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

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Overview

"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 naive 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Expressing his astonishment, Prothero (Religious Literacy) arrives late at the party that has been celebrating for years the diversity and plurality of the world's religions. Although he is correct in asserting that an entire generation of scholars, teachers, and interested readers have claimed in the interest of religious tolerance that the world's religions were simply different paths to the same one God, such a claim functions as little more than a red herring in what is otherwise a useful introduction to the world's religions. Once past that assertion, Prothero sets up a helpful model for examining each religion on its own terms: he explores a problem that dominates the religion, the religion's solution to the problem, the technique the religion uses to move from problem to solution, and the exemplar who charts a path from problem to solution. For example, in Buddhism the problem is suffering; the solution is nirvana; the technique is the Noble Eightfold Path; and the exemplars are the arhats, bodhisattvas, and lamas. Despite his naïveté about contemporary interreligious dialogue, Prothero's survey is a useful introduction to eight of the world's great religions.
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Los Angeles Times
“enormously timely, thoughtful and balanced”
Booklist
“Provocative, thoughtful, fiercely intelligent and, for both believing and nonbelieving, formal and informal students of religion, a must-read.”
The Daily Beast
“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
“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.”
Los Angeles Times
“enormously timely, thoughtful and balanced”
Booklist
“Provocative, thoughtful, fiercely intelligent and, for both believing and nonbelieving, formal and informal students of religion, a must-read.”
Rodney Stark
“An urgently needed and very nicely done corrective to politically correct nonsense.”
Eboo Patel
“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.”
Harvey Cox
“This book could well be the most highly readable, accurate, and up-to-date introduction to the world’s major religions.”
Miroslav Volf
“A very much needed book!”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061571275
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/20/2010
  • Pages: 388
  • Sales rank: 351,894
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Prothero is the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and a professor of religion at Boston University. His work has been featured on the cover of Time magazine, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, National Public Radio, and other top national media outlets. He writes and reviews for the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Salon, Slate, and other publications.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Dates and Diacriticals

Introduction 1

Ch. 1 Islam: The Way of Submission 25

Ch. 2 Christianity: The Way of Salvation 65

Ch. 3 Confucianism: The Way of Propriety 101

Ch. 4 Hinduism: The Way of Devotion 131

Ch. 5 Buddhism: The Way of Awakening 169

Ch. 6 Yoruba Religion: The Way of Connection 203

Ch. 7 Judaism: The Way of Exile and Return 243

Ch. 8 Daoism: The Way of Flourishing 279

Ch. 9 A Brief Coda on Atheism: The Way of Reason 317

Conclusion 331

Acknowledgments 341

Notes 343

Index 375

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

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(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 30, 2010

    If God is not One, the word is meaningless...

    I work closely with Huston Smith and created and maintain his official website. Stephen Prothero grossly misrepresents Smith's statements and position on this subject.

    Huston, Huxley, or Campbell have never said that "all religions are the same" or anything like that. What they say is that there is one underlying reality (call it God, Creator, Self, Ground of Reality, etc.) that the different religions, in their distinctive ways, refer to.

    To suggest otherwise is to ignore the very definition of God, or believe that there is more than one God, or claim that only one religion has it right, and the others have it wrong.

    Prothero says that the one God idea was, "a defense mechanism developed by Hindus to reject 19th Century Christian missionaries and fostered by the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893." The realty is that the idea reaches back to the ancient Vedas which declared, "Truth is one; sages call it by various names." This cannot be translated as "all the religions are the same". The Vedantic version of this idea was expressed by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 gathering, but it was well established by the Transcendentalist in the US well before then, and is also expressed in the mystical branches of the other religions.

    When pinned on these facts, Prothero admits he's talking more about how he, as a college student, and others have mistakenly interpreted the Perennial Philosophy as "all religions are the same".

    Prothero attributes Huxley, Smith, and Campbell as saying the differences between the religions are, "accidental." I am not aware of any of these three, or any Perennial Philosopher, saying anything of the sort. In fact, they address the differences as being very real and important to the practice of each faith.

    Prothero says, "People don't lump communism and democracy as the same, just slightly different. Why should they do it with religions?"

    Again, no one but Prothero is saying the various religions are the same, but in any case, Communism and democracy are the same in that they are different means to govern people - religions are the same in that they are different means to connect one's Self with its Source. It's a matter of defining what the underlying subject matter is.

    The ONLY way that Huxley, Smith, and Campbell say that religions are the same, is that they are all religions.

