Religious Literacy

Religious literacy is the understanding of 1) the basic tenets of the world's faiths; 2) the diversity of expressions and beliefs within traditions that emerge and evolve in relation to differing social/historical contexts; and 3) the profound role that religion plays in human social, cultural, and political life in both contemporary and historical contexts.

~ Diane L. Moore

Religion is part of everything, RCC helps you talk about it.

To love our neighbor, we have to know our neighbor.

Religion Communicators Council is making religious literacy a priority starting at the 2015 Convention in Alexandria, VA. As communicators of faiths, we know what results when the media and the general public are unable to grasp cultural and religious nuances to the current events that arise in our world today. A lack of understanding of the basic tenets of the world’s religions contributes to more conflict.

As the only faith-oriented, accredited public relations association, RCC has a role to play, by utilizing its interfaith members to help the secular media understand diverse faith dynamics, as well as providing resources to members so they understand other faith traditions besides their own.

What is Religious Literacy?

Diane Moore of the Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School defines Religious Literacy as:

The ability to discern and analyze the fundamental intersections of religion and social / political / cultural life through multiple lenses.

Specifically, a religiously literate person will possess:

  1. A basic understanding of the history, central texts (where applicable), beliefs, practices and contemporary manifestations of several of the world's religious traditions as they arose out of and continue to be shaped by particular social, historical and cultural contexts;
  2. The ability to discern and explore the religious dimensions of political, social and cultural expressions across time and place.

Interfaith Religious Literacy Resources

100 Questions about Muslim Americans

Charter for CompassionFrom RCC member Jackie Fuller: "I attended an interfaith conference in 2013 and took part in a workshop to contribute questions for a book called “100 Questions and Answers About Muslim Americans.” I am telling people to get it as a reference guide and to reduce their fears about the religion."

The book, which has basic facts about the culture, customs, language, religion, origins and politics of American Muslims, is part of the Michigan State University School of Journalism series on cultural competence. The series includes a number of books answering questions on different cultural groups.

Charter for Compassion

Charter for CompassionThe Charter for Compassion works to establish and sustain cultures of compassion locally and globally through diverse initiatives – education, cities, business, religious and spiritual communities, and the arts. They supply resources, information and communication platforms to help create and support compassionate communities, institutions, and networks of all types that are dedicated to becoming compassionate presences in the world.

Common Ground: Lessons and Legends from the World’s Great Faiths

Book Review by RCC member Daniel R. Gangler*

 Common Ground book coverFor the second time in as many years, Todd Outcalt has written a book which broadens his readership beyond a Christian audience to include people of historic faith groups worldwide. This one is titled “Common Ground: Lessons and Legends from the World’s Great Faiths” (Skyhorse, 2015). This book of stories and legends affirms there is a common ground or common themes in the sacred scriptures and other wisdom literature we collectively hold dear despite our theological or geographical moorings.

In “Common Ground,” Outcalt, a prolific writer and senior pastor of Calvary United Methodist Church in the Indianapolis suburb of Brownsburg, Indiana, goes beyond Christianity in projecting a wider source of not only Christian and Jewish Scriptures and other writings, but also Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, Confucian, Sikh and other sacred writings. In fact, from time to time, he even considers wisdom literature beyond any sacred sources, such as Aesop and famous internationally-known authors of previous centuries.

Read “Common Ground: Lessons and Legends from the World’s Great Faiths”

The Common Knowledge Podcast: Interfaith Youth CoreA Podcast About Interfaith Literacy

Common Knowledge is a regular podcast from Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) featuring interviews and stories from leaders around the interfaith movement focusing on “interfaith literacy” – the knowledge necessary to be a leader in a religiously diverse world.

Deily Digest

DeilyA weekly digest highlighting some of Deily's most active and influential members who are on Deily to answer your questions. Deily is a growing community of over 20,000 curious seekers and experts from all different religious traditions and walks of life.

The Foundation for Religious Literacy

The Foundation for Religious LiteracyThe mission of The Foundation for Religious Literacy is to is to foster inter-religious literacy and understanding among leaders in business, education, journalism, law, and politics. The Foundation supports educational outreach programs that assist leaders in realizing how religion affects the global society in which we live.

