Professor Hjelm Titus and working group (RELIACT)

296800 €

Religious Literacy in Action: An experimental inquiry into the impact of religious education courses in Finnish upper secondary schools

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Kolmivuotinen

Interest in religious literacy has grown exponentially in recent years. Increasing cultural and religious diversity has prompted claims that people in secularised societies suffer from ‘religious illiteracy’, which leads to social tension, as people are incapable of encountering religious difference. Offered as a solution, religious literacy is defined as the ability to understand the history, central beliefs, and practices of different religions and their embedment in social, cultural and political contexts. Importantly, in addition to cognitive internalisation of information, religious literacy aims at attitudinal and emotional effects to enable respectful relationships in a religiously plural context. The problem with the literature on religious literacy so far, however, is that it assumes rather than demonstrates these effects. What we do not know is the key question: Does religious literacy work? The Religious Literacy in Action project seeks to fill this gap in knowledge by testing the causal efficacy of upper secondary religious education courses in two Finnish regions. Using an experimental survey design with a representative sample, the participants are tested for cognitive and attitudinal factors before and after the intervention (the first year RE course) and compared to a control group taking an Ethics class. The results are then controlled using basic background factors and the level of secularisation in the two regions. This way the project will be able to test the main claims of the literature, namely, that knowing more about religion and religions (the cognitive side of religious literacy) increases acceptance of religious diversity (the attitudinal side of religious literacy), and that secularisation leads to religious illiteracy and, consequently, lesser understanding and acceptance of religious diversity.