Religious Literacy Project

Mission

The Religious Literacy Project at Harvard Divinity School focuses on enhancing public understanding of religion. We provide resources and special training to educators, journalists, public health workers, foreign-service officers, interfaith/multifaith groups, students, and others dedicated to understanding the complex roles that religions play in contemporary global, national, and local contexts.

The need

Religions have functioned throughout human history to inspire and justify the full range of agency, from the heinous to the heroic. In the twenty-first century, religion’s influence remains potent, in spite of modern predictions that religion would steadily decline with the rise of secular democracies and advances in science.

Understanding these complex religious influences is a critical dimension of understanding modern human affairs. In spite of this awareness, there remains a widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe. There are many consequences of this illiteracy, but the most urgent is that it fuels conflict and antagonisms and hinders cooperative endeavors in all arenas of human experience.

The RLP at HDS

HDS is uniquely situated to enhance the public understanding of religion. Our longstanding expertise in all of the world’s religious traditions is coupled with more than 40 years of focus on education about religion through our teacher education program.

The Religious Literacy Project builds upon both of these legacies by focusing on how to understand the roles that religions play in human experience across political, economic, and cultural spheres, with special attention to contemporary issues of conflict and peace.  

Focus

The RLP concentrates on three areas:

Education: Through workshops, webinars, executive education, courses, conferences, and the Religious Studies and Education Certificate, the RLP provides several venues for individuals and groups within and outside of Harvard to explore how religion functions in contemporary human affairs.

Resources: The RLP develops open-access resources to enhance the public understanding of religion. Through country profiles, religion profiles, commentaries by Harvard faculty and affiliates on contemporary issues, and resources specifically designed for K-12 educators, the Religious Literacy Project represents how religions are 1) internally diverse 2) how they evolve and change, and 3) how religious ideologies are embedded in all aspects of human experience.

Research: Even though religion is embedded in K-12 humanities and social science curriculum standards—as well as in the Common Core Standards adopted in more than 44 states—there is no comprehensive information about how religion is taught in schools. Similarly, there is no comprehensive information about how teachers are trained for the special challenges and opportunities related to teaching about religion in light of First Amendment guidelines in a multireligious society.

To address these challenges, the RLP has embarked upon a substantial research initiative to collect data, map, and analyze how religion is taught in American K-12 schools. A parallel project will collect data, map, and analyze how teacher education programs address content related to religion and religious diversity within schools and communities.

The RLP site will be launched in the fall of 2014 with a collection of helpful information and tools. In the meantime, please email Diane L. Moore, director of the Religious Literacy Project and senior lecturer on religious studies and education at Harvard Divinity School.