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The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religions, 3rd Edition Paperback – July 6, 2004

3.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Brandon Toropov is a Boston-based writer who has written a variety of nonfiction titles including The I Ching for Beginners and The Art and Skill of Dealing with People. He has appeared on more than 100 local and national broadcast programs. He is the author of several Complete Idiot's Guides on religious topics.

Father Luke Buckles is the vice chancellor of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, California. He has a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Complete Idiot's Guide
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Alpha; 3 edition (July 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592572227
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592572229
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #574,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ann Johnson on April 2, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I sought out this book as a reference source for a "Coming of Age" class for the 9th graders at our Unitarian church. The purpose of the class is to examine issues such as gender roles, ethical behavior, sexuality, purpose of life (etc!) and how they are approached by the worlds' religions. I wanted a concise resource, but one that did not simplify or omit too much information. This book, was extremely helpful. It examines the following mainstream religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confuciansim, Taoism, and Shintoism. There are also brief discussions of lesser known religions, such as Baha'i, Neopaganism, and Native American traditions. For each religion, the book focuses on these aspects: 1) a brief history of the development and roots of the religion, 2) the major tenets and beliefs, 3) important holidays and rituals, and 4) common misbeliefs (and potential areas for faux pas) about the religion. For my purposes, the book was extremely helpful since it addressed how each religion dealt with major life issues in fairly simple yet accurate terms. It was excellent for my group of 9th graders as the format is informal, breezy, and fun, without any hint of ridicule (particularly to those religions that may be less familiar to American teenagers). I wish it would have addressed a few more issues, in particular, the role of gender in religions. I found very little on how different religions proscribe the roles of men and women, in the clergy, and in lay life. I would also have enjoyed more discussion on how religions deal with environmental issues, and the question of the ethical treatment of animals, since these are hot topics to my group of kids. But, all in all, this is a valuable book for a concise, yet not overly simple, review of the world's religions, and it makes a good starter for those just beginning to research this topic.
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Format: Paperback
My one fear with the Dummies and Complete Idiot's Guide series is that these are sometimes seen as endpoints rather than beginnings. As Hillel said when giving his answer to the question `What is Judaism?' while standing on one foot, there are some basic truths to any religion, and the rest is commentary, but one should read that commentary!
For adolescents in high school, for college undergraduates, and for those who have little to no exposure with religions of the world, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the World's Religions by Brandon Toropov and Fr. Luke Buckles provides a good if brief overview of the major religions and sects in the world today. This is not a history text per se, and the book does not go into ancient religions that are no longer practiced, nor does it spend much time on small groups and religious communities that dot the religious landscape of the world today. This is religion painted with broad brush strokes, and the limitations of such an approach should be noted accordingly.
That being said, it is a wonderfully readable text, and a great tool for organising presentations or further self-study, as well as a sort of Cliff's Notes to the religions of the world. There is an introductory section, a section on each of the major religions or religious groupings (more on this later), and a concluding section on recent trends and scriptures.
The Checklist
Like all Complete Idiot's Guides, this one begins with a two page card summary of high points for study and consideration. Why should you care about this information? What are key differences and similarities? It has a section in which it encapsulates each of the major religions in a brief sentence - every religion of the world while standing on one foot!
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Format: Paperback
It occured to me one day that I knew very little about many World Religions, and I went looking for something to give me a broad overview of the major religions of the world. I found this book, and I got what I was hoping for.

Since reading it, I've went on to other books and resources to get more in-depth info on certain religions I wanted to know more about. Like others said, this books offers a VERY basic overview of each of the world's major Religions, but it's a great starting point and provides more information that I'd guess the average person would know about each religion covered.

No, it doesn't provide commentary on most controversial or ethical issues involved with these religions, but really, as a "Complete Idiot's Guide..." I didn't expect it to.

Take it for what it is - a great intro, a learning tool. But there are certainly better resources out there if you're looking to do more in-depth studies.

As a side note, for people with a short-attention span or those who maybe aren't into reading lengthy, wordy chapters, you'll really enjoy the format of this book (the same format of all "Complete Idiot's Guide" books). Each chapter is broken down into small sections and interspersed with tidbits, cartoons, etc. to illustrate certain points.
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Format: Paperback
The stated purpose of this book was "to build bridges...to increase mutual understanding" between people of different faiths. In keeping with this goal the authors deemed it necessary to omit any information that could possibly offend anyone. As such, the book reads more like a Hallmark card than a serious textbook. Rather than raise issues with which some believers might disagree, there is very little information about what the major religions have to say about spiritual issues. For example, I found it odd that none of the Judeo-Christian chapters mention the concept of eternal damnation - I consider this a significant concept and an important difference between Christianity & Judaism. While certainly not all believers would agree on this topic, to simply ignore the issue is negligent. Similarly, there is little to no information on the various faiths' views on potentially controversial topics like the nature of the deity(ies), creation, apocalypse, fate of non-believers, etc, etc. There is also scarce mention of the numerous problems that have occurred over the centuries in the name of religion - wars, persecutions, subversion of scientific thought, etc (the 3 sentences on the Crusades describes them as "a series of military conflicts"). Needless to say, if you are curious to know the various faiths' views on issues like birth control, the role of women or homosexuality, you can give this book a miss. The strength of this book is that it concisely outlines important historical facts and observances of all the major religions. This is enough information to have a polite conversation with a co-worker of a different faith, but not enough to understand their religion. Unfortunately, it is not possible to seriously deal with the subject of world religion without raising controversial issues. In choosing to show how similar all world religions are, this book does not do justice to the variety and depth of human belief.
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