy has never worked and will never work, and it's not because of religion... I'm not about to "coexist" with people that try to kill me, sorry.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:11 am |
    • John

      As an atheist, I will say that religion is not the problem, our anthropocentrism is. Religion was a great tool for early man to hold respect for the life around them as well as work more cohesively as a tribal unit. The religions you speak of are but a small slice of the thousands of religions that have existed throughout history and "prehistory." That is, the current world-dominating religions are awful because they rationalize the consumption and the destruction of our environment and the divisiveness of our social structures.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:12 am |
    • UrIlliterate

      You have no idea how stupid your comment looks beneath this article you moron.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • hello213456

      Anthropocentrism? But isn't that what it's all about– man? No one can argue that man is the height of creation; religion, or at least Christianity. makes it clear that man is to subdue creation while at the same time taking care of it in the role of a steward. And I think atheism is the more distructive doctrine anyway– Dostoevsky had the right ideas about the implications of atheism– if there is no God, anything is permissible. Nietzsche had similiar ideas.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:24 am |
    • DvlsAdvct

      @hello213456

      Kant also went through a similar line of reasoning in the prolegomena and the larger work that is summarized there. However, if you're going to take it all philosophical, most philosophers will also tell you that if there is a god we can't really understand anything about it with our limited abilities in perception. Impossible to prove either way and so philosophers have all but given up on that topic. It is widely accepted, however, that if all the world is ruled by physical laws it would imply no free will and thus people cannot be held responsible for their actions. So yes its important to believe in at least the possibility of something metaphysical. Calling Atheism more destructive than other religions... hard to say what the long term implications will be, seems like people try to get away with whatever they can so maybe you're right. And really they have their heads up their own behinds as far as any Christian. Who is ANYONE to say they KNOW? Especially somebody siting Nietzsche...

      September 28, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • Paul

      hello213456 says "the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history as atheism became more prevalent."

      That's like saying that since governments banned the sale of cocaine and herion in the 20th century, that people not doig drugs is responsible for the wars/deaths.

      Maybe increased populations, planes that can drop 20,000 pounds of bombs and guns that fire 600 rounds per minute made killing a little more efficient???

      Also, post-1945, due to the atomic threat, we've enjoyed one of the most peaceful periods in modern history.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:22 am |
    • peace2all

      @hello213456

      I am in basic agreement with some of the other poster's here that are not in alignment with your assertions.

      I know an awful lot of really nasty christians. Just goes to show you that just because you may believe in a something, that does not in any way mean you will be a good person.

      Quite the contrary..... I know a lot of good, kind and loving atheist's that live honorable lives of love and service.

      So... I suggest maybe getting past your religious 'biases'...

      You have at the very least demonstrated some basic truth to what this whole article is about. Which is *EDUCATION* so you know what you are talking about...!!!

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 2:35 am |
    • Stocko

      I don't believe that there was an Adam and Eve to begin with and that a talking snake (Satan) convinced Eve (the impressionable woman) to take a bite of an apple of knowledge and from that day we were sentenced to death. (What a ghastly, depressing fable). Obviously Adam and Eve's children (if you are still following that) were incestuous, so from what we know (scientifically proven) about direct relative mutations did we manage to survive? Somewhere along the line Abraham was asked to murder his own child by God.... still celebrated as a holy event by most religions (but hey Abraham I was just testing you, I am the ultimate dick head, sorry)....Oh screw it.....I'll whip up a flood to wipe out all of humanity except for you Noah, your wife, and kids and every mammal, insect, etc. and you can fit everything on one boat. Oh but crap, even me God, I'm still learning on the job, I shouldn't have done that, I'm totally new to this, still working out the rules. I am a loving god now. I will expect you to blindly follow for as long as I want that I had a son, who is me, and he was born of a virgin (I know years from now, nobody who thinks will believe that either). i will send him to a miserable death because he is love and I love him (my ways are truly mysterious, thats all you need to know.) Over the next 2 thousand years I will allow 6 million of my chosen people to perish in the 2nd World War (the unchosen people will all be grateful they didn't have your beneficence.) Along the way I will let billions more to perish of starvation, thirst, and disease. But let me remind you, I gave you free will, so it ain't my fault. Yeah, granted I could have made a world without starvation, hatred, disease and all the other crappy things but what fun would that be, if I don't give you challenges you'll be weak. Yeah it sucks you were unlucky enough to be born in a desert, oh well. I guess I have to hope that the man I created in my own image is better than me and hope that they rise above my rotten sense of humor.
      Yours respectfully god.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:40 am |
    • VegasRage

