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Living Religions presents a highly readable and stimulating survey of the modern religious world though an emphasis on the personal consciousness of believers and their own accounts of their religion and relevance in contemporary life.

"Religion is not a museum piece. Religion is a vibrant force in the lives of many people around the world, and many religions are presently experiencing a renaissance." - Mary Pat Fisher, Preface to Living Religions

Along with a team of specialist consultants in each faith, and drawing on a wealth of scholarly research and firsthand source material, Mary Pat Fisher provides a fresh and challenging insight into the historical development and teachings of traditional faiths, indigenous religions, and new religious movements. She considers how the contemporary beliefs and practices of each of these traditions have evolved, and explores the changing nature of each religion; particularly the role of women, and the issues and controversies such as fundamentalism, violence, globalization, and interfaith initiatives.

This Books á la Carte Edition is an unbound, three-hole punched, loose-leaf version of the textbook and provides students the opportunity to personalize their book by incorporating their own notes and taking only the portion of the book they need to class – all at an affordable price. It comes packaged with an access code to MyReligionLab, an interactive online resource which gives students a chance to further explore and learn topics presented in the text.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Mary Pat Fisher's Living Religions is the best introduction to world religions for students without any prior knowledge of the subject. This book is well researched and written, with broad coverage of historical, phenomenological and doctrinal aspects of each world religions, as well as many captivating color photos/illustrations. In short, this book is a student-friendly text that also maintains a high standard of content and discussion." -- Jonathan Tan, Xavier University

"[Living Religions] is very well done. It serves as a clear and comprehensive introduction that is not only appropriate for college-level religion courses but is also helpful for scholars who are not expert in all religious traditions. It accomplishes what few texts have been able to do: balance the scholarly concern to 'complicate' and 'nuance' extraordinarily complex religious traditions with the student need to simplify at least long enough to learn effectively. It also insists, with its many pictures, stories, and examples from life, that religions are not mere scholarly constructs, but they are alive and real and fascinating." -- Samuel Thomas, California Lutheran University

"[Living Religions] is a scholarly, up-to-date, objective, and inclusive (broadly-covered) introduction to the major world religious traditions in the world today. Included in/with the text are helpful items such as glossaries of terms, review questions, maps and illustrations, pictures, personal stories, teaching stories, and CD and Internet resources." -- Clifford Cain, Franklin College

"[Living Religions] is a terrific resource for students interested in learning about the history, beliefs, and trends of the various world religions. It reflects a dedication to solid research." -- Daniel Rieger, Broward College

"It is a beautiful book. The text contains a good overview of the major world religions; it is comprehensive and very readable." -- Santos Roman, Riverside Community College

"Beautifully illustrated with incredibly inclusive discussions of each religion." -- Mary Thurlkill, University of Mississippi

"An excellent overview of the world's leading religions." -- Sam Hughes, Mt. San Jacinto College

"Highly readable and engaging. Takes a fresh approach compared to many other texts." -- Garry Morgan, Northwestern College

"I was impressed with the variety of materials available, and the manner in which they were keyed to sections of the book. I was pleased with [what] was offered." -- Wayne Brouwer, Hope College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780205001767
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 12/19/2010
  • Edition number: 8
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Pat Fisher writes about all religions, not only from academic research, but also from her experiences with religions around the world. Much of her knowledge comes from the unique interfaith community in India, Gobind Sadan, where she has lived since 1991. In addition to eight editions of Living Religions, she has written other textbooks about religions and also about art.


"In order to try to understand each religion from the inside, I have traveled for many years to study and worship with devotees and teachers of all faiths, and to interview them about their experience of their tradition. People of all religions also come to the Gobind Sadan Institute for Advanced Studies in Comparative Religions, in New Delhi, where it is my good fortune to meet and speak with them about their spiritual experiences and beliefs.

In preparing this book, I have worked directly with consultants who are authorities in specific traditions and who have offered detailed suggestions and resources. For breadth of scholarship, I have engaged the help of a new group of consultants..."


