Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review - Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry R. Morgan

I was incredibly excited to read this book as I have felt very uneducated on other religions but haven't found a resource that has a great variety in one place. This book covers so many in fairly short chapters that makes it easy to read and then understand. There were times I had to pull out a dictionary to make sure I knew what certain words meant, but that is all part of the learning & understanding process!

The first chapter works on defining religion. Since there is not really one right definition the author uses this working definition: "Religion is an organized system of beliefs that answers ultimate questions and commends certain actions or behaviors based on the answers to those questions".  In the next chapter he goes on to discuss why it is important to learn about other religions, and also some of the differences in the religions in different parts of the World.

He starts with Christianity, then continues on to Roman Catholic Christianity, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Protestant Christianity and Evangelical Christianity.  I will be honest and say that I really didn't know the difference between some of these before reading this. These chapters really helped to clear some things up for me personally. There are also chapters on Judaism (past & present), Folk Religions, Native American  Religions and Traditional African religions. They were explained very clearly and I really got a feel for what the people believe, if only on a small scale.

There are six chapters focused on Islam, digging into their beginnings, beliefs, varieties and theology. Obviously there is a lot of discussion and fear about Islam & Muslims in our country, and much of that is based on a small part of Islam. Just because someone is a Muslim does not automatically mean they are a terrorist. Also like just because someone is a Christian does not make them like Fred Phelps (well known for picketing funerals of fallen soldiers and declaring what God hates).  This is where being educated on religions is so helpful, I am going to be less likely to form an opinion (judge) about someone due to their religion when I understand more about their religion.

There are also chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and several other religions that I was not at all familiar with such as: Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Shinto and Secular Humanism.  After these religions which have all been around for a very long time, he addressed Cults, "Isms", and Contemporary Religious Movements.  Under these categories you will find Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, Scientology, Unitarian-Universalist, Unity School of Christianity, Unification Church, Neopagan religions, New Age Religions and Transcendental Meditation.

He tried to cover each one in a way that if a person from that religion read the chapter they would agree with most or all of it. It was written very thoughtfully and carefully, so that it would correctly reflect each religion. This is a book I would highly recommend to someone who is strong in their faith and wants to understand other religions and where they originated. I personally would not recommend it to someone new in their faith, as it could be very confusing and might cause them to question their own beliefs. Overall I really loved this book and plan to keep it as a great reference tool. As soon as I finished it my husband grabbed it and started reading! My oldest son who is 12 has even read some of the chapters and it has been great for discussions with him.

I was given a copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers to review honestly. A positive review was not required and all of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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