Even a quick scan of today's headlines makes clear that the growth of fundamentalist versions of Islam is having a vast impact on our world. For Americans the rise of Christian fundamentalism, especially the Evangelical movement, is also socially and politically shaping the country, as debates about abortion, stem cell research and other important issues are often driven by fundamentalist notions.
In profound ways, orthodox versions of Judaism have altered the fabric of Middle Eastern politics through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially regarding settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, making peace there all the more difficult, and further destabilizing an already unstable region. The rise of fundamentalism in the three monotheistic faiths is fully examined in this textbook. It is not about fundamentalism however, it is about its opposite trend: religious syncretism. Syncretism describes the phenomenon of one religion borrowing elements from another, and it is part of religion that fundamentalists will seldom acknowledge.
This textbook explores Judaism, Christianity and Islam, using compelling examples of how syncretism works and looks, to show how these three religions have adopted customs and conceptions of other religions, most often acquiring practices from pagan predecessors and neighbours. The book shows how these three faiths - despite how modern media would have us believe - have been willing, at various times and places, to borrow.
Eric Maroney teaches at Cornell University, New York.
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