This is a reference for understanding world religious societies in their contemporary global diversity. Comprising 60 essays, the volume focuses on communities rather than beliefs, symbols, or rites. It is organized into six sections corresponding to the major living religious traditions: the Indic cultural region, the Buddhist/Confucian, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim regions, and the African cultural region. In each section an introductory essay discusses the social development of that religious tradition historically. The other essays cover the basic social factsthe communitys size, location, organizational and pilgrimage centers, authority figures, patterns of governance, major subgroups and schismsas well as issues regarding boundary maintenance, political involvement, role in providing cultural identity, and encounters with modernity. Communities in the diaspora and at the periphery are covered, as well as the central geographic regions of the religious traditions. Thus, for example, Islamic communities in Asia and the United States are included along with Islamic societies in the Middle East. The contributors are leading scholars of world religions, many of whom are also members of the communities they study. The essays are written to be informative and accessible to the educated public, and to be respectful of the viewpoints of the communities analyzed.
Mark Juergensmeyer is professor of sociology and director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author or editor of twenty books, including Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence and Religion in Global Civil Society.
"Juergensmeyer and his fellow essayists have produced a volume who purpose is to examine religious communities within a framework of global diversity. Contributors treat these areas with essays that concisely analyze the religions historically and socially: provide information about the organization, size, leaders, and political concerns of the various communities; show how religions provide cultural identity for adherents; and discuss attitudes towards modernity. This sourcebook will quickly become a standard reference work for students and general readers alike." --Choice