Incidents of religiously motivated violence are on the rise around the world, and faith issues like religious freedom legislation continue to grab headlines in the U.S. each week. It's natural to react to these trends by wanting to learn more about the world's faiths, according to scholars at Harvard Divinity School's Religious Literacy Project.
Here are five ways to become more religiously literate (in some cases, without even getting off your couch):
1. Read widely
Opportunities to read about other faith communities are everywhere in the digital age. Most religious groups have news outlets dedicated to covering faith-specific issues, like Crux, National Catholic Reporter or America Magazine for U.S. Catholics or Patheos Muslim for members of the Islamic community.
Additionally, many faith leaders maintain Twitter or other social media accounts, sharing about key events in their denomination and linking to the articles that they find most meaningful.
People who hope to become more religiously literate can also take a more old-fashioned route, exploring the religion section at the library or local bookstore. Books that introduce readers to a religion and offer a general overview, like the type a professor might use in a college seminar, are likely the best place to start.
2. Visit houses of worship
President Obama made the national news when he visited a Baltimore mosque on Feb. 3, but worshipping with a new faith community is rarely that dramatic.
Most religious groups post information about their worship services online, including time, location and even a summary of what to expect in terms of songs and rituals like communion. Potential guests should pay special attention to dress code suggestions, which can vary widely from place to place.
3. Enroll in an online course
A recent example is Harvard Divinity School's Religious Literacy Project is launching an online course about religious literacy on March 1, boosting people's knowledge of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism with around three hours of instruction each week.
Participants who pay $50 per segment will receive a certificate of achievement at the end of the six-month program, but people can also audit the course for free.
4. Attend community lectures
Faith leaders and religion scholars often travel for book tours or to present at conferences. People interested in learning more about a religious perspective different than their own can check community event lists or sign up for notifications from local event centers to stay informed about who will be speaking in their area.
5. Test your knowledge
Many news outlets, including Deseret News National and The New York Times, have published religious literacy quizzes. They allow readers to test their knowledge and also serve as a source of new information.
Pew Research Center also created a quiz to accompany its 2010 survey on religious knowledge. It asks participants about key religious terms and events, and lets them compare their scores to other U.S. adults.
Email: [email protected], Twitter: @kelsey_dallas