Here we have a descent book for those who want a proper and clear overview of the greater worlds religions. This book is even used at schools.
It is divided in eleven chapters which each deal with a certain subject.
Chapter one deals with understanding religion in general:
Chapter two with prehistoric and tribal religions;
Chapter three with the spiritual paths of India;
Chapter four with Buddism;
Chapter five with east asian religions;
Chapter six with the three big monotheistic religions as introduction;
Chapter seven with Judaism;
Chapter eight with Christianity;
Chapter nine with Islam;
Chapter ten with new religious movements;
Chapter eleven with relgion in the lives of today and tomorrow.
Then there is also an appendix with tips on how to make a comperative study.
The book deals with a massive amount of religious movements and tells in short the story of the past, cultural influences, the present and possible future and the best part is that it always ends with a short summery with the following points:
-Basic world view (“how the universe is set up, especially in spiritual aspect – the map of the invisible world”);
-God or Ultimate Reality (“what the ultimate source and ground of all things is”);
-Destiny of the world (“where it all came from”);
-Origin of humans (“where we came from”);
-Destiny of humans (“where we are going”);
-Revelation or mediation between the Ultimate and the human (“how we know this and how we get to our ultimate reality”);
-What is expected of humans, worship, practices, behaviour (“what we ourselves must do”);
-Major social institutions (“how religion is set up to preserve and implement its teaching and practice: what kind of leadership it has; how it interacts with larger society”).
Especially this, makes the book extremely helpfull to fresh up your memory quickly or get to know something about a certain religion rapidly.
To give you an idea of the religions featured I will list the eastern Asian religious that are dealt with:
ancient China, Confucianism, Daoism, Chinese Buddism, traditional Chinese religion, Shinto, Japanese Buddism, Japanese Confucianism, Japanese new-age, Vietnamese religion.
And for example subjects in the India chapter: Hinduism, Ancient Aryans, the Upanishads, recent Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, Tantrism, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.
Great points about the book are:
-The “suggested reading” lists after every chapter;
-A large index to find something easily;
-The extraordinary beautiful photos of which are many to be found;
-Gigantic amount of information between the lines (many subjects are touched upon shortly beside the normally featured subjects);
-Good lay-out. When you have read the book or are busy in it, you will immediately recognize what part of a chapter you read, because the set-up is the same all throught the book.
A few minor points about the book.
-The format is very strange, almost squarely, which makes it hard to find a proper place on your bookshell.
-The writer doesn’t have a easily readable writing-style, it is not very appealing, long sentences, difficult words;
-The price. The paperback version (that I have) seems to be out of print and the hardcover costs $53,- at Amazon!
But all in all I find the book very helpfull and it is one of the best in this vein that I have seen so far. <15/10/00>