The Interfaith Observer (TIO)

The Interfaith ObserverThe Interfaith Observer (TIO) is a free monthly electronic journal created to explore interreligious relations and the interfaith movement as a whole. It provides historical perspectives, surveys current interfaith news, profiles major stakeholders, and otherwise provides maps and sign-posts for the different sectors of an emerging interfaith culture.

Parliament of the World's Religions

Parliament of the World's ReligionsThe Parliament of the World's Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.


PatheosPatheos is a site dedicated to “hosting the conversation on faith,” and being an online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs. A search for religious literacy takes you to blogs, articles, channels, books and additional resources.

The Pluralism Project

The Pluralism ProjectThe Pluralism Project is a two decade-long research project that engages students in studying the new religious diversity in the United States. They explore particularly the communities and religious traditions of Asia and the Middle East that have become woven into the religious fabric of the United States in the past twenty-five years.

The mission of The Pluralism Project is “to help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity through research, outreach, and the active dissemination of resources.”

Religions for Peace USA's Our Muslim Neighbor Initiative

Religions for Peace USA's Our Muslim Neighbor Initiative is a national effort to end Islamophobia. For the last three years they have been on the ground in Tennessee building communities of trust across racial and religious lines. In 2016, they will begin working with key partners up in Minnesota.

Over the years, they have developed strategies and resources to help people reach out and relate to their neighbors, to understand Islam and Muslims better, and to build communities of trust that break down stereotypes eating away at the goodwill that is so necessary for strong communities to thrive.

They are now making available three online lectures of some of the nation's leading voices on interfaith peacebuilding. Listen to the lectures and share widely!

The 'Splainer

The 'SplainerReligion can be complicated. The ‘Splainer isn't.

The 'Splainer, from Religion News Service, contains ongoing articles explaining a variety of religious traditions, holidays, and groups in the news.

Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School

Harvard Divinity SchoolThe Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School is dedicated to enhancing and promoting the public understanding of religion. They provide resources and special training opportunities for educators, journalists, public health workers, foreign service officers, interfaith/multifaith groups, students, and others wishing to better understand the complex roles that religions play in contemporary global, national, and local contexts.

“Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn't”

Religious Literacy book cover“Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn't” by religion scholar, Stephen Prothero, who delivered one of the keynote addresses at RCC’s national convention in April. See the book on for more information and the RCC news story about the plenary session for a summary of the speakers and the full length video.

Scarboro Missions Interfaith Department

Scarboro MissionsThe Scarboro Missions Interfaith Department in Toronto, Canada has committed itself to building a web site featuring curriculum and useful educational resources for interfaith work. These resources include online courses, toolkits, best practices, do-it-yourself workshops, activities, multifaith prayer services, guidelines, games, meditations, Powerpoint, etc.

To view or download these resources free of charge, check these links:

The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding

Tanenbaum CenterThe Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice in schools, workplaces, health care settings and areas of armed conflict.

Tanenbaum designs trainings and educational resources to change the way people treat one another and to celebrate the richness of our country’s diversity. In all our work, Tanenbaum is inspired not only by The Golden Rule – to treat others as you would like to be treated – but also by the Platinum Rule – to treat others as they want to be treated.

Tips when covering Islam and Muslims

Wajahat AliTop 30 do's and don'ts when covering Islam and Muslims — Tips from Wajahat Ali, co-host of Al Jazeera America’s The Stream to the 2015 RCC National Convention.

The first three are:

  • Do diversify your portfolio of token Muslims. Different Muslim super heroes have different superpowers.
  • Do not assume Arabs = Muslims and Muslims = Arab. Do not use them interchangeably.
  • Do seek out Muslims who are black and/or white and or other colors. They exist, not all are brown.

Read “Tips when covering Islam and Muslims”

News stories related to religious literacy

How colonialism still colors our ideas about who gets to teach religion

By Simran Jeet Singh

(RNS) — This weekend about 10,000 religion scholars from around the world gathered in San Diego at the annual conference for the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature.

