God Is Not One

  • by Stephen Prothero
  • Narrated by Paul Boehmer
  • 14 hrs and 42 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

At the dawn of the 21st century, dizzying scientific and technological advancements, interconnected globalized economies, and even the so-called New Atheists have done nothing to change one thing: our world remains furiously religious.
For good and for evil, religion is the single greatest influence in the world. We accept as self-evident that competing economic systems (capitalist or communist) or clashing political parties (Republican or Democratic) propose very different solutions to our planet's problems. So why do we pretend that the world's religious traditions are different paths to the same God? We blur the sharp distinctions between religions at our own peril, argues religion scholar Stephen Prothero, and it is time to replace naive hopes of interreligious unity with deeper knowledge of religious differences.
In Religious Literacy, Prothero demonstrated how little Americans know about their own religious traditions and why the world's religions should be taught in public schools. Now, in God Is Not One, Prothero provides listeners with this much-needed content about each of the eight great religions.
To claim that all religions are the same is to misunderstand that each attempts to solve a different human problem. For example:

Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
Prothero reveals each of these traditions on its own terms to create an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to better understand the big questions human beings have asked for millennia and the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today.


What the Critics Say

“Provocative, thoughtful, fiercely intelligent and, for both believing and nonbelieving, formal and informal students of religion, a must-read.” (Booklist)
“This book could well be the most highly readable, accurate, and up-to-date introduction to the world’s major religions.” (Harvey Cox, Hollis Research Professor of Divinity, Harvard University)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Useful, but doesn't live up to its introduction

I want to expand on the previous reviewer's comments, which I essentially agree with. The introduction to this book is a blast against both the regressive fallacy that one religion can be better than others and the progressive fallacy that all religions are in a lovey-lovey way all the same. This is not the case, he declares; instead, each religion has its own independent character and instincts, appeals to different needs and desires, and aims to take you to different mental places -- this is what he means by calling them "rivals". It's a bracing call for a full-frontal tolerant plurality without wincing away from points of contention. It's a promising thesis to begin a book with.

Unfortunately, that's as far as it goes. The rest of the book consists of eight essays concerned separately with a "major" world religion (sorry Sikhs, Jains, Shintoists, and Scientologists... nothing here for you) that, while pleasant to read/listen to, are ultimately nothing more than pedestrian glosses. This book is, in fact, a direct sequel to Prothero's previous book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know" which called for Americans to learn more about the religions of the world. As he say towards the end of the introduction, people were writing to him asking for a book to GIVE them that literacy. This is that book, and if that is what you want then this is the book for you. Each essay starts from basic facts, breezes through some history and contemporary issues, and ends there. Without a rhetorical connection between them the original thesis is nowhere to be seen. I was hoping for more depth.

There is still much of value here, particularly in the surprising choice of Yoruba as one of the major world religions. I like to think that I'm slightly more literate than most Americans when it comes to world religions, but was frankly ignorant about this West African religion and its many New World descendants. Touche, Mr. Prothero; consider me educated.
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- Nassir

Informative, but disappointing.

In the introduction, Prothero makes the point that it is well intended, but ultimately disrespectful (at best) to speak of all religions as essentially the same; a different path up the same mountain. Despite his success at pinpointing the different goals for each religion, and the processes for achieving those goals, Prothero fails to adequately explain why the "different paths up the same mountain" metaphor is wrong, harmful, or otherwise misguided. Is it wrong to conceptualize nirvana as the "buddhist's version of heaven?" If so, why?

If the ultimate presription is understanding, why not use the mountain metaphor as a rallying point for all people, regardless of belief? Understanding can only occur if we can identify with each other's plight.
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- Brian Dean

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-20-2010
  • Publisher: HarperAudio