JOSEPH ADLER Kenyon College

AFE ADOGAME University of Edinburgh

ROBIN RINEHART Lafayette College

KARMA LEKSHE TSOMO University of San Diego

WANG MINQING Cornell University and Hunan University, China

VANESSA OCHS University of Virginia

AMY DEROGATIS Michigan State University

ALI IHSAN YITIK Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey

DR. MOHINDER SINGH Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi

CHRISTINE GUDORF Florida International University

ARVIND SHARMA McGill University, Montreal

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Table of Contents

Brief Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Religious Responses.

Chapter 2. Indigenous Sacred Ways.

Chapter 3. Hinduism.

Chapter 4. Jainism.

Chapter 5. Buddhism.

Chapter 6. Daoism and Confucianism.

Chapter 7. Shinto.

Chapter 8. Judaism.

Chapter 9. Christianity.

Chapter 10. Islam.

Chapter 11. Sikhism.

Chapter 12. New Religious Movements.

Chapter 13. Religion in the Twenty-First Century.




Complete Table of Contents

Preface ix

Teaching and learning resources xiii

MAP Religions of the World Today xiv


Chapter 1


Why are there religions? 3

– Materialistic perspective: humans invented religion 3

– Functional perspective: religion is useful 4

– Belief perspective: Ultimate Reality exists 7

Understandings of Sacred Reality 10


I. H. Azad Faruqi 12

Ritual, symbol, and myth 14

TEACHING STORY Descendants of the Eagle 17

Absolutist and liberal interpretations 18

BOX Angels Weep 19

The encounter between science and religion 20

RELIGION IN PRACTICE When Science Approaches Religion 25

Women in religions 26

Negative aspects of organized religions 28

Suggested reading 29

Key terms 31

Review questions 32

Discussion questions 32

MyReligionLab 32



Understanding indigenous sacred ways 34

MAP Distribution of Indigenous Groups 34

Cultural diversity 38

The circle of right relationships 39

– Relationships with spirit 40

YORUBA TEACHING STORY Osun and the Power of Woman 43

– Kinship with all creation 43

– Relationships with power 48

Spiritual specialists 50

– Storytellers and other sacred roles 50

– Mystical intermediaries 53


Nadezhda Ananyevna Stepanova 55

Group observances 56


of Self-Sacrifice 58

– Individual observances 61

Contemporary issues 62

RELIGION IN PRACTICE The Orang Asli of Malaysia:

Traditions being Lost 64


Suggested reading 70

Key terms 71

Review questions 72

Discussion questions 72

MyReligionLab 72

Chapter 3


Philosophical and metaphysical origins 74

– The Indus Valley Civilization 74

MAP The Indian Subcontinent 75

TIMELINE Hinduism 76

– The Vedas 77

Major philosophical systems 80

– Samkhya 80

– Advaita Vedanta 81

– Yoga 81

Religious foundations and theistic paths 85

– Shaktas 86

– Shaivites 88

– Vaishnavites 90

– The epics and Puranas 91

TEACHING STORY Hanuman, the Monkey Chief 94

The Hindu way of life 97

– Rituals 97

– Castes, duties, and life goals 99

– Life stages 100

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Sacred Thread Ceremony 101

– The guru 102

– Women’s duties 103

– Fasts, prayers, and auspicious designs 103

– Reverence of trees and rivers 104

LIVING HINDUISM An Interview with Somjit Dasgupta 105

– Pilgrimages 106

– Festivals 107


Hinduism in the modern world 111

– Modern movements 111

– Global Hinduism 112

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Dharmic Principles:

