A Little History of Religionby Richard Holloway Published 23 Aug 2016
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|Publisher||Yale University Press|
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For curious readers young and old, a rich and colorful history of religion from humanity’s earliest days to our own contentious times
In an era of hardening religious attitudes and explosive religious violence, this book offers a welcome antidote. Richard Holloway retells the entire history of religion—from the dawn of religious belief to the twenty-first century—with deepest respect and a keen commitment to accuracy. Writing for those with faith and those without, and especially for young readers, he encourages curiosity and tolerance, accentuates nuance and mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith.
Ranging far beyond the major world religions of Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, Holloway also examines where religious belief comes from, the search for meaning throughout history, today’s fascinations with Scientology and creationism, religiously motivated violence, hostilities between religious people and secularists, and more. Holloway proves an empathic yet discerning guide to the enduring significance of faith and its power from ancient times to our own.
"A Little History of Religion" Reviews
When it comes to religion, I’ve long been unsure whether to describe myself as an agnostic or an atheist. As a boy I attended a Christian (Methodist) church some Sundays with my parents, where a kindly gentleman would take the children aside and talk to us about… well, I can’t actually recall what he talked to us about. He obviously didn’t leave a big impression on me. Later, I attended the church youth club for a while but was eventually expelled for stealing off to a pub during a trip to a neighbouring town – the consumption of alcohol being considered a step to far for the club leader. I even dabbled with a GCE Advanced Level Theology course in my last year at school but that didn’t last long, the material was just too dry and heavy for my tastes. In fact, I always found religion to be too obscure, the debates too esoteric. I didn’t get it, and I didn’t really believe it either.
This book is written in an easy to follow, matter of fact way. I found it particularly interesting as religious education classes I’d attended at school (at least, from what I can remember) focussed entirely on the Christian faith. I left school knowing virtually nothing about other world religions and what I’d subsequently picked up along the way seemed sketchy at best. I was also thankful that the text here wasn’t in any way ‘preachy’ about the subject matter; it’s very much a straight forward history of how the various religions have developed, their key beliefs and what this means for its followers.
All of the major religions are covered and some minor ones too. For instance, I was fascinated to learn that that followers of the ancient Indian religion of Jainism believe in non-violence to the extent they don’t sanction the killing any of living creature and that this also extends to ‘living’ plants. Their food intake is therefore restricted to fruit that has already fallen from the tree. Followers have been known to have intentionally starved themselves to death, a practice not considered to be suicide but rather the ultimate act of spiritualism and self discipline. The text is reasonably comprehensive, if high level, with the whole spectrum of the good, the bad and the ugly aspects being touched on here: the way in which lives have been enriched but also how wars have been fought on the grounds of competing beliefs and how groups have suffered horrific persecution.
So, did this book make me feel differently about religion? I can certainly see that each religion adopts a set of moral guidelines, or rules, that are pretty much essential to any intelligent society. That’s obviously a good thing and to some extent I can see that the dwindling of the Christian faith in the UK has led to what I consider to be a certain moral decline. It’s hard to pinpoint this precisely, but I nonetheless do believe this to be the case. But the bit that I can’t get past, the element that just doesn’t work for me, is the fact that each religion essentially starts with a man (an it’s just about always a man) professing to have received a message from a divine being and then claiming to speak on the entity’s behalf. No, I don’t buy this – particularly given the range of messages passed down to these so called prophets. This book lays out an interesting and colourful history in a very digestible way – but, in truth, it’s one that’s nudged me significantly closer to atheism.
My first 5 stars book of the year, and it's an audiobook which is quite unusual for me as I tend to wonder off when listening and due to that always am a bit hesitant with ranking.
Richard Halloway introduces history of religion with such an ease and clarity that one can only applaud him for it... From it's very beginnings, as a response to the mystery of death to the most modern religious movements, from it's greatest almost art like qualities to violence it brings, there's hardly any place when he didn't make me nod my head with pleasure.
Brilliant, intertwined, complex history of a construct so many people are willing to die for, strongly recommend for everybody.
