Protestant reformers promoted literacy because of their contention that everyone needed to read the Bible, which they viewed as the essential authority on doctrinal matters.
Driven by this theological conviction, religious leaders urged the building of schools and the translation of the Bible into local languages – and Reformation leader Martin Luther set the example by translating the Bible into German.
As a result, they established schools to promote literacy wherever they went and translated the Bible into indigenous languages.
Harvard University economics professor Nathan Nunn, who contends that education was “the main reward used by missionaries to lure Africans into the Christian sphere,” says that in addition to establishing schools, “missionaries may have altered people’s views about the importance of education.” Woodberry and Nunn conclude, however, that Protestant and Catholic missionaries had differing results.
Some scholars, however, argue that the “Second Reformation” of the German Pietist movement in the 17th and 18th centuries was even more influential in promoting literacy. Gawthrop of Franklin College and the late Gerald Strauss of Indiana University note that in addition to stressing the need for personal Bible reading, the Pietists persuaded German authorities to mandate Bible reading as “the chief instrument of religious instruction in primary schools, [which was] a powerful impetus to the spread of mass literacy.” Historically, however, Christianity and science often have come into conflict with each other, as illustrated by the 17th century clash between astronomer Galileo Galilei and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the condemnation by prominent religious leaders of Charles Darwin’s 1859 theory of human evolution.
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The Scopes Monkey trial in 1925 further highlighted the rift between science and some branches of Christianity over the theory of evolution, a contentious relationship that endures even today.These events included foreign invasions, first by the Mongols, who destroyed the House of Wisdom in 1258, and then by Christians, who pushed Muslims out of Spain in 1492.Some scholars argue that the educational decline began earlier, in the 11th and 12th centuries, and was rooted in institutional changes.In the Middle East and Europe, Christian monks built libraries and, in the days before printing presses, preserved important earlier writings produced in Latin, Greek and Arabic.In many cases, these religious monasteries evolved into universities.Religion and education, two of humankind’s most ancient endeavors, have long had a close relationship.Historians and social scientists have written about this relationship and about how the two may influence each other.This chapter presents a broad overview of scholarly research into the ways religion can affect educational achievement.It is not an exhaustive survey of the academic literature, but instead a brief summary of some explanations proposed to account for attainment differences among religious groups.Some experts note that the first word of the Quran as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad is “Iqra! Early Muslims made innovative intellectual contributions in such fields as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine and poetry.They established schools, often at mosques, known as Islamic rulers built libraries and educational complexes, such as Baghdad’s House of Wisdom and Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, to nurture advanced scholarship.