50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Religion by Peter Stanford

50 Ideas You Really Need to Know: Religion by Peter Stanford

I finished reading this non-fiction book yesterday, and mostly enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped I would; I had the definite impression that the book was patronizing towards those aspects of religion that the author did not personally agree with.

I have noticed that when I ask people what they are (re religion), I may get the answer “nothing”; but if I ask, “Well, then, what were you?” I get an automatic answer as to what religion they used to be. It is very hard to talk about religion without bringing one’s own opinion into the mix, but I felt that the author showed a bit too much disdain on occasion regarding faiths not of his own.

After an introduction, the author has chapters on Common Ground; he then covers Christianity (an odd first choice, as Christianity is heavily based on Judaism (the Christian Old Testament is basically the same as the Jewish Tanakh) which the book does not really address), the author then addresses The Reformed Tradition. (Chapter 21 addresses the Rapture, “Christians would be beamed up to heaven like characters in the popular TV series Star Trek.” We then move on to Judaism, Islam, and a long group of chapters on the Eastern Tradition. Finally, the book ends with a section on Modern Dilemmas, such as the religions’ take on climate change and just war.

I found the book to be most useful in talking about the faiths that I do not claim to be anywhere near expert on (mostly the Eastern Traditions), but I have no way of knowing if the author’s personal opinions again intruded upon his discussion of the traditions that I do not know of. So I did enjoy reading the book, but also found it to be something of a disappointment.

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