Why Conservatives Win (Elections) by Losing (Culture Wars)

"Why Liberals Win Culture Wars and Conservatives Win Elections," Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2016. With great color cartoon by David Gothard.

A True Believer, Protestant Mainliner, Prodigal Catholic, and a Secular Jew Walk into an Election . . .

"Vying for the Faithful in Iowa," USA Today, January 31, 2016. A new survey shows the state equally divided between white evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, and "nones." Looks like one candidate for each. Plus a wild card.

Why Liberals Win What Conservatives Start

"Why Conservatives Start Culture Wars and Liberals Win Them," Washington Post, January 29, 2016. No matter how nasty the culture wars get, the arc of American history tends to bend toward inclusivism.

The Culture Wars are NOT History

“They'll Always Lose the Culture Wars: The Right Loves Fighting Lost Causes--But Liberals Keep Winning," Salon, January 31, 2016. Extensive excerpt from the book.


Allah = Jesus = 1?

“Are Allah and Jesus the Same God?" Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2016. 

Publisher’s Weekly Pro-file

Staks Rosch, “Author Stephen Prothero Examines the Culture Wars, Past and Present,” December 9, 2015: “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars arrives amid a stormy struggle between a dozen Republicans and three Democrats who are vying for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Mickey Maudlin, senior v-p and executive editor at HarperOne who edited Prothero’s book, told PW, ‘Our hope is that his book will dampen the hostile rhetoric of the current cultural debates. It is comforting to learn that we have gone through these fights before and came out on the right side.’”

Trump = Us

“Trump’s Religious Bigotry is as American as Apple Pie,” USA Today, December 8, 2015

The Muslim Slur

“A Secret Muslim President? Been There. Done That,” USA Today, September 22, 2015

Gay Marriage v. Religious Liberty

“India Needs to Balance Gay, Religious Rights,” USA Today, March 30, 2015

School Holy Days? “None of the Above”

“When Every Day Is a Religious Holiday,” Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2015

Obama’s Humility Offensive

“Folly of Good vs. Bad Religions,” USA Today, February 9, 2015

Education Would Help

“Islam Isn’t about Good vs. Bad,” USA Today, October 13, 2014


As a followup to my Twitter mini-course on the great religions in 140 characters, here's a 2d semester effort to stamp out religious illiteracy 140 characters at a time: Religion 140+-: pros/cons of the 8 rival religions that run the world. Started with Confucianism . . .

What's a Virtual Book Tour?

I'm about to find out! Accompanying the launch of "God is Not One" (on 4/20/10) is a virtual book tour through the religio-blogosphere. Touring with lovers of Gaia and Jesus and the Buddha and other lovers of truth and confusion. Stops include: April 14th: Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom April 15th: Pagan Godspell April 20th: Random Thoughts of a Lutheran Geek April 21st: change therapy April 26th: Diamonds in the Sky With Lucy April 28th: Amy Reads April 29th: Happy Lotus May 3rd: Knowing the Difference May 4th: A Church for Starving Artists May 5th: Anchors and Masts May 11th: Don’t Eat Alone May 13th: SMS Book Reviews May 23rd: Journey With Jesus

Books Have Trailers Too?

Apparently so. Here's mine, courtesy of the folks at HarperOne, Shave Media, and YouTube, for "God is Not One."

A Jesus-Loving "Satanist"

Interview with R. Scott Poole on his new history of Satan. He says some nice things here about my American Jesus (October 30, 2009).

Christian Century: Navigating for News on Old and New Media

Short "Christian Century" piece on where I get my news, why I joined Twitter, and why, when it comes to newspapers, I'm still "old school" (September 22, 2009).

Chronicle of Higher Education

Thanks, Erica! Erica Hendry giving my Tweeter micro-course on the world's religions (@sprothero) a shout out from her "Wired Campus" blog at the Chronicle (June 12, 2009).

Tweet Tweet Tweet

I give up. As of June 2009 I’m on Twitter. Starting w/ Great Religions 140 minicourse. Wiping out religious illiteracy 140 characters at a time. Tweeting Islam first . . .Islam140: Allah told Gabriel told the prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Just 1 God, pray to Him 5x day, give alms, fast, hajj to Mecca. Submit! Ahh!

Wall Street Journal: Muhammad, Islam, and Somali PIracy

April 24, 2009: I don't recommend writing this sort of thing if you want peace and quiet in your inbox . . .

Obama Essay Makes "Best Religion Writing of 2008" List

It's happy-making to be named alongside Chris Lehmann of "Slate," Lawrence Wright of "The New Yorker," and Ira Glass of NPR's "This American Life" to Jeff Sharlet's list of the best religion stories of 2008 at "The Revealer"

History News Network Names RL its Book of the Month

One of HNN's missions is "bringing to the attention of readers important new titles." Fun to know that its editors consider the historical argument in Religious Literacy important.

Katie Couric on High School World Religions Courses

Good story by the CBS Evening News on a mandatory high school world religions course in Modesto, CA.

Religious Literacy in Paperback

The new and improved paperback version of "Religious Literacy" is out and about!

"Best Books of 2007" at Washington Post

The editors at the Washington Post just named "Religious Literacy" one of their best books of 2007--one of only two in the Religion category. In her review in the Post, the noted atheist Susan Jacoby called the book "provocative and timely."

"Customers' Favorite" at Amazon

"Religious Literacy" has been listed as one of the "Best Books of 2007" in the "Customers' Favorites" category at Amazon.com. The book came in 88th, a tad behind J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which was of course number one. But I'll take it.

Publishers' Weekly "Best Books of the Year"

The end-of-the-year lists are now coming in, and "Religious Literacy" made it onto the Religion list at PW. Fun to be in the company of such books as A.J. Jacobs' "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible."

"Religious Literacy" Wins Quill Award

More good news for "Religious Literacy," which won the Quill Book Award in the Religion/Spirituality category. Other winners include Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (General Fiction) and Al Gore's "The Assault on Reason" (History/Current Events/Politics). The Quill Awards ceremony takes place on October 22 in New York City and will be will be televised on NBC affiliates on October 27. Al Roker of the Today Show will host the event, which will feature guest appearances by Stephen Colbert, Tom Brokaw, and Tina Brown. If I can get around the fact that I don't have a black tie, I hope to be there to pick up the award.

Booklist: "Top Ten Religion Books" 2007

Alongside books by Pope Benedict VI, Christopher Hitchens, and Gary Wills, "Religious Literacy" was named one of the top ten religion books of 2007 by "Booklist" magazine.

"True or False: The Major Religions are Essentially Alike"

False, I argue in this contribution to Newsweek's cover story (July 2-9, 2007) on "Global Literacy." "Coming at the problem of religion from the angle of difference rather than similarity is scary," I write. "But the world is what it is. And both tolerance and respect are empty virtues until we actually understand whatever it is we are supposed to be tolerating or respecting."

"Editor's Choice" at New York Times

"Religious Literacy" was named an "editor's choice" in the New York Times Book Review (June 17, 2007).

"Religious Literacy" Nominated for 2007 Quill Book Award

The Quills is a book award chosen by readers, booksellers, and librarians. In the 2007 competition, "Religious Literacy" was nominated in the religion category. Nominees in other categories include Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (general fiction), Walter Isaacson's "Einstein" (biography/memoir), and Aayan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" (history/current events/politics).

On Publishers Weekly Bestseller List April and June

"Religious Literacy" made Publishers Weekly's religion bestseller list for April and again for June. Other books on the June list include Pope Benedict's "Jesus of Nazareth" and Deepak Chopra's "Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment."

Tops Catholic Bestseller List April to July 2007

Is the Pope Catholic? "Religious Literacy" named the #1 bestseller by the Catholic Book Publishers Association for April, May, June, and July 2007.

BookTV on CSpan2

Wide-ranging conversation with Alan Jones of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco about "Religious History," the new atheism, gay rights in the Episcopal Church, and other topics.

New York Times "Call for Religious Literacy"

"At Commencement, a Call for Religious Literacy," by Peter Steinfels in his "Beliefs" column in the "New York Times" (May 12, 2007). "In today's world it is irresponsible to use the word 'educated' to describe high school or college graduates who are ignorant of the ancient stories that continue to motivate the beliefs and behaviors of the overwhelming majority of the world's population."

NYT Bestseller Three Weeks Running

Thanks to Oprah and Tavis, and to lots of inquiring readers, it's now three straight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (hardcover non-fiction) for Religious Literacy, this time for the week ending April 7, 2007.


Yes, the Oprah Winfrey Show. In this segment on Bible courses in public schools I note that you can't understand even the titles of many of her book club selections ("East of Eden," "Rapture of Canaan," "Song of Solomon") without some basic biblical literacy. Friday, April 6.

