A Little History of Religionby Richard Holloway Published 23 Aug 2016
|A Little History of Religion.pdf|
|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
"It was okay" would be a fair summary...
Knowing a little of the author's background I wasn't expecting anything overly rigorous, but saw this going cheap (maybe free?) on Audible and thought the reviews merited it a read.
Interesting where other religions than Christianity were concerned. For some unknown (or perhaps not) reason they are given a much easier ride than Christianity - where patronising simplifications are deemed sufficient.
This is frustrating from a true Christian point of view - firstly because for many he speaks as someone with supposed authority/credibility on the issue, and secondly because Christianity is absolutely robust enough to answer every one of his critiques and dismissals...
The sections on fundamentalist Christians were particularly annoying in this regard. 'Back when people were stupid, believing in Genesis was fine' sort of stuff.
Scraped a second star purely because the chapters on "modern religions" joined a few dots for me - although anything other than the historical fact I took with a pinch of salt given his subjective treatment of Christianity.
This should be required reading not just for people in school, but everyone, because religion is all around us and most folks only have a passing knowledge of anything outside their own religion. With short, insightful chapters, we're introduced to a host of major and minor religions - their origins, beliefs and how they impact the world today. This should dispel a lot of ignorance that is out there and it has the added value of being highly entertaining.
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.
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.
Any book that's billed as a "history of religion" and is less than 1,000 pages long is bound to generate the charge of being shallow and incomplete. Indeed this book is guilty on both counts, but I enjoyed it tremendously nevertheless and would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.
Not surprisingly, this Little History is most informative on those religions that have left behind copious written records and that continue to be a force in the world today. Not surprisingly, Christianity gets quite a few pages, spread out over different sections, but Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Shinto, Confucianism, Taoism all have their moment (or moments) in the sun, too. Unfortunately, Native North American religions barely get a mention and an alien reading this book would be forgiven for not realizing that there exist on Earth such continents as Australia and South America. Africa really only pops up as the site of Islamic conquests. The worship of the ancient Greeks & Romans also makes an appearance, the only religious tradition discussed in this book that is no longer active. The author may thus face the charge of a kind of Eurasian centrism, considering the universal implications of the title, but that may well have more to do with the availability of written sources than anything more sinister.
For all that it leaves out, this book is an excellent handbook for beginning to understand the historical and intellectual currents upon which contemporary religion -- and society with it -- floats today and perhaps, too, those currents upon which it will be borne into the future.
A nifty little book that simultaneously offers a history of religion as idea and histories of religions. As the author bounces easily back and forth between faiths, he uses one religion's take on ideas common to many of them to explain the big ideas. Creation, evil, death, heaven and hell, prophets. Well worth a space on the shelf.