Stephen Prothero: ‘Americans Are Religious Illiterates’

Stephen Prothero: ‘Americans Are Religious Illiterates’

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Stephen Prothero: ‘Americans Are Religious Illiterates’

The United States of America is a country of faith without facts, as conveyed by Stephen Prothero. According to the Professor of Religion at Boston University, secularism in America is converting the citizenry into religious illiterates at a time when society needs to be more aware of the role of religion (Prothero, 2020). Prothero believes that there are certain things people should know as part of being an educated generation. One of the most important facts Americans fail to recognize is that God is not one. The author quotes, “God is not one. Faith in the unity of religions is just that – faith (perhaps even a kind of fundamentalism)” (Prothero, 2020). The statement helps highlight the major distinctive differences between religions, such as Supreme Beings and worshipped deities. While critics might argue Prothero’s analysis of American society is harsh and flawed, his observations are secular and civic, making them objective and quite reliable.

Despite having little knowledge of other religions, Americans are still inclined to project their faith in public. Part of what Prothero considers American religious illiteracy is the tendency to act religious despite arguments lacking substance and cogency (Biondo & Fiala, 2013). Americans act faithful even though they do not have content. Most do not know the creeds and cannot define how God establishes a special relationship with them (Biondo & Fiala, 2013). Prothero’s criticism of American religious knowledge outlines that religion is a civil subject that needs to be taught. Respect and tolerance are worthless virtues if Americans do not know facts about whomever they are supposed to be tolerating. Christians need to learn about atheists as much as Jews need to learn about Mormons. Prothero’s book is a must-read for an audience wishing to maintain its democratic and liberal political system.


Biondo, V. & Fiala, A. (2013). Civility, religious pluralism and education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Prothero, S. (2020). Religious literacy: What every American needs to know and does not. In Robert E. Van Voorst. ‘Introduction to World Religions’. Washington, DC: Cengage Learning.


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