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5 Reasons to Be Religiously Literate

Feb 18, 2014 | Updated Apr 20, 2014

There's a big move by millennials -- and Americans in general -- to move away from religion. Religion, it seems, is nothing but trouble. Religion seems responsible for war and violence, it continues to be the driving force behind the persecution of the LGBTQ community, and it hinders scientific progress while also manipulating our education system by insisting that we teach bogus science and a distorted version of history to our children (thanks a lot Texas). And while the religious have done and continue to do amazing things in the world, too often their acts of kindness and justice are overshadowed by the violence and ignorance perpetrated by various religious communities.

We can argue about the future of religion and whether or not it will exist in generations to come, but right now religion is alive and well in the world. It is an integral force in world politics and helps billions of people make decisions everyday. Religion may be declining in certain social groups in America and around the world, but this trend shouldn't be enough to let us assume that we can simply watch religion fade into the twilight. With that in mind, here are five reasons why it's important -- perhaps now more than ever -- to be religiously literate.

1. Problems Caused by Religion Wont' Go Away if We Stop Looking:
It's just like object permanence: the other side of the coin remains even if we can't see it and the trees in the forest will be there even if I'm not walking through them. The religious and religion will continue to be actors on the world stage no matter how much we ignore them or operate as though they are things of the past.

2. It's Important to Distinguish Between Martin Luther King Jr. and Mark Driscoll
Both men are cut from the Christian cloth but while MLK used his faith in Jesus to fight for quality and pushed history forward, Driscoll uses Jesus to spread hatred and stifle equality. According to MLK, he wouldn't have been able to keep up the fight for Civil Rights if it weren't for the power he drew from the Gospel. Similarly, Driscoll claims that everything he preaches comes straight from the Bible, which, sadly, is largely true. Religion can prove to be heroic or tragic, and it's necessary to make the distinction so that we don't lose the good while combatting the bad.

3. There's a lot of Good in Religion
Building on the last point, whether it's yoga or Zen meditation, wisdom taken from Ecclesiastes or the Qur'an, religion can offer individuals and communities wisdom that transcends time and context. There is a reason holy books have lasted thousands of years and provided insight to generation after generation. You may not believe in God, or someone's understanding of God, but you can certainly finds ways to better your mind and soul through traditions and beliefs that are not your own.

4. A Religious Argument is Rarely Won by Using Non-Religious Arguments
Anyone who has ever argued with a deeply religious individual knows how quickly it begins to feel like even though you're both speaking English, you may as well be speaking different languages. This is because you basically are. Religion possess it's own jargon, theology, and rationality that typically must be spoken to on those terms. Quoting Darwin or Dawkins won't get you anywhere, nor will Nietzsche or Foucault. If you want to have a productive conversation with someone who is religious and really engage the issues, then you have to know where they are coming from.

5. Religion Isn't Going Away
Although there has been a prodigious rise of "nones" and the religiously unaffiliated in the last fifteen years, nearly of 5/6ths of the planet maintains some sort of religious affiliation. In fact, according to the Atlas of Pentecostalism, roughly 35,000 are joining the Pentecostal Church everyday. What does this mean? It could mean that if trends continue at this pace, the whole planet will be Pentecostals before we know it. Or, it simply signals that despite our gigantic strides in science, technology, and medicine, there still remains a deep yearning within people for answers that only religion and spirituality seem able to provide.