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Sacred Origins of Profound Things: The Stories Behind the Rites and Rituals of the World's Religions (Compass) Paperback – December 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sprightly, wry and irreverent, Sacred Origins of Profound Things attempts to explain the arcana of religious practice and dogma like prayer, celestial personae, moral codes, festivals, saints, evil, heaven, hell and miracles. Panati digs up fascinating curios while clearly explaining fundamental tenets of the world's religions. But his Religion 101 remains an awkward hybrid of brief journalistic entries (Panati is a former science writer at Newsweek) and short essays. Furthermore, not all "profound things" are covered equally or thoroughly. The religions of Asia are barely touched on, and aboriginal religions not at all. Of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, it is the last, and Catholicism in particular, that forms by far the largest part of the book. While readers looking for a quick answer will find useful the explanations of why religions affirm this or that belief, they will be frustrated by the lack of an index and the book's narrative rather than encyclopedic structure. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Few books in the theological literature are simply fun to read and this is one of them. Panati (Panati's Parade of Fads, Follies, and Manias, HarperCollins, 1991) has written an informative and entertaining book on the origins of religious ideas, sacred items, worship practices, holy symbols, and holidays. Although he discusses wonderful puzzlements such as why Jews don't eat pork, he also explores the origins and history of more pressing, controversial, present-day concerns such as the bans on homosexuality, married priests, and birth control. His book has a few shortcomings. Although it advertises itself as a book on world religions, the emphasis is mainly on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with only a smattering of other faiths. Also, there is a lack of footnoting, making the work unhelpful to serious scholars. But these minor complaints pale next to the wealth of information provided here. (Index not seen.) Recommended for public libraries.?Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Compass
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140195335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140195330
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Panati is a physicist, and for many years was the science editor of Newsweek. He's published 13 non-fiction books, and two novels. Most of his books are now available as ebooks in the Kindle Store. His 'Browser's Book of Beginnings' was the basis for the TV show THE START OF SOMETHING BIG, hosted by comedian Steve Allen, and written by Panati. In his early twenties, Panati was an escort for several Miss America contestants, and in September of 1965 the girl he escorted, Debbie Irene Bryant, became Miss America of 1966. Panati's most recent non-fiction is a Kindle book: ANIMALS PRAY - In Their Own Way. As a passionate animal lover, Panati has imagined what prayers animals would say to a Heavenly Being, their joys and laments. As well as what kind of Bill of Rights they'd have drawn up, and Declaration of Independence, their Golden Rule, Ten Commandments, Eight Beatitudes, and the like. He calls himself an 'editor' of the book, a confidant and complier, lending his ear as the animals themselves speak their minds.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I am a Catholic seminarian who spends a lot of time wondering "how it all connects" -- which I believe it does. This little handbook helps to initiate further study into the religious customs of Catholic Christianity and the fundamental links they might have to other religons. The book is biased to Catholic ritual and spirituality, but one need simply to jump off that starting point to examine deeper roots that reveal a wider human experience.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kim on October 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
The author admits that this book is slanted towards Catholocism -- you have been warned. He spends most of his time analyzing the Catholic Church, then Protestants, then Jews, and -- if there's time -- any other religious group. Panati discusses all manner of religious practices, stories, and rituals without beating around the bushes. The text suggests as many questions as it answers, but it is a very thought provoking read. Although I wouldn't accept all of his discourse at face value, this book has motivated me to pursue further study of several of the topics that he covers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 1998
Format: Paperback
An extraordinary read. Though I didn't see eye-to-eye with all the author believes, he does raise significant issues, nearly always backed with historical fact. Sure to shake your religious beliefs to its very foundations (as often really needs to be). Personally, I was appreciative of such a book as being brought up Catholic as a child, falling away, and returning as an adult only to find that what was being preached by the Catholic church (to my adult ears) was NOT in sync to what my adult eyes were reading in the Bible.
Devout Catholics will find this book sacriledge, whereas open-minded Christians of any denomination may benefit from the historical facts and origins to search their souls for truth and enlightenment, instead of blindly being led by religious leaders.
I'll read other books by Panati (with an open-mind but not blindly).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By nicole a. on October 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Not only did I read this book to satisfy my thirst for trivia, but also, to be enlightened on the more strange and mysterious rituals and practices of different religions. Although the cover says '..of the World's Religions', I personally think that this book focuses more on Christianity. But still, this book is very, very interesting -for me- because the author describes in colorful detail every information he has about a subject.

Even though I really like this book, I rate it 4 stars only because sometimes, the explanations are long and somewhat irrelevant. I still recommend it to others, though!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By 1075sticks VINE VOICE on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was thoroughly engrossed in with the information in this book. But I think the title is too broad because the topics were mostly on Christianity, Judaism and Islam and the other world religions were barely touched. Mr. Panati did warn that he is Catholic and is coming from that perspective. Being a Catholic myself, I think this is an excellent sourcebook for Catholics but be warned that some of Mr. Panati's explanations may make you doubt what you learned in catechism. What I did come away with is a better understanding of the connections between the three major world religions and how they are related to one another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MissMoneypenny on January 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
LOVE IT. I have thoroughly enjoyed both this book, and "extraordinary origins of everyday things", by the same author. If you dig the whens and whys of where we get our beliefs, this book is where it's at.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jen Bakes on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Informative in an entertaining way about familiar and obscure practices of familiar and obscure religions alike. A factual but not too serious read that you can stop/start reading...but will find fascinating.
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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Duff, RN on May 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
The title is somewhat inappropriate as it dedicates more time to explaining why Catholics believe the way they do, although on occasion the author does get past the traditional reasoning and apologetics.
It is easy to read and does cover a wide variety of topics within Christianity. There are a few references to Judaism and Islam, but almost nothing of the other world religions.
This book may be helpful for those who have read little or nothing regarding the history of religions, especially the Catholic faith. However, a superior book on the origins of Christian practices would be *Two Babylons or the Papal Worship* by Alexander Hislop.
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