Religious Literacy Project

The Religious Literacy Project, headed by Diane L. Moore, is an initiative that enables Harvard Divinity School to continue its nearly four decades of leadership in religious studies and education in the United States.

As a successor to the Program in Religious Studies and Education (a ground-breaking teacher-education program within HDS, founded in 1972), the Religious Literacy Project (RLP) will be a virtual resource and research center housed at the Center for the Study of World Religions. Its primary aim is to create and maintain resources designed primarily for public-school teachers and their students that will promote a better understanding of the religious dimensions of multiculturalism in civic life.

The project is based on three premises:

  1. There exists a widespread illiteracy about religion that spans the globe;
  2. One of the most troubling and urgent consequences of this illiteracy is that it often fuels prejudice and antagonism, thereby hindering efforts aimed at promoting respect for pluralism, peaceful coexistence, and cooperative endeavors in local, national, and global arenas; and
  3. It is possible to diminish religious illiteracy by teaching about religion from a nonsectarian perspective in primary and secondary schools utilizing a cultural studies methodology.   

The initial resources are being created to supplement and enhance commonly used textbooks that introduce religion at the middle and secondary levels in world history and world civilizations courses, with a special focus on resources that will help educators understand and teach about contemporary issues related to religion in world affairs.

Other resources are being developed to supplement and enhance English and world literature courses, highlighting commonly taught texts with significant religious themes or dimensions. A third set of resources focuses on teaching sacred texts, including, but not limited to, the Bible. Other resources include case studies of significant historical events with an emphasis on the relevant explicit and implicit religious influences.

The Religious Literacy Project functions in tandem with the Religious Studies and Education Certificate program that is jointly sponsored by Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Extension School. This program is aimed at in-service teachers but is open to others interested in religious studies and education from a nonsectarian perspective.

The certificate is a graduate-level, five-course sequence that provides training in the content and skills required to teach about religion in constitutionally sound and educationally innovative ways in K-12 classrooms and other educational settings aimed at promoting the public understanding of religion. The certificate can be earned by taking courses through the Extension School or through courses at Harvard Divinity School, for those enrolled in a degree program there. For those pursuing the certificate through the Extension School, it is available for distance learners as well as those who reside in the greater Boston area.

Development of the Religious Literacy Project website is ongoing, and the site will be launched in a series of stages beginning in the fall of 2014. Diane L. Moore directs the project, which is made possible, in part, through a generous donation from Bruce McEver, MTS '11.