Sunday, October 17, 2010

"God is Not One" review

God Is Not OneGod Is Not One by Stephen R. Prothero

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Don't be fooled by the inordinate amount of time it took me to finish this book - it's very interesting! Prothero covers what he sees as the 8 main religions of the world (based on a combination of number of members and influence on culture) and what their basic beliefs are. I have to confess I'm pretty uneducated about even the most basic tenets of other religions and saw this as a great opportunity to broaden my understanding of what drives others' beliefs. The first religion covered was Islam, which is, of course, both interesting and completely relevant. Next was Christianity, followed by Hinduism, Buddhism, Confuscianism, Yoruba, Daoism, and Judaism.

The great thing is Prothero is quick to point out that even within the different religions, there is much disagreement as to not only what is accepted teachings, but the interpretation of said accepted teachings. It's also nice to see an objective breakdown of what a religion sees as the problem of society and what the solution should be. Like Confuscianism sees the problem as anarchy and the solution as strict societal rules dictating proper behavior. Whereas Doaism (which is often practiced right beside Confuscianism as a sort of balance of Yin and Yang) sees the problem as a disconnect from the natural way of things (societies rules are killing us a little day by day) and the solution as a return who we are naturally. Prothero tries to be as objective as possible, though sometimes his derision for certain ideas in a religion subtly leak through. He even has a brief chapter on Atheism at the end and helpfully splits it into 2 categories, friendly and unfriendly. But, it's nice to see someone call it out for being just as strict in it's views and dogma as any other religion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to gain a rudimentary knowledge of other's beliefs and practices in an easy-to-understand setting.

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