In the first two sections of this book, Prothero, the chair of Boston University's Department of Religion, exposes and expounds upon the sometimes surprising underlying causes of the widespread lack of basic religious knowledge and understanding in the United States today. He also discusses the far-reaching ramifications of this ignorance, giving particular attention to its impact in the political arena. He avers, "I write here not as a believer (or unbeliever) but as a citizen. My purpose is not to foster faith or to denigrate it...My goal is to help citizens participate fully in social, political, and economic life in a nation and a world in which religion counts." The third section proposes ways to re-introduce religious education into the nation's school systems, taking care to clarify the constitutionality of such an endeavor. The final chapter is "A Dictionary of Religious Literacy," focusing on "information US citizens need to make sense of their country and the world - the key stories, doctrines, practices, symbols, scriptures, people, places, phrases, groups, and holidays of the world's major religions."
Although Prothero's intent is to foster religious literacy as it applies to the civic sector, this book can also serve as a valuable resource for Christian apologists, who must have some understanding of the belief systems of other religions in order to effectively and respectfully present the gospel.