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.
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.