      How about a course as to why religion is the worst thing that ever happened to our world. BTW I got 10 for 10 on the test.

      September 28, 2010 at 4:00 am |
    • peace2all

      @VegasRage

      I too, scored 10 for 10..... and.... whatever one's take on the matter be it good/bad on the world..... We all can agree that World Religions have dramatically shaped and continue to do so.... everything from politics, history, economics, multi-cultural understanding, etc..etc... the list goes on..

      So, why not educate everyone on it.... Education=good...... ignorance=bad...

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:25 am |
    • Eduardo

      agree with Steven... I guess in 100 years, with the advance of technology, people will write in the future, look how silly people were believing in magic stuff. religion should be banished, at least, in schools, lets grow smart kids, not doctrinate ones

      September 28, 2010 at 4:30 am |
    • peace2all

      @Eduardo

      The whole point of this article *is* about growing smart and well-educated kids/young adults. And.....part of that would be teaching an objective comparative religions course. There is just toooooooo much overlap with religion concerning Everything from Politics, to economics, to multi-cultural understandings.. and the list goes on...

      Eduardo.... No one is talking about *indoctrinating* someone here about again, it *is* all about ...as you say..."growing smart kids"

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 4:40 am |
    • Randy

      Excellent piece, I could not agree more, as a father, husband, school board member, active christian, concerned american.
      we are unraveling at the seems .. you don't have to look much futher than public programming in prime time television to get
      a reflection of our immorale society shaping itself before our very eyes. anyone interested in taking back our country?

      September 28, 2010 at 5:49 am |
    • mark

      I couldn't agree more. I am continuously blown away that seeming knowledgable, educated people are *STILL* brainwashed by the garbage that is ALL religions..

      The problem is, people don't seem to understand the difference between faith (in whatever you believe in, even if its nothing more than hope and love and humanity and not some ridiculous supernatural being), and religion, which is nothing more than a club that brainwashes people in the name of controlling them at some level, whether it be to extract money from their wallets or strap a bomb to their backs and blow up something..

      It really is amazing.Contrary to the author of this article I see this religious literacy "problem" as a GREAT step in the right direction towards humans *evolving* away from this crap..

      September 28, 2010 at 6:23 am |
    • Nora

      hello213456, your right about people being responsible for killing people but your wrong about the motivator. Religion has been the strongest motivator for mass murders in history!

      September 28, 2010 at 8:28 am |
    • MuDdLe

      @DvlsAdvct Nice to spot someone on here who has actually read and understood some philosophy.

      An oft-overlooked discussion on this topic is George Santayana's critique of Bertrand Russell's early embrace of moral realism. One of his chief arguments is that Russell, who maintained that "man is a product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving" held a worldview without the "metaphysical underpinnings" that could make sense of his belief that our moral sensibilities are at all truth-aimed. Russell's trouble, he argued, was that he was "not a theist after the manner of Socrates." His arguments found their mark. Russell later affirmed that"it was Santayana in his "Winds of Doctrine" who first convinced Russell to abandon moral realism.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:31 am |
    • Nick

      Religion is for weak minded people who need strength in numbers.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:35 am |
    • Matt & Greg & Kids

      I agree with everyone else. This guy is crazy as a loon. No way are you gonna force religion on my kids via a course in school. I want them to have NO knowledge of it (other than to know it is evil and WE will teach them that). Religion is for the intellectually inferior amongst us who feel some perverse need to believe in some magic monster in the sky in order to get through their own pathetic lives and judge others while trying to cause them harm because they are different.

