Religious Literacy

Globally, there are different definitions of religious literacy. Each one varies in detail and relates to the history and nuances of each context too. For example, my team at the Centre for Civic Religious Literacy has a specific Canadian approach to religious literacy in order to relate our work to the unique social, political, economic, and cultural history and current realities in the many regions of Canada.

However, most scholars agree on these four common foundations that are discussed in this YouTube video from Harvard University’s MOOC, depicted above.

Religious literacy is understood as the ability to:

  1. Know the basic tenets of the major world religions;
  2. Discern the complexities within and across religions, and that they are internally and externally diverse;
  3. Critically understand the role of religion in social, political, and economic contexts in history and today; and,
  4. Understand the cultural and spiritual meaning of religion and belief for people (including religious and non-religious beliefs) in order to foster personal reflection, inquiry, and development for citizenship.

On this basis, religious literacy is a form of citizenship education that develops the attitude, skills, and knowledge students need to recognize and respect the religious and non-religious other (see the work of Adam Dinham, Robert Jackson, Siebren Miedema, Diane Moore, Stephen Prothero, and others, for more info). A clear summary of religious literacy as a form of citizenship education is shared here.

To discuss this in detail for the Canadian context, and how it relates to professions, regions, and communities in Canada, please feel free to contact me directly at

Several valuable and informative online resources are available to help one become more religiously literate too.

To increase your own religious literacy, visit one of the resource pages to learn more: