What would be a theological argument for God’s sense of humor? I think it is threefold. First, God gave imperfect Man free will (this is Arminian and not Calvinist thought). That alone should be evidence enough. Second, God entrusted his Word to imperfect Man with free will to be written down and declared by that imperfect Man with free will to be God’s inerrant Word (for Fundamentalists) and divinely inspired (for Evangelicals). Third, when the imperfect Man with free will reaches the age of 40 years, he or she can be both nearsighted and farsighted at the same time. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
Having established God’s sense of humor, we can extrapolate a line of thought to consider God’s sense of irony. It turns out that this divine sense of irony is manifest in Stephen Prothero’s new book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t. Prothero is chairman of the Religion Department at Boston University and the good professor spends a good deal of time putting a fine point on the supposition that, “The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but is also a nation of shocking religious illiteracy.” His argument for the existence of this religious illiteracy is provocative and the results of such are grave.
Prothero’s approach to his discussion is fresh because he has no faith dog in this hunt. His degree is not in Divinity but Religious Studies. He is interested in the mechanics of religion, not its promise. Prothero correctly puts forth that ignorance of the history and doctrine of any religion is dangerous because of the highly charged environment in which religion exists – a setting in which there is a dangerously small window for both tolerance and misunderstanding. Plainly said, it is too easy to misinterpret doctrine, one’s own or others' to justify behavior. The author points out that this ubiquitous religious ignorance is not confined simply to the religion a given group practices, but also one group’s understanding and attitude toward other groups.
This prompts Prothero to put forth a civic education in religion be taught in school. He argues that teaching about religion is both constitutional and called for and that a common level of religious literacy will go a long way in promoting greater understanding and tolerance. Prothero lays out the reasons that lead to our religious ignorance and how we can address such ignorance and then supplies a brief dictionary of religious concepts that all should know in order to properly and intelligently discuss religion and its ramifications. Religious Literacy is a must read for anyone wanting to have any intelligent religious discourse.