God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter Reprint Edition, Kindle Edition
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In God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World, New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and religion scholar Stephen Prothero argues that persistent attempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlook the distinct problem that each tradition seeks to solve. Delving into the different problems and solutions that Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Yoruba Religion, Daoism and Atheism strive to combat, God is Not One is an indispensable guide to the questions human beings have asked for millennia—and to the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today. Readers of Huston Smith and Karen Armstrong will find much to ponder in God is Not One.
From the Back Cover
In the twenty-first century, religion remains the single greatest influencein the world. But, argues religion scholar Stephen Prothero, persistentattempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlookthe distinct human problem that each seeks to solve. For example:
Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
God Is Not One is an indispensable guide to the questions human beingshave asked for millennia—and to the disparate paths we are taking toanswer them today.--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B003F1WMAC
- Publisher : HarperOne; Reprint edition (April 6, 2010)
- Publication date : April 6, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 1796 KB
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- Print length : 404 pages
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- Best Sellers Rank: #164,134 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Contra this feel-good globalism, Prothero posits a need for familiarity with humanity’s many religions. Toward that end, he conducts overall looks at the eight religions he considers most influential in today’s international milieu. (Remember, it’s Prothero’s eight.) The three Abrahamic religions, the four most widespread “Eastern” religions, and the Yoruba tradition, which became global owing to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These eight religions, in distinct ways, exert diverse pressures on politics, economics, and lifestyles daily.
Many outsiders often assume certain transcendent claims describe all religions. Not so, says Prothero. Many precepts absolutely necessary to Christianity, like God or an afterlife, don’t exist in other religions. Some religions, like Confucianism, are entirely this-worldly, while others require some separation from this world, like Buddhism and Daoism. And even seemingly unitary religions like Judaism disagree wildly on important points: not all Jews agree on an afterlife, or even God’s literal or symbolic existence.
Prothero isn’t a theorist. But he postulates a simple heuristic for understanding how religions work: they identify a problem, offer a solution, construct a path to achieve that solution, and offer human or superhuman exemplars of how to follow that path. This theory isn’t airtight—it could apply to the Marine Corps, for instance—but he makes a persuasive case that, to understand various religions’ incompatible claims, we must see them on their own terms.
This text isn’t simple reading. Prothero, a serious scholar, cites many sources, offers occasionally incompatible evidence, and drops so many names, I recommend taking notes. However, if you hope to understand religion as a humane phenomenon, he provides plain-English introductions to world religions which often aren’t explained in ordinary language. And he includes enough source notes to continue self-guided beyond the introductory level. He raises more questions than he answers, but they’re good, important questions.
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a. It's written by someone who is clearly more drawn towards straightforward comparative religion which itself is not a deep criticism, but means that the book lacks depth on a theoretical level. Even as a book on comparative religions it's actually quite poor - it says nothing about different religions and their relationships to sex, money, economics, eating, dressing, womens issues, individual freedoms, etc. There is actually a good reason why he doesn't go into these deatils and that's because it means opening up a hornet's nest of controversy that this author is uncomfortable with ... ;
b. He is not very objective - it's written from a very conservative agenda of only ever saying nice things to religion which gets a little tiresome;
c. His shocking treatment of 'new athies' shows his biased sensibilities. After happily concluding the 'new atheism' is indeed a religion, he then goes on to treat without any of the respect and consideration he gives to the other religions - sure new athiests have valid concerns, issues and experiences too? Why are they never probed and empathised with?
Is you want a book on comparative religion there's much better out there than this ... If you want a debate about the word 'god' where we are all talking about the same thing, OR are under an illusion here and are actually talking about very different things, then wait for someone to has more analytic training and rigour.
In brief, don't bother.
I refer to this book as a "primer" for good reason. Each religion is given only two or three dozen pages, much of which is devoted to basic precepts and cultural context. A great deal of detail is sacrificed in order to get to Prothero's core points. Experienced readers of comparative religions texts might take issue with some of the author's omissions and generalizations. In particular, as other reviewers have noted, the selection and explicit ordering of religions (whose chapters are arranged from most- to least-important) within the book might raise some eyebrows.
Despite these points, I regard this book as a good starting point for new readers who may be unfamiliar with broad-strokes differences between the world's major religions. Prothero celebrates the differences that he presents, and plainly seeks only to educate (and not offend) new readers. The text is both engaging and informative, and is not difficult to read in an evening or two. For many readers, this may be a better place to start than a staid textbook on religious studies.