    18 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Skip this one

    When I read an article promoting God is Not One by Prothero in the Christian Science Monitor I was excited that finally there was a book that would discuss the differences between religions and why those differences matter. Eager to learn more I downloaded God is Not One onto my Nook. I cheered when I read in the introduction, "No one argues that different economic systems or political regimes are one and the same. . Yet scholars continue to claim that religious rivals such as Hinduism and Islam, Judaism and Christianity are, by some miracle of imagination, essentially the same ." Delighted I continued reading expecting to learn more about those differences and their implications only to be disappointed. While Prothero states that each faith takes a journey up a different mountain he never explains why that difference is more important than the common moral and ethical principles most religions share. As I continued reading I became uneasy. Even though Christians out number Moslems Prothero declares that Islam will be the faith of this century since their numbers are growing rapidly. Really? Perhaps we should wait another 90 years before declaring who the religious winner will be. By the second chapter I realized God is Not One is essentially a liberal treatise on religion written by a man will little or no faith and who has a strong bias against Christianity. Raised an Episcopalian, Prothero declares all non-Christian religions to be superior to his own religious heritage. Enthralled with the order Confucianism promotes, Prothero fails to follow its central tenet to respect and learn from his elders and ancestors. I urge Prothero to consider more carefully why his ancestors followed Christ. The chapter on Christianity calls into question the credibility of the entire book. Since I am Christian I can easily pick out the author's errors and distortions but my knowledge of Buddhism and Hinduism isn't extensive enough to know if he has made similar errors in those chapters. In criticizing Christianity he states Christianity has "texts of terror" and that there are whole books in the Bible devoted to war. The books he is referring to are called the Old Testament by Christians and the Torah by Jews. They contain a theological interpretation of historical events. Oddly in another chapter he proclaims the virtues of the Torah as if they are completely different books. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all draw from the covenant God made with Abraham. If the Christian God is implicated in genocide then so is the God of the Jews and Moslems. Prothero implies that Islam is better than Christianity because they have rules for war such as it is okay to behead any non-believer who refuses to convert while Christians have no such rules. He never mentions that Jesus instructed his disciples to walk away if someone rejects the gospel and to turn the other cheek when attacked. He also never mentions the rich Christian theological tradition that among other things talks about war and when it is or isn't just. Whether the Islamic or Christian approach has led to more or less war is open to debate. Prothero does not achieve what he set out to do. Instead of a thorough, non-bias discussion of the differences between faiths and how those differences impact the world, he essentially has given us another comparative religion book. I will have to search for another source containing the information I desire.

    7 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2010

    Other Reviewers Miss The Point

    This book is not designed to be a Theological Text Book (i.e. difficult and boring to read) but an introduction to the fact that "All roads do not lead to Heaven." As someone with an MDIV and a DMIN, I have found this book useful as a discussion starter when dealing with world religions. Overall it provides a pretty good introduction to the 8 major religions of the world. Not pushing the superiority of one over the other, he shows how ridiculous it is to think believers in each of these faiths want the same thing. I appreciate the professor writing in a manner that let's those without theological training to learn and hopefully fully investigat other faiths to open a well-needed dialogue.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    God Is Not A Sophomore Joke

    Prothero's premise, that individual religious commitments understand god in different ways is an important insight. I especially like the pattern of explaining individual religions on the basis of their primary concern and the resolution to that concern that each religion offers. Unfortunately, all that is covered in the introductory chapter, leaving the remaining chapters to take the form of what appear to be randomized comments gleaned from recordings of joking classroom presentations complete with "over the top" Hinduism and "sensible" Protestantism. Hum . . . biased much? The book turns out to be an excellent example of how to get your credit-hungry Sophomore class chuckling over a collection of witticisms that offer little spiritual growth but fuel the campus politics that keeps Professor Prothero in those all-important contact hours that fuel his teaching contract. I do not recommend the book for tenure.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 15, 2011

    An excellent collection

    While many reviewers were extremely negative about this book, I found this book extremely helpful and well-organized. It's an excellent resource for anyone who wants to know about some of the world's religions, and particularly useful to students of religion. We're using this book as a resource in my World Religions class and this book clearly and effectively describes all of the concepts my professor doesn't. Prothero's writing style is a very welcome break to an endless line of dry, boring authors of religion. I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 4, 2012

    A fascinating introduction to nine major religions.

    I found this book very informative, straight forward, sometimes humorous, and very fascinating, whereas I had expected something heavy and drab. This made me wish I had taken a religion course in college under his teaching. This is the best introduction of the major faiths I think you'll find anywhere!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2011

    Well thought out

    I have read pieces by Stephen Prothero in the NYTimes and like his insights. I am not religious, but am curious. When I purchased my Nook, this was the first book I bought. I was not disappointed. I agree with all of the favorable reviews I've read to date, but I think some of the negative reviews were a bit myopic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2013

    Great introductory read for anyone interested in understanding major world religions.

    Recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    Let Down

    While there was lots of useful information, it did not hold my interest for long. Some chapters were more interesting then others but, over all it was a little slow.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2012

    highly recommend

    This book was very useful for my religious class. I recommendedthis book to anyone thats studying religious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2011

    Great!

    Was glad to find a paperback version for my class.

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