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God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter [Hardcover]

Stephen Prothero
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 12 2010

In God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World, New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and religion scholar Stephen Prothero argues that persistent attempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlook the distinct problem that each tradition seeks to solve. Delving into the different problems and solutions that Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, Yoruba Religion, Daoism and Atheism strive to combat, God is Not One is an indispensable guide to the questions human beings have asked for millennia—and to the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today. Readers of Huston Smith and Karen Armstrong will find much to ponder in God is Not One.

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“enormously timely, thoughtful and balanced” (Los Angeles Times)

“God is Not One is 2010’s must-read for anyone religiously illiterate….Don’t know much about the world’s faiths? Get a copy now.” (The Daily Beast)

“Provocative, thoughtful, fiercely intelligent and, for both believing and nonbelieving, formal and informal students of religion, a must-read.” (Booklist)

“An urgently needed and very nicely done corrective to politically correct nonsense.” (Rodney Stark, author of Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Faith)

“Stephen Prothero has done it again. This is a powerfully-written, paradigm-shifting book. How religious differences can be a bridge of cooperation rather than a bomb of destruction is one of the most important challenges of our era, and Prothero is as good a guide as you will find.” (Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core and author of Acts of Faith)

“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, and author of The Future of Faith)

“A very much needed book!” (Miroslav Volf, Professor, Yale University, and author of Exclusion and Embrace)

From the Back Cover

At the dawn of the twenty-first 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 naïve 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 readers 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. A bold polemical response to a generation of misguided scholarship, God Is Not One creates a new context for understanding religion in the twenty-first century and disproves the assumptions most of us make about the way the world's religions work.

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By S Svendsen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Too bad this book's enlightenment wasn't available fifty years ago. But back then no one would have had the knowledge to include all of what Prothero covers. The academic study of religions has come a far way in fifty years. Prothero maintains a neutrality as much as he can throughout his book but it is not difficult to discern that personally he is fascinated by, accepting of and impressed by the supernatural dimensions of mankind's cultural existence. The title of the book serves to be provocative while also laying the foundation for his ongoing argument against the contemporary "Godthink that lumps all religions together in one trash can or [one] treasure chest" (p 335). On one side of the Godthink continuum are the New Atheists (he makes distinctions between Angry [i.e. confrontational, New] Atheists and Friendly [i.e. non-confrontational, civil] Atheists) who blame religions, and people of faith, for all or most of the world's ills. On the other side are the "perennial philosophers" who--in spite of all evidence to the contrary--try to homogenize all religions into one loving, peaceful and harmonious syncretism.

The chapters are arranged in Prothero's judgmentally arbitrary order of each religion's pervasive influence on the state of the world, placing Islam first and Daoism last. This arrangement influences how he substantiates many of his arguments and uses illustrations as he refers back to material covered in previous chapters. This trait does make it more difficult to pick up the book to read a chapter in the middle or towards the end. He has given each religion about the same number of pages in the book, which I thought was the wrong decision.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars comparative religion Nov. 21 2012
By Gemba
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not new to me. I had a copy some time ago, then lent it to a friiend. It was one of those lendings that one never gets back because the book is then recommended to someone else, and so on. So I finally decided to buy another copy. I am familiar with most of the content. Prothero does a geat job in capturing the essential core message of each of the great religions. This is a handy reference work. It is good to have my own copy again, for keeps this time. Highly recommende for someone who wants a good general comparative introduction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Primer Feb. 19 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"God Is Not One" attempts to discuss the big differences between the world's major religions. It is not a completely dispassionate review: the author clearly has his own opinions, although he is generally pretty good at not pushing them on the reader. Prothero tries to draw order from chaos by summarizing the basic philosophies of these religions by distilling from each a central problem and solution. For instance, Prothero claims that the central problem in Christianity is sin and the solution that it presents is salvation. The author asserts that these fundamental differences in perspective are crucially important, as they colour the worldview of each religion's millions (or billions) of adherents. His critical thesis is that these religions are _not_ fundamentally the same, and he takes issue with the currently-popular message to the contrary.

I refer to this book as a "primer" for good reason. Each religion is given only two or three dozen pages, much of which is devoted to basic precepts and cultural context. A great deal of detail is sacrificed in order to get to Prothero's core points. Experienced readers of comparative religions texts might take issue with some of the author's omissions and generalizations. In particular, as other reviewers have noted, the selection and explicit ordering of religions (whose chapters are arranged from most- to least-important) within the book might raise some eyebrows.

Despite these points, I regard this book as a good starting point for new readers who may be unfamiliar with broad-strokes differences between the world's major religions. Prothero celebrates the differences that he presents, and plainly seeks only to educate (and not offend) new readers. The text is both engaging and informative, and is not difficult to read in an evening or two. For many readers, this may be a better place to start than a staid textbook on religious studies.
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