The BBC documentary series, “Religions of the World,” is a seventeen-part series meant to introduce viewers not only to the six major world religions---Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism---but also to many other lesser known religions or belief systems that often do not get as much attention from scholars of religion.
While I enjoyed all of the episodes, one thing I found odd about this series is that when I had read about it online, it was listed as having SEVENTEEN episodes which covered not just the five major religions---Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism---but also several other religious traditions, namely the broad category of indigenous Japanese religions known as Shinto, Confucianism, Taoism, Religions of Small Societies (whatever that means), Ancient Religions of the Mediterranean, African and African-American religions, Native American religions, and finally, Atheism, Skepticism and other forms of nonbelief---yet those episodes are not there. I found that really, really odd, irritating, perplexing and disappointing. Also, the episode on Hinduism, which I had watched on YouTube, was two hours and fifty minutes---yet on this version it is only fifty-five minutes. My suspicion is that, much as with feature films, when the people who made this series were making it, they made a so-called “international” version, which had all seventeen episodes and which had the ENTIRE two-hour-and-fifty-one-minute Hinduism episode (as opposed to the significantly shorter, fifty-five-minute American version), and that, unlike the original international version, this so-called “American” version only focuses on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while the international version had many more episodes on other religious traditions as well. I call it the "American" version because I suspect that when it was originally broadcast in the UK, as well as when it was originally released internationally, the version available outside of the U.S. probably has the ENTIRE 17-episode series, including ALL two hours and fifty-one minutes of the original Hinduism episode, while---for some bizarre reason---the distributor assumed that Americans would not be as interested in the topic and therefore felt the need to shorten the Hinduism episode to fifty-one minutes and to shorten the series itself to only five episodes (as opposed to the original fourteen episodes).
Thus, while this particular series is a mere 5 ½ hours (300 mins.), had the entire series been available on Amazon, based on my own calculations of the actual length of the entire series---and that includes the entire two hours and fifty-one minutes of the Hinduism documentary in what I suspect is the “international” version of the documentary (as opposed to its significantly abridged American release, in which the Hinduism episode is only fifty-five minutes and which only has five episodes as opposed to all fourteen episodes included in the original series)---the entire series would have been 1200 minutes long---that is to say, twenty hours. In addition to the world's MAJOR religions (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), I was under the impression that the series would contain the other eight episodes---namely the ones on the Shinto religion of Japan, Native American Religions, African and African-American religions, Confucianism and Taoism, one GENERAL episode on Christianity (not just Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity), Religions of Small Societies (whatever that means), and also on Atheism, Skepticism, and other forms of nonbelief. I also think it was odd that they left out the various new religious movements intending to revive ancient religions (e.g. Greco-Roman, Viking, Germanic, Celtic, etc) broadly called Neo-Paganism. It would have been interesting had they chosen to to explore those religions as well.
When discussing the Spanish Inquisition, the makers of this documentary got something wrong when they claimed that the “last Jews” were expelled in 1492. This is a common mistake made by many non-Muslim and non-Spanish historians. I suspect that the reason for this is because it coincides with Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World, and is therefore easy to remember---regardless of the fact that it took a couple hundred years to expel all the Muslims and Jews completely. In actual fact, it took Spain 297 years to expel the Jews. All of the Jews who refused to convert to Christianity (or who were merely suspected of secretly practicing Judaism) were all kicked out of Spain by 1789. Furthermore, it took 138 years to expel the Muslims. All Muslims were expelled from Spain by 1630. It is interesting to note that in 2013, the Spanish parliament passed a law saying that any Jew who can prove, through either documentation and/or DNA, that they are in some way descended from some of the Jews who had been expelled from 1492-1789, can become a Spanish citizen if he or she wishes. When talking about the population of Indonesia---the country with the world’s largest Muslim population---Mr. Kingsley inaccurately states that Indonesia has 100 million Muslims, when in reality, there are around 270 million Muslims in Indonesia. (Then again, that very well may have been Indonesia’s Muslim population in 1998 when this movie was made, although I am not really sure whether that was true or not). When discussing Ramadan, he forgot to mention that in addition to refraining from food and drink, a Muslim also cannot have sex during the day either. When discussing Buddhism, the documentary claimed---inaccurately---that the Dalai Lama, the documentary claimed---inaccurately---that the Dalai Lama was seen as a "God King." Buddhists---whether Tibetan or otherwise---revere the Dalai Lama, but they do NOT worship him. Some Buddhists often choose to worshi Hindu gods, as well as the Buddha, and many Hindus consider the Buddha to be an avatar of Vishnu (the Hindu god of preservation), but---no---as far as I know, there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that the Buddhists worship the Dalai Lama. I also thought it was odd how many of the episodes ended abruptly, often in the middle of discussing a particular aspect of the religion on which the particular episode focused, and this often would happen just when I was getting into them and expecting there to be more information. The only exception to this rule was the episodes on Hinduism and Islam. In spite of these flaws, and despite the fact that I will have to look elsewhere for the ENTIRE series, this series was good, nonetheless.