Biblical and Religious Literacy by Reza Aslan


There’s no question that religion is a greater force in the world today than it has been in generations, and so, what is definitely needed are experts in religion to be part of the marketplace of ideas in our discussions about religion.

This is tricky because while religious literacy is enormously important, regardless of whatever field you are going into, it’s very difficult to teach religion in an objective or historical way, particularly to young people, particularly in public schools. Now we have laws that allow for the teaching of religious history, religious culture, religious ideas without necessarily promoting religion itself; but we need teachers who are equipped to do so and for those teachers who already have that expertise, who have the ability to do so. I think that they need better training in how to communicate those ideas to a popular audience, to a general audience.

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I’m not the first scholar of religions to decry the fact that, you know, this is a discipline where we most often just speak to ourselves in our private little language that nobody else understands and that we don’t do a good enough job in making our ideas accessible and appealing to a broad public, but we do have a responsibility to do so. This is…we’re not talking about art history here—no offense to art history professors—but we’re talking about a topic that has enormous impact on almost every aspect of society and so, that is a burden that we carry as experts in this topic. We have to be part of the public conversation about religion.


Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan
Professor, University of California

Reza Aslan is professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary. His degrees in religion and creative writing led him to write the best-sellers Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (Random House, 2013) and No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam(Random House, 2011). His new show Believer premieres on CNN Sunday, March 5, 2017 at 10 p.m. ET (see

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