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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A Good Read, But Falls A Little Short of its Goal
In his introduction, Prothero rails against the overall lack of religious literacy in modern America. Post-9/11 rhetoric has reduced Islam to a religion of peace, or a religion of terror; Americans have no idea about the basics of Confucianism or Taoism. Because of this, Prothero offers up a text that provides a basic insight into the world's major religions. He cleverly presents each religion through four questions, providing insight into what each feels to be the essential issue and the proposed solution. In this regard, the book provides a very lucid format for its discussion. I began the book with high hopes of better understanding each religion and a serious discussion of the need for greater understanding in America of the planet's religious diversity.
I believe that Prothero succeeds in this attempt for the most part. However, I think it succeeds mostly as a populist book, not a serious challenge to our perspectives as Americans. While he rails against the New Agey sentiments of "God is one" as well as the lack of religious understanding of our world leaders in his opening, the defiant tone quickly escapes the text. Some of the chapters feel a little bit strung together, packed with info that doesn't necessarily hang together in a coherent flow. On the very positive side, however, he succeeds in injecting a sly sense of humor to the discussion that is very refreshing.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book; the content and style was not as strong as I thought it would be based on the strength of the intro. I am currently reading his "Religious Literacy," which is equally well-written, and also recommended.
Recommended by Stephen Colbert
I have taken world religion classes before. The way this book is written actually gives the facts and figures some meaning!
A step toward religious literacy
This book is a refreshingly open and informative overview of the world's great religions. It provides a context to today's world events and cultural influences that I found missing in my formal education and religious upbringing.