The Swadhyaya Movement 113


– Hindu identity 117

Suggested reading 118

Key terms 119

Review questions 120

Discussion questions 120

MyReligionLab 120

Chapter 4


The Tirthankaras and ascetic orders 121

Freeing the soul: the ethical pillars 123

– Karma 123

TEACHING STORY The Story of Bahubali 124

– Ahimsa 125

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Jain Purification 127

– Aparigraha 127

– Anekantwad 128

Spiritual practices 128

Festivals and pilgrimages 130

LIVING JAINISM An Interview with M. P. Jain 131

World Jainism 132

Suggested reading 133

Key terms 134

Review questions 134

Discussion questions 134

MyReligionLab 134

Chapter 5


The life and legend of the Buddha 135

TIMELINE Buddhism 137

The Dharma 141

– The Four Noble Truths 142

– The Noble Eightfold Path to liberation 143

– The wheel of birth and death 144

TEACHING STORY The Great Ape Jataka Tale 146

– Nirvana 147

Branches of Buddhism 148

MAP The Spread of Buddhism 149

– Theravada: the path of mindfulness 149

– Mahayana: the path of compassion and wisdom 156

MAP Distribution of Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism 157

– Chan and Zen: the great way of enlightenment 160

CHART Major Branches of Buddhism 160

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Zen Oxherding Pictures 162

– Pure Land: devotion to Amitabha Buddha 164

– Nichiren: salvation through the Lotus Sutra 164

– Vajrayana: the indestructible path 166

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE His Holiness the Dalai Lama 169

– Festivals 170

Buddhism in the West 171

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Life in a Western Zen Monastery 172

LIVING BUDDHISM An Interview with Karma Lekshe Tsomo 176

Socially engaged Buddhism 177

Suggested reading 181

Key terms 182

Review questions 183

Discussion questions 183

MyReligionLab 183

Chapter 6


Ancient traditions 184

– Worship and divination 185

MAP Historic Sites of Daoism and Confucianism 185

– Cosmic balance 187

TIMELINE Daoism and Confucianism 188

Daoism–the way of nature and immortality 189

– Teaching of Daoist sages 190

TEACHING STORY Three in the Morning 192

– Popular religion and organized Daoism 194

– Inner alchemy 195

– Daoist sects 196

RELIGION IN PRACTICE The Lantern Festival 198

– Daoism today 199

Confucianism–the practice of virtue 203

– Master Kong’s life 204

– The Confucian virtues 205

– Divergent followers of Confucius 206

– The state cult 207

– Neo-Confucianism 208

– Confucianism under communism 209

LIVING CONFUCIANISM An Interview with Ann-ping Chin 212

– Confucianism in East Asia 213

Suggested reading 214

Key terms 216

Review questions 216

Discussion questions 216

MyReligionLab 216

Chapter 7


The roots of “Shinto” 217

– Kinship with nature 218

– Honoring the kami 219

– Shrines 220

MAP Major Shinto Shrines 221

TEACHING STORY Amaterasu comes out of the cave 222

– Ceremonies and festivals 223

– Purification 225

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Purification by Waterfall 226

Buddhist and Confucian influences 227

State Shinto 228

“Sect Shinto” 229

Shinto today 230

LIVING SHINTO An Interview with Hitoshi Iwasaki 232

Suggested reading 233

Key terms 234

Review questions 234

Discussion questions 234

MyReligionLab 234


Chapter 8


A history of the Jewish people 239

TIMELINE Judaism 240

– Biblical stories 241

MAP The Early Israelites 243

TEACHING STORY Abraham’s Willingness to Sacrifice Isaac 245

BOX The Ten Commandments 248

– Return to Jerusalem 251

– Rabbinic Judaism 255

– Judaism in the Middle Ages 259

– Kabbalah and Hasidism 262

– Judaism and modernity 264

– The Holocaust 266

MAP Jewish Populations and the Holocaust 269

– Zionism and contemporary Israel 269

Torah 273

– The one God 273

– Love for God 274

– The sacredness of human life 275

– Law 275

LIVING JUDAISM An Interview with Eli Epstein 276

– Suffering and faith 277

Sacred practices 278

Holy days 282

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Passover Innovations 285

Contemporary Judaism 286

– Major branches today 286

CHART Major Branches of Judaism Today 287

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE Rabbi David Saperstein 288

– Jewish feminism 291

– Jewish renewal 293

Suggested reading 294

Key terms 296

Review questions 297

Discussion questions 297

MyReligionLab 297

Chapter 9


Historical evidence 298

Evidence of the Bible 299

The life and teachings of Jesus 301

– Birth 301

– Preparation 302

– Ministry 304

MAP Jesus’ Ministry 304

LIVING CHRISTIANITY An Interview with David Vandiver 307

TEACHING STORY The Good Samaritan 308

– Challenges to the authorities 310

TIMELINE Christianity 311

– Crucifixion 313

– Resurrection and Ascension 316

BOX Books of the New Testament 317

The early Church 318

– From persecution to empire 318

MAP St. Paul’s Missionary Journeys 320

– Evolving organization and theology 322

– Early monasticism 325

Church administration 326

MAP Distribution of Christians Today 326

– East—West division 327

– Social chaos and the papacy 329

Intellectual revival and monasticism 330

Medieval mysticism 331

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Russian Orthodox Kenoticism 333

