We live in the land of biblical idiots

That’s the headline of an opinion piece in today’s Los Angeles Times by Stephen Prothero.

Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, is author of a new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know–And Doesn’t. Part of his book is based on a “religious literacy quiz” he has given to his undergraduate students for the last two years, the results of which show that the majority consider themselves to be religious Christians, but are profoundly ignorant of Christianity and the Bible.

He argues that there should be mandatory Bible courses in public high schools, presumably based on the curriculum from the Bible Literacy Project (which he mentions in his opinion piece), rather than the abysmally bad, biased, and unconstitutional curriculum which is actually being widely taught in U.S. public schools, from the National Council on Bible Curriculum.

I agree with Prothero’s idea in principle (though I don’t think it should be mandatory, and I think a world religions course is a better idea), but I’m not sure how well it would work in practice. Even with the Bible Literacy Project’s book as the basis for the curriculum, I think there’d likely be many teachers turning it into one like the NCBC’s–like David Paszkiewicz at Kearny High School. P.Z. Myers suggests that this problem be resolved by having a world religions course taught where each religion is only be taught by someone who is not an adherent of that religion.

There’s also the problem that those teachers who did teach objectively could find themselves involved in lawsuits from parents who don’t think anyone should teach their children that there are other worldviews–though presumably once a precedent was set that problem might fade.

(Also see Wonkette’s “Jesus-Loving Americans Totally Ignorant of Jesus, Religion.”)