How Do You Spell God?: Answers to the Big Questions from Around the World

Overview

People don't want to learn about religions just because there are religions out there. People want to learn about religions because they know that religions have great answers to the big questions.

Award-winning authors Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman have produced a unique way of looking at the world's religions. Instead of isolating each religion in its own ...

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Overview

People don't want to learn about religions just because there are religions out there. People want to learn about religions because they know that religions have great answers to the big questions.

Award-winning authors Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman have produced a unique way of looking at the world's religions. Instead of isolating each religion in its own separate chapter, this book unites the religions by showing how each of them answers these universal questions:

  • How should we live?
  • What happens to us after we die?
  • Why does bad stuff happen to good folks?
  • How can we talk to God?

With a refreshing combination of humor and sensitivity, a rabbi and priest show us how Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the other great religions teach us to live. This wise and often thoughtprovoking book shows us that each religion has its own wisdom and its own wonderful stories. It also explains who works for God, why the world's religions are so different, and why some days of the year have become holy.

How Do You Spell God? helps us appreciate religions from all over the world. It will also help us better understand our planet, our families, and ourselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Higgins Clark
A beautiful, wise, and eminently readable book that will appeal to anyone of any age.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With conviction, common sense and humor, Gellman and Hartman tackle the concept of religion along with related issues and concerns. A religions-of-the-world recap (in a chapter called ``What Question Does Each Religion Want to Answer the Most?'') provides basic information on the beliefs of various organized religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto and Islam. For each group the authors supply biographies of the Big Teachers (religious leaders) and identify holy days, holy books, holy places and holy times of life. Two of the more spiritually moving chapters, respectively, describe methods of praying and offer explanations of why ``bad stuff happens to good folks.'' Co-hosts of the syndicated weekly cable television program The God Squad, Gellman and Hartman exhibit great facility in discussing potentially thorny subjects, making it easy for young readers to digest their work. The slightly informal language and clear writing style combine to achieve a tone that is intelligent and respectful-and relevant to today's kids. Ages 10-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Judy Chernak
Rather than explore one religion in each section, this book asks "the big questions" and explains how different beliefs answer them: What is religion? How are religions different, and how are they the same? Who are the teachers, and what are the holy books? What are some of the bad and good things in all religions? The reader is drawn into exploring our basic human need to know; to ask; to create ways of expressing joy, sorrow, thanks and hopes which are common to all religions. The authors make telling points-the good that all religions teach is the same, and the bad that people do is never the teaching of any religion (though often presented as such). Their chatty, informal tone is generally handled well, although such expressions as "The times they are a'changin'" and "What the hey!" and "cut people some slack" are strange choices for a children's book today. I also felt that Rabbi Gellman should identify some practices described in Judaism as being those of the Reform movement rather than universal. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful book with a very even tone and a rare understanding of major as well as less well known religions and is highly recommended.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-Comparative religion for the middle school set? Yes, and brilliantly done by Gellman and Hartman, who expertly simplify, without reducing, their complex subject. The authors celebrate the varied beauties of holiness with a genius for clarifying the abstract (e.g., characterizing religions by the questions they most want to answer, or categorizing them as ``tribal'' v. ``open''). The holy books, teachers, places, and days of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism are described with appreciation, liveliness, and humor in a direct, conversational style that eschews both contractions and big words, but leans real often on an adverbial ``real.'' If you don't mind this bit of grammatical freethinking, then there's only one major drawback to the book. A two-page discussion of ordination never mentions women priests in the Anglican Communion and nuns and non-Orthodox female rabbis rate the same brief nod given to altar girls. If feminists will be displeased, so will animists: African and Native American wisdom is occasionally quoted, but no serious consideration of these religious orientations is offered. Nevertheless, this extraordinary title is so full of wisdom, good sense, bad jokes, and great stories-not to mention solid information-that it deserves to earn its authors a star in their heavenly crowns.-Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688130411
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1995
  • Pages: 206
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Gellman holds an earned doctorate in philosophy from Northwestern University. Rabbi Gellman is married to Betty Schulson and has two children, Mara and Max. He is the senior rabbi of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, New York. He will be the next president of the New York Board of Rabbis.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What's a Religion?

