I just picked up a copy of God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why their Differences Matter by Stephen Prothero at the local library. It was published just a couple months ago. I have only read the introduction thus far, but already I am fascinated by this book. I will likely want to do a discussion on it at some point, so I thought I would go ahead and post this if anybody else wanted to read it and maybe plan one with me in a month or two.
In this book Prothero attacks that notion at that all religion are the same, or that all religions lead to the same God. This is simply not true, he writes, because all of the religions address different problems, use different methods to solve those problems, and follow different examples. By ignoring these differences, as is so common in secular and even most religious societies, out of a desire for peace we are only promoting ignorance and disrespecting the religions themselves. He rightfully sees religion as one of the primary motivators of human actions and to ignore or purposefully misunderstand them makes it impossible to understand the world or address global issues.
Here is a long sample of his writing, taken from the introduction, that I found illuminating:
There is a long tradition of Christian thinkers assuming that salvation is the goal of all religions and then arguing that only Christians can achieve this goal. Huston Smith, who grew up in China as a child of Methodist missionaries, rejected this argument but not its guiding assumption. “To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion,” he wrote, “is like claiming that God can be found in this room and not the next.” It might seem to be an admirable act of empathy to assert that Confucians and Buddhists can be saved. But this statement is confused to the core, since salvation is not something that either Confucians or Buddhists seek. Salvation is a Christian goal, and when Christians speak of it, they are speaking of being saved from sin. But Confucians and Buddhists do not believe in sin, so it makes no sense for them to be saved from it. And while Muslims and Jews do speak of sin of a sort, neither Islam or Judaism describes salvation from sin as its aim. When a jailer asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” he is asking not a generic human question but a specifically Christian one. So while it may seem to be an act of generosity to state the Confucians and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews can also be saved, this statement is actually an act of obfuscation. Only Christians seek salvation.
After the introduction he has a chapter discussion on each of the eight most important religions trying to dissect the differences between them. They are, in the order he ranked them as most influential in the world right now, Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Judaism, Daoism, and Atheism.
It seems like this will be a fascinating book, so if you are interested pick up a copy at the store or library (I had to wait a month after ordering it from Columbus Public because it was just published). I will post some more thoughts once I have read more of it. Finally, I heard about this book on the Colbert Report in June. Here is the interview if you want to find out more. It is pretty funny.
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