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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.
©2010 Stephen Prothero (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers
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Critic Reviews

“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
3 out of 5 stars
By Nassir on 11-03-10

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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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By SmartBean on 11-11-14

Little enlightenment to be found here

This is generally an interesting book, reviewing as it does aspects of the beliefs for eight major religions. However, it has significant flaws. It fails to tell us why the specific differences among these religions matters. Why are faith-based conflicts so pervasive and hard to resolve? No answer. What can we do to reduce the conflicts? Again, no answer.

Anyone who has read other books on religion will quickly realize that Prothero is presenting an incomplete picture. With the exception of a few remarks on Islamist violence, we learn nothing about the negative side of faith, in spite of the fact that this is apparent to anyone who reads a newspaper. Neither are we given a good historical review of the often violent conflicts among the faithful and shown how those conflicts originate in their different beliefs and practises.

The only group that comes in for criticism are the New Atheists, whom Prothero singles out for snide and dismissive treatment. I conclude that Prothero is in favor of faith in general and wants to reassure his readers that they should be comfortable with whatever faith-based beliefs they happen to hold. How will this kind of thinking will help humanity rise above faith-based conflict? How will this book will help us deal with the impact of these contending religions on the world? Prothero has no answer, except, it seems, that we should all keep believing.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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