Tavis Smiley Show

Wide-ranging discussion of "Religious Literacy" with Tavis Smiley on his late-night PBS show on April 6, 2007. Tavis is a great interviewer with a knack for getting right to the heart of the matter. Click through for a video clip and a transcript.

"Religious Literacy" a New York Times Bestseller

"Religious Literacy" debuts on the New York Times bestseller list for the two weeks ending March 24 and March 31! Other lists that have recognized the book include the Washington Post bestseller list (week ending March 18), the Wall Street Journal bestseller list (week ending March 24), the USA Today bestseller list (week ending March 25), and the American Booksellers Association Booksense extended bestseller list (week ending April 1).

Mallard Fillmore On Religion and Education

You know your book is striking a chord when . . .

Time Magazine Cover Story on "Religious Literacy"

"The Case for Teaching the Bible": April 2, 2007 "Time Magazine" cover story by religion writer David Van Biema explaining "Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public Schools (But Very, Very Carefully)." Van Biema is a great reporter, and this piece is well researched, well written, and timely. "Religious Literacy," writes Van Biema, "presents a compelling argument for Bible-literacy courses." He then devotes the rest of the article to exploring that argument.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Tuesday, March 20. Comedy Central. Me. Jon Stewart. No joke. Jon explains the difference between Sunnis and Shiites and calls Religious Literacy "a wonderful book. . . very interesting."

Test Your Religion IQ

If you want to take my Religious Literacy Quiz, here's a reprint of it from the Deseret News of Salt Lake City. Good luck!

"We Live in a Land of Biblical Idiots" (LA Times)

Op-ed by me calling for academic courses about the Bible in US public schools (March 14, 2007). BTW, I did NOT write the headline!

"Religion in Schools" Debate with Barry Lynn ("On Faith")

Hosted by the Washington Post/Newsweek web site "On Faith," this debate has me taking on Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I think I win, but you be the judge (March 14, 2007).

"Worshiping in Ignorance" (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Op-ed by me calling for required religious studies courses in US colleges (March 16, 2007).

"Americans Get an 'F' in Religion" (USA Today)

Feature by Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today on Americans' religious ignorance, including portions of my "pop quiz" and a list of suggested readings (March 8, 2007).

Take My Religious Literacy Quiz (Newsweek)

Do you know the Bible? The Buddha? Prove it by taking my religious literacy quiz, featured in Newsweek online (March 2, 2007).

"Religious Literacy" Now Available

My latest book was published by HarperSanFrancisco on March 13, 2007. The puff piece in their catalog is calling it "the first essential religion primer and an argument for why religion must become the 'Fourth R' in American education." Sounds good to me, though I think of it more as an exploration of this simple question: How is it that the United States is one of the most religious places on earth but most Americans don't know anything about their own religions, much less the religions of others? I try to answer this question historically, looking back to earlier times when learning to read and learning about religion went hand in hand. But I also offer practical solutions to the problem of religious illiteracy today, including mandatory Bible and world religion courses in public high schools. Throughout I interpret religious illiteracy as a civic problem. How can citizens understand the war in Iraq without knowing something about Islam? Or debates about gay marriage, stem-cell research, and capital punishment without knowing something about the Bible? You may or may not like the fact that religion is rampaging into the public square, but as a matter of fact it is, so it makes sense to know something about it.

"On Faith" Blog (Washington Post/Newsweek)

I have just agreed to serve as one of the panelists (aka bloggers) for a new Washington Post/Newsweek online venture called "On Faith." Each week the moderators of this conversation (Newsweek's Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn of the Post) pose a question, and then the panelists go at it. This diverse group includes atheists and believers, scholars and preachers, and imams and rabbis--among them Madeleine Albright, Desmond Tutu, Rick Warren, and Elie Wiesel(December 2006).

An Earful of Religious Literacy (CD)

After four grueling days in the studio, I finished an audio version of Religious Literacy for HarperAudio on January 10. So if you have a long commute or prefer listening to reading, check out this version.

"A Nation of Religions" Now in Print

An edited volume of mine, "A Nation of Religions: The Politics of Pluralism in Multireligious America," has just been published by the University of North Carolina Press. This book focuses on how Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs are making their way in the U.S. public square, and how their contributions are changing both American religion and American politics. It includes essays by some wonderful contributors, including Robert Thurman of Columbia and James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia.