This is not an exhaustive list of qualifying activities for the Westar Institute Advocate for Public Religious Literacy (APRL) award. Rather, we hope these ideas will inspire you to think of ways you can—and perhaps already do—improve religious literacy in your community.
What does religious literacy look like in practice? While always encouraging and demonstrating respect for the complex nature of religious and spiritual experience, you can
Share accurate information based on sound logic, verifiable experience, and reputable sources
Foster informed discussion, including in cross-cultural, interfaith and ecumenical settings
Introduce new questions or concerns that are otherwise not widely known or acknowledged
Challenge popular but demonstrably inaccurate claims
Train others in skills needed to discuss controversial issues related to religion in a sensitive and productive fashion
What are some ways you can carry out these activities?
Establish safe spaces to express doubts and raise questions
Survey what your community knows (or doesn't) about a particular religion or religiously charged issue and distribute the results
Create a public display for your local school or library
Publish and share an article, book, website, blog, film, podcast, or other media
Plan an event for a school, library, religious or other community group, national platform, television or radio program
Host a study group or book club
Volunteer with or start a nonprofit
Introduce a community charter or resolution with actionable goals
Invite religious studies professors to talk with community groups about specific questions or concerns
Inspire people to wonder more about deep questions, such as the meaning of life, how and why we exist, and how to live a good life
Are you considering nominating yourself or someone you know for the Westar Institute Advocate for Public Religious Literacy award? If so, here are some additional notes to help you with the nomination process.
Social Issues. Social issues often excite deep emotions. For this reason, qualifying activities in this area should, in a non-biased and informative way, address the religious dimensions of social issues such as First Amendments rights, abortion and birth control, scientific research, end-of-life decision-making, gay marriage, war, animal rights, environmental issues and ecology, the roles and rights of women, etc.
History and Philosophy of Religion. While Westar professional and associate members have often prioritized this aspect of religious literacy, the reason may not be as immediately obvious as it is for social issues. At minimum, better public understanding of the history and philosophy of religion tends to open up rather than close off meaningful conversations about what it means to be religious, to belong to a particular religion, and to answer the deeper questions of life. On that basis, activities committed to this aspect of religious literacy also qualify for the award.
Literacy within Particular Religious, Spiritual, and Humanistic Communities. Sometimes an event dedicated to religious literacy is not intended for the general public but for particular communities such as churches and other religious, spiritual, and humanistic groups. Literacy activities put on by and for these communities do qualify for the award as long as they are carried out in a spirit of openness and dialogue.