A religion is a bunch of big answers to the really big questions. Nobody wants to learn about religions just because there are religions out there. We want to learn about religions because we want to get the answers to the big questions. When we find out that religions have real good answers to real big questions — "Wham!" — that is when we want to learn about religions. Now, there are questions that all religions answer and questions that only some religions answer. The way we see it, there are four big questions all the religions in the world try to answer:

  1. "What's our place in the world?"
  2. "How can we live the right way?"
  3. "How do we pray?"
  4. "What happens to us after we die?"

If something answers these questions, it's a religion; if it doesn't, it isn't! If these questions matter to you, then you will want to know about religions. If they don't, you won't. You see, these are the biggest, most important questions we ask in our lives. These questions are the reasons religions started up, and they are the reasons religions keep going. We need to know the answers to the really big questions.

In this book we don't teach you that only one religion has the right answers to these questions. What we believe is that all the religions of the world have some good answers to these questions. We have decided that all the religions of the world have something wonderful and true and good to teach us about the big questions.

Think of a diamond. When you look at a diamond, there isn't just one right way. Every side of a diamond shows you a special anddifferent sparkle. It's the same with religions. Each religion in the world is like a diamond. Each religion sparkles in its own way.

It's the same when you think about your parents. When you say that you love your parents, you don't mean that they are the only good parents in the whole world. What you mean is that you have learned more from your parents than from anyone else, that you are close to them in a special way, that you will always love them, and that you will tell the stories of their lives to the children of your children. Our religion is like that. We are close to our religion in a special way. We never get tired of its stories, but we are always ready to hear a good story from another religion that other people love just the way we love ours.

One of us (Marc Gellman) is a rabbi, and one of us (Tom Hartman) is a priest. We love our religions. We don't want to change our religions. We want to follow the teachings of our own religions and keep those teachings alive. We don't want all the religions to melt down into one big religion. This would be boring and would make the world very dull. It would be like having just one baseball team, or just one band, or just one painter, or just one flavor of ice cream. The different religions in the world help to give the world its color and spice, its rhythm and its smiles. How could you not want to know about A that?

If you live long enough, you will meet somebody who hates religions. One of the things die people who hate religions say a lot is, "Religions divide people and teach them to hate each other." This is ridiculous, and here's what we say to people who don't like religions: "Look around this world! Look at the people who are doing good stuff, the people who are giving out soup to hungry folks who have no money to pay for the soup, the people who are budding houses for folks who have no money to pay for the houses, the people who are taking care of little children who nobody wants to take care of — the good people. Can't you see that lots of these people doing good stuff have a religion that taught them to do it?"

Then we say, "Look around this world at the people who are doing bad stuff. The people who kill folks for no reason, the people who hurt folks for 'fun,' the people who beat up people because of the color of their skin, the people who cheat and lie and steal and throw their beer cans out of the windows of their cars — the bad people. Can't you see that none of these people learned how to do that bad stuff from a religion?"

We know that you can be a good person even if you have no religion. You can do good things not because you learned them from a religion but because you just learned them from good people. We know that there are creeps in religion and good folks who aren't religious, but here's the thing: The teachings of religion are behind all the good things people do.

The main thing is to do good stuff and not to worry so much about where it comes from. But when somebody says that religions divide people and teach them to hate each other, you should stand up and tell them that they are full of baloney. If they don't want to listen to you, just pick yourself up and go somewhere else where the good people are trying to fix the world with other good people who don't really care that much how they got to be good.

Now, there is just one last thing. We know that there are some folks who teach that their religion is the only right religion. We have no problem with folks who believe that their religion is right. We have no problem with...

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