- File Size: 1015 KB
- Print Length: 404 pages
- Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (April 6, 2010)
- Publication Date: April 20, 2010
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003F1WMAC
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter Reprint Edition, Kindle Edition
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- Length: 404 pages
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As I wrote God is Is Not One, I came back repeatedly to this conversation. I never wavered from trying to write true things, but I knew that some of the things I was writing he would consider false.
Mystics often claim that the great religions differ only in the inessentials. They may be different paths but they are ascending the same mountain and they converge at the peak. Throughout this book I give voice to these mystics: the Daoist sage Laozi, who wrote his classic the Daodejing just before disappearing forever into the mountains; the Sufi poet Rumi, who instructs us to "gamble everything for love"; and the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich, who revels in the feminine aspects of God. But my focus is not on these spiritual superstars. It is on ordinary religious folk—the stories they tell, the doctrines they affirm, and the rituals they practice. And these stories, doctrines, and rituals could not be more different. Christians do not go on the hajj to Mecca; Jews do not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity; and neither Buddhists nor Hindus trouble themselves about sin or salvation.
Of course, religious differences trouble us, since they seem to portend, if not war itself, then at least rumors thereof. But as I researched and wrote this book I came to appreciate how opening our eyes to religious differences can help us appreciate the unique beauty of each of the great religions--the radical freedom of the Daoist wanderer, the contemplative way into death of the Buddhist monk, and the joy in the face of the divine life of the Sufi shopkeeper.
I plan to send my Sufi shopkeeper a copy of this book. I have no doubt he will disagree with parts of it. But I hope he will recognize my effort to avoid writing "false things," even when I disagree with friends. --Stephen Prothero
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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To read"God Is Not One" is to take a sane step back and to get to know the members of our "religious family" in a sympathetic, albeit even-handed light.
I found his main thesis (that all religions are really not one) to be persuasively argued and supported, especially when focusing on this question of "what problem does this religion attempt to solve?"
I read it on Kindle so I had trouble going back to compare. Would have been nice to have a summary at the end of the book to remind me of the differences. I'm guessing there must be a study guide somewhere that has this sort of chart/information.
Top international reviews
a. It's written by someone who is clearly more drawn towards straightforward comparative religion which itself is not a deep criticism, but means that the book lacks depth on a theoretical level. Even as a book on comparative religions it's actually quite poor - it says nothing about different religions and their relationships to sex, money, economics, eating, dressing, womens issues, individual freedoms, etc. There is actually a good reason why he doesn't go into these deatils and that's because it means opening up a hornet's nest of controversy that this author is uncomfortable with ... ;
b. He is not very objective - it's written from a very conservative agenda of only ever saying nice things to religion which gets a little tiresome;
c. His shocking treatment of 'new athies' shows his biased sensibilities. After happily concluding the 'new atheism' is indeed a religion, he then goes on to treat without any of the respect and consideration he gives to the other religions - sure new athiests have valid concerns, issues and experiences too? Why are they never probed and empathised with?
Is you want a book on comparative religion there's much better out there than this ... If you want a debate about the word 'god' where we are all talking about the same thing, OR are under an illusion here and are actually talking about very different things, then wait for someone to has more analytic training and rigour.
In brief, don't bother.
I refer to this book as a "primer" for good reason. Each religion is given only two or three dozen pages, much of which is devoted to basic precepts and cultural context. A great deal of detail is sacrificed in order to get to Prothero's core points. Experienced readers of comparative religions texts might take issue with some of the author's omissions and generalizations. In particular, as other reviewers have noted, the selection and explicit ordering of religions (whose chapters are arranged from most- to least-important) within the book might raise some eyebrows.
Despite these points, I regard this book as a good starting point for new readers who may be unfamiliar with broad-strokes differences between the world's major religions. Prothero celebrates the differences that he presents, and plainly seeks only to educate (and not offend) new readers. The text is both engaging and informative, and is not difficult to read in an evening or two. For many readers, this may be a better place to start than a staid textbook on religious studies.
The chapters are arranged in Prothero's judgmentally arbitrary order of each religion's pervasive influence on the state of the world, placing Islam first and Daoism last. This arrangement influences how he substantiates many of his arguments and uses illustrations as he refers back to material covered in previous chapters. This trait does make it more difficult to pick up the book to read a chapter in the middle or towards the end. He has given each religion about the same number of pages in the book, which I thought was the wrong decision. Christianity, with its offshoots and many permutations, is no doubt the most diverse, divided and irreconcilable collection of beliefs and traditions but is covered by one of the shortest chapters. So, I thought this treatment rather shallow. For example, Coptic Christianity, which looms large with millions of followers in North Africa, is ignored. The Masonic Order and other Christian esotericisms, which originated in the middle ages and have had significant influence on politics, economic forces and even on the founding of the United States, are also ignored. Christ-based/Jesus inspired New Age religious movements, including New Thought--which are having a huge following in contemporary society (in large measure thanks to Oprah Winfrey)--are not discussed. In the chapter on Islam I thought a page or two should have included the world encompassing Baha'i Faith, which sprang out of Shia Islam.
The author feels that the importance and legitimacy of Yoruba (aka Santeria) has been overlooked and so he clearly overcompensates by providing page after page of detailed and confusing information on its pantheon of gods, orishas and ceremonial practices. Confucianism and Daoism may also be described in too much detail for some readers. Another peculiarity of this book is how Pothero's attitude comes through by how much respect, or lack thereof, he affords to each religion. This can be measured by his lack of criticism or his disparaging remarks. By this measure he is clearly most respectful of Judaism, Daoism, Buddhism and Yoruba, in that order, but less so of Christianity and Islam. Confucianism and Hinduism seem to fall in between.
His inclusion of atheism, in a short chapter at the end, is very contemporary in view of recent anti-religious missives and tirades. Prothero deserves a great deal of praise for this book and it is well worth reading for students and laymen and keeping on the shelf as a reference. One thing is clear: Religions are in a continuous state of evolution. Many of us can participate in moulding the future to be more accommodating to believers of different faiths. Hopefully this book can contribute to an improvement in understanding and friendly relations between people of different persuasions.
Before closing this review I can't resist adding that the author's premise, with the title "God is Not One", is only true in a theological, doctrinal, creedal sense--comparing religions. The "realities" we perceive for ourselves, being grounded in materiality, personality and sociocultural influences, are divisively diverse. But from a timeless philosophical, metaphysical, perspective--attempting to see through the lens of Spirit--He/She/It (aka God) is ultimately One Reality. Is there not an overarching Truth which overcomes intellectual arguments and contradictions? There are many who hold this perspective which frees them from the shackles of declared loyalty to one or another of the more limiting religious doctrines.