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The Sacred Paths of the West (2nd Edition) [Paperback]

Theodore M. Ludwig
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)


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Book Description

October 13, 2000 0130293555 978-0130293558 2
For courses in Religions of the World, History of Religions, Comparative Religion, and Introduction to Religious Studies in departments of Religion, Religious Studies, Theology, and Philosophy.Unique in approach, this text combines an historical-descriptive presentation of individual religions with a comparative-thematic approach. It begins with a discussion of the basic human questions and concerns relating to religion--e.g., origin and identity, ultimate reality, human nature, and the good life--and then use these essential concepts to help describe the beliefs, practices, and historical development of each religion. As the work of a single scholar--much of it based on original research--this book offers a consistency and depth missing in many of the texts in this field.


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From the Publisher

Introduces students to the western religious traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by integrating historical descriptions with thematic comparisons of each. A revised and excerpted version of The Sacred Paths: Understanding the Religions of the World, the text approaches these religions as historically unique systems and focuses on comparative key themes and issues to enrich understanding of each religion's experience. The book also includes an extensive introduction to religion, as well as a chapter that explores the religions of the ancient world. The author's accessible approach and clear writing style enables students to experience the essence of each religion and to apply the tenets of these religions to their own religious experiences. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Preface to the Second Edition

This study of the religions of the West incorporates material from a larger volume on the whole range of the world's religious traditions, The Sacred Paths: Understanding the Religions of the World, third edition (Prentice Hall, 2001). The new edition has been revised to bring material up-to-date and to provide the reader with greater clarity in the discussions of complex historical and theoretical material.

Designed for those who want to concentrate on the religious traditions that have shaped Western culture, this volume focuses on the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islamin—in the context of the ancient traditions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. To round out this context, a new chapter, on the important Zoroastrian tradition, has been added.

To serve the needs of people who are beginning their study of the world's religions, the basic approach in this volume is focused on the goal of understanding. And understanding begins with a sense of what a particular religion means for the people who practice it and live by it. It is important to realize that each religious tradition is a living and growing organism stretched out over time, and thus we pay attention to historical and cultural developments. But we also attempt to go beyond historical information and let readers find themselves in the place of the people who live by each religion-viewing the world through their sacred stories, their worldview, their rituals, and their notion of the good life.

The procedure used in this volume, then, combines the necessary discussion of historical matters with a thematic approach based on general issues that arise out of human experience—questions about personal identity, human existence and wholeness, and the right way to live. Since the reader can identify with such issues from personal experience, windows are opened toward an understanding of the meaning and guidance people find in their particular religious traditions. Further, this combination of historical and thematic approaches facilitates comparison among the religious traditions, highlighting the main motifs and concerns of that general dimension of human life we call religious experience.

Since this is a basic introduction for people who are beginning their exploration of the world's religious paths, the major focus is not on academic questions and theories about religion, nor on technical information about all the movements and historical developments that make up each religious tradition. Such theories and developments are important, of course, and this volume attempts to make readers aware of them in a beginning way. It is important that readers get the sense that each religious tradition is a highly complex living organism, with various movements arising at different points in history. Yet it is helpful for the beginning student to recognize first of all the general mainstream of each religious tradition in constructing an overall picture of the religious world of the West. The excitement and challenge of this venture will carry over, it is hoped, into a continuing engagement with understanding the complex religious traditions of the world and with the various issues raised in the academic study of these traditions.

It is particularly important that readers have some encounter with the sacred texts and scriptures of each particular religious tradition—yet the comprehension and appreciation of such sacred texts is notoriously difficult for an outsider. This volume incorporates extensive quotations from the sacred texts of each tradition, providing interpretation so the reader can see the significance of these texts and comprehend what they mean for people of that religious tradition. It will be helpful, of course, if this volume is supplemented with an additional collection of sacred texts, when that is feasible.

The inclusion of material on artistic expression in the different religious traditions helps the reader see that each religion or culture has its own unique aesthetic sense. Thus it is important, for understanding each tradition, to pay attention to the special artistic expressions growing out of that religious experience. Also, this volume gives particular attention to the role of women in each tradition. Greater awareness of women's experiences and leadership roles has made possible many new understandings and insights in all the religious traditions. Further, an important development in the modern Western world is the rise of new religious movements, and a special chapter is devoted to understanding some of these alternative movements.

Among the study features in this volume, the discussion questions for each chapter have been revised and expanded. These questions are designed to promote review of the material as well as further reflection on the character of each religious tradition. Other study features include maps, timelines, and a glossary of key terms. The suggestions for further reading for each religious tradition have incorporated many important books that have been published in the last few years.

Many have helped along the way in the development of this book and toward the completion of this second edition. And so I thank all those students and colleagues who have made so many helpful suggestions concerning ways in which this text can become a more helpful means for understanding the religious paths of the world.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 2 edition (October 13, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0130293555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130293558
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,382,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for an Introduction May 24, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read the vast majority of this text for a freshman religion course with prior knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, and I found the text to provide a good introductory overview of the religions.

The text is short and sweet providing a surface level understanding of historical, theological and mystical events/topics of the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) from an academic perspective.

If you want a BASIC understanding of these religions, I recommend this book. If you want more in-depth knowledge, I'd look for books focusing specifically on one religion.
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2.0 out of 5 stars very interesting read June 4, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
this book was a very interesting read...to say the least. Ludwig presents some very good points in this book but overall i found myself bored.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite. November 26, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had to buy this book for a religion class and I did not like it at all. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of the topic in the first place, but I found it extremely boring and couldn't get myself to read it. It was also a bit confusing at times. Overall, not the best book I've read for school.
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