Both the public inquiry into religion and the university classes devoted to an introduction to World Religions, are by now battered and obstructed by our traditionally apologetic and timid approach.
For both the believer or non-believer, for the nominally religious or the atheist, our reticent approach to religious studies – at the introductory level – has made the pursuit of knowledge of religion simply unattractive.
It is perhaps predictable that those of us who have investigated the religions of the world complain that the majority of books on religion either follow openly the tendency of apology and coyness or implicitly surrender to it.
In our university classes, our reticence is most often combined with a demonstrative enthusiasm for the wisdom and benefit that we anticipate of our religions. This has always appealed to young men and women who come to their studies with the hope that all religion is ultimately meant to be moral, wise and a source of ethical teaching.
What is longed for, and is missing, is the license and encouragement to pursue knowledge and religious literacy without welcoming or rejecting religion.