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Religious Studies upcoming speaker featured in KU Today: Author, commentator will discuss religious literacy, nationalism

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

LAWRENCE – Stephen Prothero, a New York Times best-selling author and frequent network and cable TV commentator, will present a public lecture, “Religious Literacy in an Age of Religious Nationalism” at 7 p.m. Monday, April 30, in The Commons.

Prothero received his doctorate in religion from Harvard University and is the C. Allyn and Elizabeth V. Russell Professor of Religion in America at Boston University. He has been a commentator on many major news network and cable news programs, as well as a guest on “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Prothero also has written for the New York Times, USA Today, Slate, Salon, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He has worked as a senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and as the chief outside writer for CNN’s “Belief Blog.”

Prothero’s best-selling book, “Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t,” explores how the U.S. is one of the most religious nations on Earth, yet Americans know little about their own religions or others. For the upcoming Friends of the Department of Religious Studies (FODORS) lecture, he will examine how Americans’ ignorance of religion imperils civic life by making it impossible for us to understand our own country’s politics, which is increasingly dominated by religious nationalism, and the international scene, where religion remains a major influence.

Prothero advocates for the study of the Bible and the world’s religions in high schools and for religious studies in public universities.

“We are thrilled to welcome a colleague of Dr. Prothero’s stature to KU for this public lecture,” said Michael Zogry, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, noting that Prothero’s perspective would spark interest locally and regionally.

“This academic year, 2017-2018, is particularly exciting and significant for the Department of Religious Studies, as it marks the 50th anniversary of our building, Smith Hall,” Zogry said. “Today, we remain the only degree-granting program in religious studies at a public university in Kansas. We also are one of only six such departments in public universities in the region that offer graduate degrees in the academic study of religions. Our department works to strengthen religious literacy in Kansas and beyond by educating students, supporting faculty research and enhancing public outreach about the religions of the world. Given that the FODORS lecture is the one high-profile event that we host every year, I cannot think of a more relevant and appropriate speaker and topic for this special anniversary year.”

Prothero’s lecture is sponsored by the Friends of the Department of Religious Studies and co-sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and The Commons. The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required to attend. Please visit universe.com/prothero to register.

The Department of Religious Studies offers a research, analysis, and writing intensive program that seeks to develop in students a foundational knowledge of the world’s diversity of religious cultures and critical awareness of the ways in which religion shapes how we see and act toward ourselves, others, and the environment around us. Through the study of specific religious traditions and settings, students come away with a background that is invaluable to understanding and working with people of other cultures and functioning in future careers as informed global citizens.

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