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World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored & Explained Paperback – February 20, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA. An easy-to-follow, pictorial resource that is overflowing with information. Colorful pictures enhance each page with virtually every detail identified via arrows and described in a detailed caption. Each chapter begins with a succinct introduction and is followed by one-or-two page sections that explain the basic tenets of the faith, symbols, events, people, buildings, works of art, and the differences and similarities to other religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are included as are Jainism, Sikhism, Chinese and Japanese religions, and Native religions. The time line places key figures and events of one faith in relation to important people of another belief. Maps identify locations of sacred sites and the spread of the religion. Pages that include tall pictures are printed sideways across the double-page spread. This means the illustrations can be larger and clearer, but it is awkward for readers, who must constantly turn this oversized volume around. However, this is a visual feast that will be useful in most collections.?Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Bowker (divinity, Gresham Coll., London) has produced two very different books, though both are focused on world religion. The Oxford Dictionary, whose entries often lack information on etymology and pronunciation, is actually a one-volume desktop encyclopedia for ready reference. Combining brevity of exposition with a massive number of entries in an attempt to be dictionary-like, the work suffers from trying to be comprehensive in breadth of coverage instead of depth. The psychology of religion is discussed in a half-page, for instance, and the Church Fathers get only two sentences. In addition, the entries are uneven in quality; one has the feeling that the 80 contributors are each writing according to his or her own personal interests and styles. Despite these idiosyncracies, the work is a solid reference source for people who want to know only the barest of facts about any religious topic. In World Religions, on the other hand, one has the feeling that Bowker, now the author, is finally freed to range over what he wants to say and how he wants to say it. This book is a bold attempt to meld religious information with expressive art and to use the art as a tool for pedagogy. Each religion is represented by a few brilliantly illustrated icons, paintings, or sculptures, which the author painstakingly annotates to illuminate their theologies and deepen one's insight. Whether he is using Michelangelo's Final Judgment to explain Christian eschatology or a handscroll of Chou Ch'en to explain Taoist concepts of immortality, the emphasis upon the visual makes these religions vibrant and intriguing. There are surprising discrepancies between the two works. World Religions has generous discussions of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Celtic religions, topics not even included in the Oxford Dictionary. There are also variations of names. Ultimately, World Religions is the more commendable publication, though both books are recommended for most libraries.?Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: DK; Reprint edition (February 20, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756617723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756617721
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 150 people found the following review helpful By Tevis Fen-Kortiay on May 9, 2010
Format: Paperback
First, this book is the most accessible, well-written and even-handed single-volume overview of current world religion I've ever found in English. I'd recommend this to anyone seeking to get at least a baseline grasp of what our neighbors believe. I will likely buy a copy for each of my nieces and nephews (with a few words of warning about the objectionable parts). At first the image-saturated, magazine-style format made me a little worried the book would be too lightweight, but the appealing and accessible format is well-used to convey a genuinely well-chosen selection of information. Author John Bowker has perfect credentials, as the author of The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions and editor of the The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions. The last section, which draws attention to the hopeful & empathetic common message seemingly at the heart of all major faiths, is particularly welcome.

Author John Bowker makes a few odd choices I wouldn't agree with -- like translating the title of the Tao te Ching (Book of the Virtuous Path) as 'The Way of Power,' but generally these are only quibbles. The only element of this book that makes me slightly uneasy is when the author allows some religious bigotry against non-Christians to sneak into an otherwise excellent book. For example:

* The section on Islam includes a photograph of the Twin Towers burning and a picture of an angry-looking Islamic man in military gear holding up an assault rifle in one hand and the Qur'an in the other. Wow!
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125 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This richly illustrated book shows the world's most important religions with detailed annotation of sacred texts, paintings, epic imagery, symbolism, iconography, key beliefs, architecture and artifacts. World Religions gives insights into the world's main religions and offers a deeper appreciation for the belief you have chosen as your own.

Through the pages, the author looks at the beliefs and practices of many different religions from the ancient Egyptians to the faiths practiced today.

I have so enjoyed John Bowker's books and he has given me so insights into the religions of the world. He was the dean of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1984 to 1991. He is the author of many books, including The Meanings of Death and The Complete Bible Handbook.

With the knowledge presented, you can learn about the central leaders and their teachings, examine the similarities and differences and discover the main beliefs behind each faith.

The chapters include:

What is Religion? - An explanation of what it means to be religious.

Ancient Religions - Why have most cultures had a religion?

Chinese Religions
Japanese Religions
Native Religions

The Golden Rule - How this rule exists in all religions in some form or the other.

Religious Timeline and Maps - Six pages, one with a very helpful timeline that shows when the religion came to be and how it evolved over time.

Further Reading - A page of books organized according to the religion they explain.

"What you do not want done to you, do not do to others." -Confucius, is found in every religion in some form or the other!
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Bruce D. Wilner on June 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I brought this book home, tenderly spread it out on the floor, and lay there, transfixed, for about six hours until my wife yelled at me that it was time for dinner. It's been a long time since I found such a splendid, wonderful, absorbing, and gorgeous book. DK has done it again ... breathtaking pictures, clear explanations, and an inviting format. Though I'm 37, I felt the way I used to feel when I was 7 and was given a new non-fiction book. I wouldn't have the temerity to complain about the superficiality of some explanations--the book isn't intended as a scholarly treatise. For what it is supposed to do--give the reader an absorbing, respectful introduction to the major religions of the world and their trappings--I can't imagine how a better job could have been done.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Ashley J. Motia on December 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unlike other books that claim to present an unbiased, fair view of the religions of the world, this one actually delivers on that promise. It discusses in depth the various major religions, offering pictures of artifacts, religious ceremonial equipment, and illustrations of the gods/goddesses involved. I was impressed by the religious timelines, continental graphs by religious practices, and Golden Rule section that closes the book (saying to basically be respectful of others' views). This book does not endorse any of the religions, nor does it neglect any of them either. If you are shopping for an impartial, complete, detailed account of all of the world's major religions, I highly recommend this book to you. "Prejudice is the child of Ignorance." -- W. Hazlitt
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