The Protestant Reformation 334

CHART Major Divisions of Christianity Today 335

The Roman Catholic Reformation 339

Liberal trends 340

The Second Vatican Council 341

The Orthodox world today 342

BOX Eastern Orthodox Church 343

– The Russian Orthodox Church 344

– Distinctive features of Orthodox spirituality 345

Central beliefs in contemporary Christianity 347

Sacred practices 349

– Worship services and sacraments 349

– The liturgical year 352

– Contemplative prayer 355

– Devotion to Mary 357

– Veneration of saints and angels 359

Contemporary trends 360

– Evangelicalism 363

– Spirit-oriented movements 365

– The great reversal 368

– Liberation theology 370

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu 371

– Feminist theology 373

– Creation-centered Christianity 375

– Ecumenical movement 375

Suggested reading 377

Key terms 378

Review questions 379

Discussion questions 379

MyReligionLab 380

Chapter 10


Pre-Islamic Arabia 381

TIMELINE Islam 382

The Prophet Muhammad 383

The Qur’an 388

The central teachings 391

– The Oneness of God and of humanity 391

– Prophethood and the compass of Islam 392

– Human relationship to the divine 393

– The unseen life 394

– The Last Judgment 394

The Five Pillars 396

– Belief and witness 396

– Daily prayers 397


– Zakat 399

– Fasting 399

– Hajj 400

LIVING ISLAM An Interview with Dr. Syed M. Hussain 401

Sunni and Shi’a 404

– Sunnis 404

– Shi’a 406

Sufism 407

The spread of Islam 411

MAP The spread of Islam 411

TEACHING STORY Transformation by Islam 412

– Islamic culture 413

– Eastward expansion 415

Relationships with the West 418

– Islam in the West 420

Muslim resurgence 421

– Tradition and modern life 423

– Outreach and education 424


– Islam in politics 427

– Islam for the future 435

Suggested reading 436

Key terms 438

Review questions 438

Discussion questions 439

MyReligionLab 439

Chapter 11


The sant tradition 440

Guru Nanak 441

TIMELINE Sikhism 443

The succession of Gurus 444

TEACHING STORY Guru Arjun Dev’s Devotion 445

Central beliefs 450

LIVING SIKHISM An Interview with Inderpreet Kaur 451

Sacred practices 453

RELIGION IN PUBLIC LIFE His Holiness Baba Virsa Singh 456

Sikhism today 457

RELIGION IN PRACTICE Amrit Ceremony on Baisakhi 458

MAP The Punjab 459

Suggested reading 463

Key terms 463

Review questions 464

Discussion questions 464

MyReligionLab 464

Chapter 12


Social context of new religious movements 465

Charismatic leadership 468

– Unification Movement 468

– Sathya Sai Baba 470

Offshoots of older religions 471

– Mormon Church 471

– Jehovah’s Witnesses 473

– Radhasoami 475


An Interview with Wolfgang Hecker 476

Combinations of older religions 477

– Caodaism 477

– African-inspired syncretic religions 478

– Theosophical Society 480

– Baha’i 482


Governance of the World 483

Social trends 484

– Ethnic identity: Rastafari 484

– Nature spirituality 486

– New Age spirituality 491

Opposition to new religious movements 494

Will new religious movements last? 497

Suggested reading 497

Key terms 499

Review questions 499

Discussion questions 499

MyReligionLab 499

Chapter 13



Globalization 500

Secularism 501

Religious pluralism 502

– Hardening of religious boundaries 503

– Religion after 11 September 505

Religion in politics 507


Obama’s Historic Cairo Speech 509

Interfaith movement 510

– Responses to other faiths 511

– Interfaith initiatives 513

Religion and social issues 517


Religion and materialism 522

Religion and the future of humanity 523

Suggested reading 524

Key terms 525

Review questions 525

Discussion questions 525

MyReligionLab 525

Notes 527

Glossary 540

Index 549

Credits 558

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