      NO RELIGION IN SCHOOLS. PERIOD.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:41 am |
    • runswithbeer

      Parents choose what religious teachings their children should receive, not the friggin government. Knowing the name of the first book of the bible is unnecessary in today's world. But that's MY opinion. You do not want me telling your schools which religion to teach your kids.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:42 am |
    • Yolonda

      No, its not religion its people who want control and power. That's not the kind of GOD we serve.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:45 am |
    • MuDdLe

      @Nick and Matt

      It's all just a little too easy for you.

      Perhaps, at the end of the day, something like naturalism will win out (and perhaps not). But to suggest that the best–or only–explanation for religious belief is "weak-mindedness" is to play the fool. You should read beyond the rantings of the "New Atheists." For instance, there are responsible atheistic thinkers such as Bill Rowe (Purdue) who understand theistic arguments, take them seriously, and offer sustained critique and engage in genuine dialog. It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with representatives of religious belief who do not appear on TBN, ask for your money, and "heal" people with the swing of an Armani coat. Some of us have read our Hume and Darwin, Hitchens and Dawkins, and have even earned PhDs in philosophy at top-tier universities and remain convinced theists.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:56 am |
    • white

      I say your NUTZ

      September 28, 2010 at 9:06 am |
    • white

      Relgion is a way of life not just belief.Religion is what guides us when there is no guidence.Religion does not kill people or cause wars.Greediness and hate create wars,not religions.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Bill

      Steven,
      just curious ... how many atheist organizations out there are tending to the needs of the homeless and going all over the world to feed the hungry ... how many atheist organizations gathered after katrina to help build houses.... nope not a single one. Why? Because when all you focus on is what you DON'T believe in, all of a sudden you dont have anything you feel strongly enough to do something about.
      Franklin Graham, while i disagree with his assessmen on Islam, has done amazing work through his group Samaritan's Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crisis teams.
      How have you helped the people of Rawanda or Nicaragua today?

      September 28, 2010 at 9:12 am |
    • Savannah

      I am an Atheist and also scored 10 of 10 questions. Not sure what that proves, but I would love a religion class in school, going over the various religions in a fair, educated manner. I am saddened to see so many attacks on others because of their grammar, spelling, choice of words, political leanings, etc. Why do so many people decide to attack others rather than discuss in an intelligent manner, the valid topic? Could we elevate the discussion to a Middle School level?

      September 28, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • Michelle

      The best part about these ranting opinions (which, ironically, are about yet another opinion) is the fact that the pseudo-intellectuals offering them and slamming the same drivel from others cannot even be bothered to spell their vitriol right.

      I'm going to go out on a limb here and say idiocy and ignorance are the biggest problems in the world, without even bothering to qualify and limit that statement to religion only.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • Frogist

      @Randy: Yes, I want to take back the country! That's why I support the Rally to Restore Sanity! http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com

      September 28, 2010 at 9:23 am |
    • Scott

      Although, you might have written it a bit better I agree that religion is a huge problem. People do not use their brains to think critically.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:24 am |
    • Frogist

      @mark: Except the religious illiteracy the article highlights is causing confusion between people. Most Christians don't understand the similarities between them and muslims, jews etc. Heck, christians don't even recognise the similarities amongst themselves. And that division created by a lack of understanding is contributing to the tension and violence we see around the world and especially here in the US. I don't think these results show an evolution so much as a hardening of stance. We've all gone to our collective corners and refuse to budge lest we be proven wrong through a tough inspection of our own beliefs. If christians, muslims etc realise they are one and the same they can no longer claim they have the one true path. This is why religious illiteracy is hampering us rather than helping us.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Lik

      Man, I couldn't agree with you more!

      September 28, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • Heather

      Did you even read the article? I am really blessed that my school at least taught me that "nuts" does not end with a "z". It is posts like this that make American School look horrible.

      Now go back and read the article and then we would love to hear your educated opinion!

