Narrative, postmodernity and the problem of "religious illiteracy"

Harrison, V.S. (2008) Narrative, postmodernity and the problem of "religious illiteracy". New Blackfriars, 89(1023), pp. 591-605.



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It is popular nowadays to claim not only that narrative is the most effective way to communicate religious knowledge but also that narrative provides the framework within which religious lifestyles and practices are meaningful. However, many today lack familiarity with the narratives of traditional religions. In other words, they suffer from ‘religious illiteracy’. This article considers the problem of how religion can become meaningful to such people. The view that religion can be divested of its outdated cultural accoutrements and presented in a form that resonates with postmodern secular culture is considered and found to be problematic. If acquiring a religion is like acquiring a culture, or a language, it seems unlikely that a deeper appreciation of a religious tradition will be facilitated by divesting it of its traditional cultural expressions. Moreover, the view that religious lifestyles should be emphasised rather than religious belief seems to be more a symptom of the problem of ‘religious illiteracy’ than a solution to it. The article concludes that both of these responses fail to provide a solution to the problem and that an alternative strategy is urgently required.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at
Keywords:narrative, postmodernity, religious belief, apologetics, religious education
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Harrison, Dr Victoria
Authors: Harrison, V.S.
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Journal Name:New Blackfriars
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2008 Blackwell Publishing
First Published:First published in New Blackfriars 89(1023):591-605
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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