Saturday, June 26, 2010

God is Not One by Stephen Prothero

To understand our world, Prothero says, "We need to know something about the basic beliefs and practices of the world's religions."  (337)  He provides that information on Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion (perhaps the third largest religion in the world), Judaism, and Daoism.  He also includes a chapter on atheism. 
Prothero's desire is that all religions get along with their religious rivals.  He is convinced this goal needs to be pursued through a new means.  Rather than lumping all religions together, "we must start with a clear-eyed understanding of the fundamental differences in both belief and practice" between major religions.  Denying differences is a recipe for disaster.
Prothero has done a great job introducing to the reader the most influential religions of today.  Anyone desiring to understand today's world will benefit from reading this book.

1 comment:

Ron Krumpos said...

Orthodox, institutional religions are quite different, but their mystics have much in common. A quote from the chapter "Mystic Viewpoints" in my e-book at on comparative mysticism:

Ritual and Symbols. The inner meanings of the scriptures, the spiritual teachings of the prophets and those personal searchings which can lead to divine union were often given lesser importance than outward rituals, symbolism and ceremony in many institutional religions. Observances, reading scriptures, prescribed acts, and following orthodox beliefs cannot replace your personal dedication, contemplation, activities, and direct experience. Preaching is too seldom teaching. For true mystics, every day is a holy day. Divine revelation is here and now, not limited to their sacred scriptures.

Conflicts in Conventional Religion. "What’s in a Word?" outlined some primary differences between religions and within each faith. The many divisions in large religions disagreed, sometimes bitterly. The succession of authority, interpretations of scriptures, doctrines, organization, terminology, and other disputes have often caused resentment. The customs, worship, practices, and behavior within the mainstream of religions frequently conflicted. Many leaders of any religion had only united when confronted by someone outside their faith, or by agnostics or atheists. Few mystics have believed divine oneness is exclusive to their religion or is restricted to any people.

Note: This is just a consensus to indicate some differences between the approaches of mystics and that of their institutional religion. These statements do not represent all schools of mysticism or every division of faith. Whether mystical experiences vary in their cultural context, or are similar for all true mystics, is less important than that they transform each one’s sense of being to a transpersonal outlook on all life.