Economic globalization, high-speed communication, and increasingly diverse cultural settings, have exposed people around the world in to other religions and their adherents to a degree not imaginable even 20 years ago. Nevertheless, authentic and accurate knowledge about these other religions remains difficult to find.
Religious stereotypes abound, hampering a serious exploration of the unfamiliar beliefs, perspectives, practices, and even the cultural dynamics posed by other religions. This problem seems to be amplified by the belief--at the popular level--that all religions are the same only complicates the issue. Such a perspective does not require that other religions be taken seriously or respected for their differences. After all, according to this view its all the same, so why spend time learning about them? Understanding World Religions: An Interdisciplinary Approach
presents an religion as a complex and intriguing matrix of history, philosophy, culture, beliefs, practices, and culture.
Nevertheless, while this book explores religion with an admittedly appreciative attitude, Irving Hexham (a world renowned scholar of religion) believes that a certain degree of objectivity and critique is inherent in the study of religion, and he guides readers in responsible ways of carrying this out. Thus, readers will receive both an appreciative account Of various religions as well as a critique from the perspective of a Christian scholar.
Particularly unique in this volume is Hexham's decision to explore African religions, which have frequently been absent from major religion texts. Hexham explores religion through its three major parent categories Yogic, Abrahamic, and African while covering the following individual major religions:
Globalization and high-speed communication put twenty-first century people in contact with adherents to a wide variety of world religions, but usually, valuable knowledge of these other traditions is limited at best. On the one hand, religious stereotypes abound, hampering a serious exploration of unfamiliar philosophies and practices. On the other hand, the popular idea that all religions lead to the same God or the same moral life fails to account for the distinctive origins and radically different teachings found across the worlds many religions. Understanding World Religions presents religion as a complex and intriguing matrix of history, philosophy, culture, beliefs, and practices. Hexham believes that a certain degree of objectivity and critique is inherent in the study of religion, and he guides readers in responsible ways of carrying this out. Of particular importance is Hexhams decision to explore African religions, which have frequently been absent from major religion texts. He surveys these in addition to varieties of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Irving Hexham is professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary and adjunct professor of World Christianity at Liverpool Hope University. He has published twenty-seven academic books, including The Concise Dictionary of Religion, Understanding Cults and New Religions, and Religion and Economic Thought, plus eighty major academic articles and chapters in books, numerous popular articles, and book reviews. Recently he completed a report for the United Nations refugee agency on religious conflict in Africa and another for the Canadian Governments Department of Canadian Heritage on Religious Publications in Canada. He is listed in Whos Who in Canada and various scholarly directories. In 2008, he was honored at the historic Humboldt University in Berlin with a Festschrift, Border Crossings: Explorations of an Interdisciplinary Historian (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag).
Crisp, comprehensive, packed with unusual insights, and refreshing in style, Hexham's book is invaluable for anyone wishing to understand the recent religious resurgence that has caught so many educated people by surprise, and shown up their tone deafness about all that is happening.
author of The Case for Civility
As Pope Benedict constantly reminds us, Christians today face a new situation where other religious traditions once more challenge Christian belief just as they did in the days of the Apostles. This book helps us understand our non-Christian neighbours and as such is a valuable tool for all Catholic educators.
SAC Former Director of Education for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary
This is not the conventional or predictable textbook on world religions. As a good teacher, Irving Hexham is not afraid to offer the kind of opinion or insight that is bound to provoke discussion and debate. This book is the fruit of many years of trying to encourage university students to engage meaningfully with the study of religion and is born out of great experience.
-Gerald J. Pillay,
Vice-Chancellor (President) and Rector, Liverpool Hope University
This textbook-type tour of world religions, spiced with personal close-ups, fully merits a place on thoughtful Christians' book shelves. Informal and informative, learned, wise, chatty and sometimes provocative, it is a very impressive performance.
-J. I. Packer,
Professor of Theology, Regent College
My former colleague from Regent College days, and long time friend, Irving Hexham has written an absolutely fascinating book on world religions which reflects a balance and level of scholarship rarely found in introductory works. Therefore, I enthusiastically endorse this book.
Professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary
Irving Hexham writes that 'bland approaches [to the study of religion] produces bland students.' Irving Hexham is not bland, and by combining authoritative knowledge of the world's religions with a keen eye for current events, he has given us a textbook that will not produce bland students. Instead it will produce students who know about religion and who know how religious people the world over relate to the crucial issues of the day.
-Terry C. Muck,
Dean and Professor of Mission and World Religion, E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Asbury Theological Seminary
Irving Hexham is well known to his many readers through his publications on religious studies, both as a general field of research, as well as represented in various movements, both local and worldwide. In Understanding World Religions, his provocative work, especially on African and also Indian religious views, is worth the price of the volume. We need to examine these often neglected areas of study.
-Gary R. Habermas,
Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology, Liberty University
Often it is just scholars who take real interest in world religions and new religious movements. The only time most of us lift our heads is when we hear of some tragic event that shows us other people believe differently than we do. But this is the world we live in and Irving Hexham's book is a resource that brings clarity to this vast world of religious beliefs. This book needs to be read and kept available on the bookshelf of every Christian leader.
-Carson Pue, President,
Have a question about this product? Ask us here.