With Free Online Series Harvard to Combat Religious Illiteracy


Harvard’s leading scholars in the world’s major religions – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam – are launching a free online religious literacy series titled World Religions Through Their Scripture. They’re intention: to “increase religious understanding, open up crucial dialogues and change the world.”

“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.”

Project director Diane Moore told The Express Tribune:

“The premise is that lack of understanding about religion — or in the term I use, religious illiteracy — is both widespread and dangerous. It fuels bigotry and prejudice and hinders cooperative endeavors in local and global arenas. Though a better understanding of religion is not itself going to cure the world’s ills, it can certainly help create bridges and better understanding of our fellow humans. An approach like this isn’t radical within the study of religion. But unfortunately, very few citizens of the world have been exposed to the study of religion as part of their schooling or intellectual life. When students examine sacred texts such as the Bible and Quran, they’ll be noting how they can be differently interpreted.”

The series includes six courses, each running for four weeks. Moore is teaching the first course in the series – Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures – which begins on March 1. The next five will dive into Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.


According to The Huffington Post, the courses will offer participants an understanding of the history and interpretations of religious texts and why some were designated as sacred. Students will also dive into contemporary and historical interpretations of the texts to get a feel for just how internally diverse the traditions are.

Although the series is free for students who audit the courses, those who want to earn a certificate of achievement, Harvard’s online learning platform edX offers a non-audit track for $50.

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