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Living Religions: Western Traditions / Edition 1

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Overview

Living Religions—Western Traditions is a highly readable and stimulating survey of the major global religions and new religious movements that originated in the West, with particular focus on how people are trying to live by them in today's world. Evocative illustrations enhance this approach; first-person interviews of ordinary people and boxes uncovering the spiritual roots of well-known public figures bring this book to life. Covering the key religions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and new religious movements together with a brief chapter on indigenous religions that focuses primarily on Native American traditions, the social context, origins, teachers, scriptures, and historical development of each faith are carefully explored, with emphasis on how practitioners themselves understand their tradition from the inside. For readers interested in a comprehensive book about Western religions, as well as the clergy of various faiths.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780131829299
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

1. The Religious Response.
2. Indigenous Sacred Ways.
3. Judaism.
4. Christianity.
5. Islam.
6. New Religious Movements.
7. Twenty-First Century Pluralism.
Notes.
Glossary.
Index.
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Introduction

Religion is not a museum piece. As the twenty-first century unfolds, religion is a vibrant force in the lives of many people around the world, and many religions are presently experiencing a renaissance.

Living Religions: Western Traditions is a sympathetic approach to what is living and significant in the world's major religious traditions that have originated in the West as well as in local indigenous religions and new religious movements. This book provides a clear and straightforward account of the development, doctrines, and practices of these faiths. The emphasis throughout is on the personal consciousness of believers and their own accounts of their religion and its relevance in contemporary life.

Special features

One of the unique features of this text is personal interviews with followers of each faith. This material provides interesting and informative firstperson accounts of each religion as perceived from within the tradition. This volume includes special boxes featuring interviews with a Jewish holocaust survivor, a Southern Baptist Christian, who is now manager of a wilderness camp for inner-city youth, an Egyptian pharmacist, who returned to Islam because he learned to appreciate it from a scientific point of view, and a German follower of the Unification Movement. In addition, first-person accounts have been interwoven throughout the text.

Living Religions: Western Traditions also includes feature boxes on "Religion in Public Life." These portray the spiritual roots of selected followers of Western religions each of whom is making a significant contribution to modern society—Senator Joseph Lieberman,Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, and Muslim scholar Farid Esack. In their stories, one recognizes that deep religiosity can go hand-in-hand with deep social commitment.

There are also feature boxes on "Religion in Practice," such as Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, and "Teaching Stories," which can serve as take-off points for discussions about core values imbedded in each faith.

Violence perpetrated in the name of religion is often in the news these days. Living Religions: Western Traditions includes probing discussions of this disturbing factor in the major Western religions and also in new religious movements. Distinctions are made between the basic teachings of religions, none of which condones wanton violence, and the ways in which religions have been politicized. There is extensive coverage of the socio-political context of the contemporary practice of religions, especially the changes that have come in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Throughout the book, women's contributions and women's issues are carefully considered. Women's voices are woven into the discussions throughout, including those of female theologians who are bringing vital new perspectives to religious scholarship. African and African-American religious experiences are also of increasing interest, and these are extensively covered in this volume. There are poignant descriptions, for instance, of the lives of American Muslim converts who are trying to maintain traditional piety in the midst of modern materialistic society.

The opening chapter, "The Religious Response," brings critical scholarship to bear on underlying issues in the study of religion. Throughout the book the latest scholarship has been applied. The book incorporates extensive quotations from primary sources to give a direct perception of the thinking and flavor of each tradition. Particularly memorable brief quotations are set off in boxes.

One of the most engaging features of Living Religions: Western Traditions is its illustrations. I have been glad to have the chance to use 120 illustrations, 64 of them in color, to help bring religions to life. Narrative captions accompanying the illustrations offer additional insights into the characteristics and orientation of each tradition and the people who practice it.

Learning aids

I have tried to present each tradition clearly and without the clutter of less important names and dates. Key terms, defined and highlighted in boldface when they first appear, can also be found in an extensive glossary. Because students are often unfamiliar with terms from other cultures, useful guides to the pronunciation of words that may be unfamiliar are included in the glossary.

Maps are used throughout the text to give a sense of geographical reality to the historical discussions as well as to illustrate the present distribution of the religions. There is also a map of the missionary journeys undertaken by the apostle Paul in the chapter on Christianity. Timelines are used to recapitulate the historical development of the major religions up to the present.

I assume that readers will want to delve further into the literature. At the end of each chapter, therefore, I offer an annotated list of books that might be particularly interesting and useful in a deeper study of that religion.

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