      September 28, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • LK

      You have a right to teach your child the beliefs that you want to instill in them, however that does not
      give you the right to take those choices away from me as a parent. I unlike most religions respect everyones religion wether I believe in it or not, thats why people come to America. I think most Americans have forgotten why it is so great to be an American. Everyone should be required to volunteer for a month in a third world country before you can say you are a true American.

      September 28, 2010 at 9:44 am |
    • Jessica

      World Religions should definitely be taught in high school, after all the kids have learned how to read a map. In fact, it should be taught along with mythology and world history – somewhere sandwiched in the middle. It should not be limited to the main 3 – but rather, cover all major religions and see how other smaller religions spun off from major ones. But let's go one step further, and show how many of the "stories" one reads in the bible, quran or torah – existed long before these books ever did, in far reaches of the world. I say give the kids as much knowledge as possible and watch their heads spin. Encourage them to take these topics of discussion back to their individual churches. It's sort of sad that my experience with religion boils down to "dont ask question, you just have to believe" – we need to get churches to understand, if they cant handle questions...they need to just LEAVE.

      September 28, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Mark Maxey

      Could not agree with you more Steven. I was amused but also concerned with the comments from hello 213456's response. It is very clear that this person does not read "factual" history. Remember the church doctrine use to say that the world was flat and the Universe revolved around the Earth. These same christians used to also burn non-believers at the stake. This of course was after they consulted the book written by german monks on how to properly TOURTURE you and still be with in the confines of the Bible. Had to make sure that the inquistor did not violate God's word before he broke you. And christians say that Islam is violent. hello213456 also made a dispariging remark about evil liberals. Everything that I have read in the Bible indicates that Jesus was a Liberal. All that stupid compassion crap and all the wealth redistribution, helping other people that are sick or just need a helping hand to get by. That can not be Christianity can it? I believe there is a God ( I'm a Deist ) but I have read enough of the Bible to see way too many inconsistancies in it. Why do people think that it is the school systems responsibilty to teach religion to their children anyway? I think that religion should be the parents job. Then again the point of this article is that the parents can't teach about a subject that they themselves know very little if any at all about......That is scarry now that I think about it. Maybe the schools should teach it after all. LOL

      September 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Randy

      Glad to see you agree with this piece..... And as you stated, as a Father, Husband, School Board member,... and (active Christian).... "Anyone else want to (take back) this country...?"

      For you being an (active Christian), to me would presuppose certain potential biases that may not work for me, and others....

      So, I am curious to hear what *you* mean when you say "take back this country"....

      Very curious....

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • JPopNC

      hello213456: Couldn't agree with you more! Speak of bloodshed, just consider the lives abortion has taken. More than all the wars combined. Let's all applaud what evolution has brought us in that regard.

      And to Mark Maxey saying the early church taught the world was flat, well that wasn't the precept taught in the Bible.

      It gets tiresome to continually hear how history portrayed "Christians". Well, even one of the greatest followers of Christ (Paul) said not to look upon him as how to live your life, but instead look to Jesus. Christ was the only perfect role model to follow, so saying how early Christians tortured people doesn't weigh an ounce as to what Christianity really is, those were just different times and people did then what they do now, live their own way with no regard to Jesus. If everyone did, then this world would indeed be peaceful. But we all know that will never happen.....till He comes again.

      September 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • peace2all

      @JpopNC

      Let me guess.... You are a .....Christian...?

      Also, I am curious... Does JC ever weigh-in concerning the topic of *abortion* anywhere in his teaching's...?

      Again, this article was about creating religious literacy.... Not sure as to your, in my humble opinion, going off *point* on the topic of this article....

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      Excellent points, Steven. Thank you.

      October 3, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Mr A

      Welcome aboard the ignoramus generation bandwagon: don't learn anything about the religions around you followed by billions of people in the world (who are obviously mentally challenged to believe in them, right?) because all of them are the same fairytales. Right now, there is nothing more annoying than high school / college brats considering themselves "smart" just because they don't believe in religion. Grow up.

      October 7, 2010 at 3:09 am |
    • table

      No, you're wrong.

      October 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.