เป็นหนังสือประวัติศาสตร์ศาสนาที่เขียนออกมาครอบคลุมและแปลได้ดีเล่มหนึ่งเลยทีเดียว เราได้รู้จักศาสนา นิกาย และลัทธิต่าง ๆ รวมถึงความสัมพันธ์ของพวกมัน ที่มาที่ไป และบทบาทต่อสังคมมนุษย์เพิ่มขึ้นมาก ที่ชอบอีกอย่างคือผู้แปลทำการบ้านเรื่องชื่อเรียกคำเฉพาะต่าง ๆ ในภาษาไทยได้ดี แปลความได้สละสลวย ติดขัดนิดหน่อยตรงการใช้คำว่าจุติที่เราอ่านแล้วไม่แน่ใจความหมายที่แท้จริงของผู้แปล (จุติหมายถึงตาย/กลับมาเกิดใหม่) งงว่าหมายถึงตายหรือเกิด และเป็นคำที่เหมาะสมหรือไม่กับเรื่อง แต่นั่นก็ไม่ใช่เหตุผลที่จะทำให้อ่านไม่รู้เรื่อง หรือลดทอนคุณค่าของหนังสือเล่มนี้ลงไป หนังสือเล่มนี้น่าจะเก็บไว้อ่านซ้ำยามว่างหรืออ้างอิงบางส่วนไปใช้ได้ดี
World religions have always fascinated me - how various cultures make sense of their world and attribute purpose to life. I fall pretty squarely in the agnostic category at this point in my life and have a difficult time with anything that can't be understood scientifically. On the other hand, I recognize that there are aspects of the world that the human mind may be unable to understand (hence the agnostic label), and I can appreciate the comfort and life direction that religion can bring.
Holloway is the former Bishop of Edinburgh who left the church in 2000. He has written about his loss of faith in other books, but in this particular work he remains largely objective, providing factual accounts of the founding and practices of various world religions. He's not afraid to point out the darker side of religion, however, and acknowledges both the good and the bad aspects of major world religions. This is a history book, not an opinion piece, and you won't find much in the way of opinions or theories.
A Little History of Religion is written in a language that makes it appropriate for younger and older readers, although I honestly felt a bit "talked down to" in the opening chapters. On the other hand, he provides entomological background for many commonly used religious words, providing a more comprehensive backdrop for understanding how various religions have started and evolved. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the book is dedicated to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), which have been the most influential in Western (and Eastern, to a lesser extent) culture. I still would have liked to have seen a bit more about the Eastern religions, for my own curiosity.
Overall, this is a great overview of world religions that can be enjoyed by those anywhere on the religious spectrum. Holloway does not try to push any religion but does point out its failings, which may anger some of the more fundamental practitioners. If you are fascinated by religion, as I am, this is a good place to start.
This short summary of known world religions is very nicely package together, with clear explanations of some very complex religious theologies. I quite enjoyed the manner how different ideologies were juxtaposed together, highlighting commonalities and divergences. I particularly liked the idea that human kind has outgrown its dependence on religion and is mature enough to own collective learned behaviors.
My only critique of the book is that it is far too Catholic heavy, although the author does delve into revival and reformation movements in India and China at times but not in great detail. I feel more effort should have spent explaining different religions in order to justify the grand tile of the book.
Exactly what it says it is – a little history of religion, a survey of the world’s religions from their very beginnings to today’s fractured and complex situation. In this relatively short, extremely clear and accessible book, Holloway attempts to answer those perennial questions that have so plagued society from its earliest days. What is religion? Where does it come from? Why do humans seem to need it? Why is it so associated with violence and intolerance? What are the similarities and differences between the many manifestations of religions thought? Holloway remains impartial. He has no axe to grind and isn’t trying to preach one way of thought over another. Clear-sighted, logical and meticulous in his research, this is a book for everyone, young and old alike, the general reader and the more academic. If occasionally I got irritated by his rather condescending tone, that is a minor quibble indeed and only a personal one.