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Dr. Steven Clark Cunningham was born in Denver, Colorado. After graduating from Creighton University with majors in chemistry and Spanish, he attended medical school at George Washington University, finished residency in general surgery at the University of Maryland, and completed a fellowship in surgery of the liver and pancreas at Johns Hopkins University. A list of Dr Cunningham’s medical writings is found here. In addition to his medical training, he is currently a graduate student and at the Harvard Extension School, with a focus on religious studies. He also has served there as a teaching assistant for HarvardX’s MOOC (massive open online course) “Religion, Conflict and Peace.”


Featured Publications

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For middle- and high-school readers and their parents and teachers
About religious literacy

Charitable proceeds: Author proceeds will be donated to organizations supporting children and religious literacy.

It’s Considerate To Be Literate about Religion
Poetry and Prose about Religion, Conflict, and Peace in Our World

Written by Steven Cunningham
Illustrations by Susan Detwiler

Available now for preorder, in hardcover and paperback (release date: September 20, 2022). Get 50% OFF with preorder (code: 50%OFFpreorder)!!!

It’s Considerate To Be Literate about Religion is a book of poems and prose for young readers, their parents, and their teachers. Along with Cunningham’s award-winning books Dinosaur Name Poems and Your Body Sick and Well: How Do You Know? this new book shares the motif of using the names of things (nomenclature) to introduce topics that otherwise may be unfamiliar, such as the difference between the religious and the secular, or between a devotional approach to practicing a religion and an academic approach to studying religion, or among all the various ways one can be religiously literate and religiously illiterate.

The lyrical nature of the poems and the very engaging pencil illustrations by Susan Detwiler give each topic the traction needed to get youth (and adults) reading right into the poems and on through the expansive “Learn More!” sections that follow each poem.

In addition, a lively preface explains the joy of creating words, such as “poemenclature”; a helpful introduction welcomes readers to the concept of religious literacy; a fulsome glossary defines terms used in the book; and a section of suggested further reading offers a wide variety of sources for those who want to learn more.

Note: “The Poemenclature Series” is not indicative of a series proper (in ISSN terms) but rather a nod to the author’s invention of the term “poemenclature” to indicate his tradition of writing poems that name and classify, as he did with his first two books.



Learn how to better understand the rich and complex ways that religions function in historic and contemporary contexts.


Explore the diverse and complex roles that religions play in both promoting and mitigating violence.


Religious Literacy

Some Ways to be Religiously Illiterate*

  1. Think that religion is simply the rites, rituals, and ceremonies that are commonly performed as part of a given religion…

          (…religion is much more complex than this).

  1. Think that a religion is defined by the scripture of that particular religion…

          (…scripture is important to many religions, but religions are more than scripture and are not limited to their scripture).

  1. Think that religions are monolithic and unchanging over time…

          (…religions are actually very dynamic, changing over time, and from place to place, and from person to person).

  1. Think of religions as things that can do something, in other words, as actors with agency…

          (…religions do not do things, anything; rather, people who interpret religions different ways do different things).

  1. See the actions of individuals or communities through the lens of their religion

          (…people are more than their religions, and the reasons people do things are rarely just religious alone).

  1. Hold an entire religious community responsible for the actions of an individual in that religious community…

          (…people who commit violent acts are to be blamed for those violent acts, not the many other people who happen to interpret the same religion).

How to be Religiously Literate*

  1. Learn to tell the difference between devotional expression of religion and the study of religion.
  2. Recognize that religions are internally diverse, not uniform, or monolithic, and there are many interpretations of each religion.
  3. Understand that religions and their narratives evolve and change with the times.
  4. See religion as embedded in and influencing all dimensions of culture, as opposed to being separate.
  5. Understand religion as being situated and interpreted in a particular way, depending on one’s context.

*Credit Harvard Divinity School’s Religious Literacy Project

Religion Reading List

Note: Please do not jump to conclusions about me (or anyone) based on a list of books. Just because I read it does not mean I like, support, endorse, or recommend it, and many books I like, support, endorse, and recommend may not be present in this sample. I am always happy to have a constructive conversation about books I have read or am reading.





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