I share this reflection in the spirit of our continued work to decolonize our field and to decolonize our world.

My favorite thing about the conference is catching up with friends in the field, professors, classmates and colleagues alike. I also enjoy meeting new friends and colleagues who share similar interests.

This year, however, I had a couple of interactions that left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. During the conference, I met two new people who questioned the appropriateness of my teaching Buddhism.

“Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” one of them asked.

Read “How colonialism still colors our ideas about who gets to teach religion”

Obama’s interfaith vision and the restlessness of our wretched refuse

By Rev. Bud Heckman

Presidential leadership strengthens healthy interfaith culture

Many people are very discouraged by the current climate of anti-Muslim and anti-“other” rhetoric that so fills the airwaves. However, the larger reality is that we are progressing as a nation towards a more positive appropriation of our rich religious diversity. It comes with fits and starts, albeit. But don’t be fooled to think otherwise. It is the way human social progress works.

Peter Manseau disconcertingly surmised in his January 12 Washington Post “Acts of Faith” opinion piece that: “the nation as a whole does not agree with Obama’s broadminded understanding of faith,” calling Obama’s effort to unite a religiously divided nation a failure.

Manseau, author of “One Nation, Many Gods,” is one of the foremost experts on the early and ever-present religious diversity in the United States.

Read more on The Interfaith Observer site...

Pastor’s ‘My Muslim Problem’ post draws many readers

The Rev. Omar Rikabi, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Heath, Texas, likes to write. A few weeks ago, he composed an essay, giving it the slyly provocative title “My Muslim Problem.”

Gentle in tone, the piece draws on his unusual family background in making a Wesleyan Christian case for seeing the humanity of all persons. Rikabi, 42, was born in Houston and grew up in Carrollton, Texas, one of two sons of an Iraqi-born Muslim father and American Christian mother.

Read more on the UMC site...

Hartford Seminary establishes first Shi’i chair in North America

Historic Post Will Encourage Dialogue Between Sunnis and Shi'as

HARTFORD, Conn. — The first academic chair in North America dedicated to Shi’i studies has been established at Hartford Seminary.

The Imam Ali Chair for the Study of Shi’i Islam and Dialogue Among Islamic Legal School provides a voice in the academy for Shi’i Islam and encourages dialogue among the diverse Islamic legal schools, including Shi’i and Sunni. Scholars, students and friends from around the world came to Hartford Seminary on January 22, 2016, to mark the chair’s inauguration.

Read more on the RNS site...

How American Muslims can overcome their public relations crisis

By Kelsey Dallas, Deseret News National Edition

American Muslims face many of the same public relations crises affecting other religious groups, and they must adapt and evolve their practices in response.

Doug Cannon, RCC member and former national president, is quoted in this story.

Read more on the Deseret News site...

US Muslims hope new billboards reclaim Islam's message

BOSTON — Dozens of billboards with Muslim themes are sprouting nationwide, proclaiming what organizers say is the true message of Islam and its prophet, Muhammad: peace and justice, not extremism and violent jihad.

The New York-based Islamic Circle of North America has erected 100 new billboards over the summer in cities including Boston; New York; Phoenix; San Diego; El Paso and Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Cleveland; Las Vegas; Milwaukee; North Bergen, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Denver; and Calgary, British Columbia.

They feature statements such as: "Muhammad believed in peace, social justice, women's rights" and "Muhammad always taught love, not hate; peace, not violence." Also listed are a website and a phone number people can call for more information.

Read more on MSN News site...

The Pope: Not just for Catholics anymore

(CNN) — An ordained reverend raised as a conservative Baptist admits to having a "man crush" on the guy. A rabbi long-steeped in the climate crisis credits him for mobilizing Jews to action. An imam from Syria thanks him for protecting his family and people.

Pope Francis may be the head honcho of the world's largest Christian church, but since he stepped into the papacy in March 2013, he's captured hearts across religious – and even nonreligious – lines.

Read more on CNN...

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