Global Religions: An Introduction

Global Religions: An Introduction

Global Religions: An Introduction

Global Religions: An Introduction

Synopsis

The essays collected here provide brief and accessible introductions to the major world religions in their global contexts. The volume begins with an introduction to the globalization of religion by Mark Juergensmeyer, and is followed by individual essays on Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and local religious societies. The book concludes with three essays reflecting on the global religious scene. Taken together, these essays provide a concise, authoritative, and highly readable introduction to the state of worldwide religion in the 21st century.

Excerpt

Maps can deceive. Several decades ago, cartographers were fond of providing maps that allegedly demarcated the spatial locations of world religions. A great wash of red would stretch from Tibet to Japan, engulfing China, to show where Buddhism was. The Middle East would be tinted green for the terrain of Islam, a yellow India for Hinduism, an orange for African religion, while Christianity's color—often blue, I recall—was brightly emblazoned on Europe and the Western Hemisphere. Some of the more sophisticated maps would make a distinction between the light blue of Protestant Canada and the United States and the dark blue of Catholic Latin America, but there was no question as to clarity of the demarcation. I imagined slipping across the border from a Buddhist red zone to an Islamic green one and suddenly encountering mosques where previously there had been only stupas, temples, and chanting monks.

It has never really been like that, of course. Although there are regions of the world that serve as dense centers of gravity for certain religious traditions, much of the world is less certain as to its religious identity, and always has been. Even Hindu India was a quarter Muslim before Pakistan was created, and even today 15 percent of the Indian population reveres Islam. Indonesia—the largest . . .

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