The Four Premises of Religious Literacy

Professor Diane L. Moore, advisor to the Foundation for Religious Literacy, and director of the Harvard Religious Literacy Project articulate four basic assertions about religions and the study of religion. These help us counter problematic misperceptions about the academic study of religions while creating a useful method for inquiry.

▸ First, there is a difference between the devotional study of religion to encourage religious commitment and the nonsectarian study that seeks to understand religion without promoting or discouraging adherence to it. This premise affirms the credibility of particular religious assertions without equating them with absolute truths about the traditions themselves.

▸ Second, religions are internally diverse and not uniform as is commonly represented. Scholars recognize that religious communities are living entities that function in different social/political contexts.

▸ Third, religions evolve and change through time and are not static or fixed. Religious expressions and beliefs must be studied in social and historical contexts as they are constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by adherents.

▸ Fourth, religious influences are embedded in cultures and not separable from other forms of human expression.

Reference: Diane L. Morre, “Four Principles.” Harvard Religious Literacy Project.