The World's Religions

The World's Religions

The World's Religions

The World's Religions


• Gives an account of the history, the theological basis, the practice and the current state of the study of religion and religions throughout the world

• Combines a clear and non-technical style of presentation with a structure and range of contributions which reflect the richness and complexity of religion itself, of the religions of the world and the study of religions

• Comprehensive index, bibliographies and suggestions for further reading

'Intriguing philosophical questions are raised about the nature of religion and the qualities needed for studying it.' - Times Higher Education Supplement
'Excellent book... remarkably successful, impressive as much for the sheer scale of the undertaking as for its consistent standard of analysis. It is a fine achievement which will serve both as a very suitable textbook for students and a reliable guide to the state of scholarship in the History and Study of Religions.' - Heythrop Journal


Stewart Sutherland

This book is offered as an aid to the disinterested study of religion. It is offered, that is to say, to those who are certainly interested in religion and religions, but whose first aim is to seek knowledge and understanding. Of course, it may well be that the reader’s ultimate aim is to discover or formulate beliefs—to come to a view of what it is that one does believe or what one might believe. However, the assumption of the editors is that understanding is not a barrier to belief: indeed, sometimes it is quite the reverse. It may pose problems for certain specific beliefs, just as an understanding of fairly elementary principles of the working of the Solar System will prove to be an obstacle to the belief that the earth is flat, or acquaintance with foreigners may change one’s belief that all strangers are to be feared. But in each case the knowledge or understanding does not simply negate beliefs, it gives rise to new beliefs—that the earth is round, or that at least some strangers are to be welcomed.

Inevitably a single-volume work cannot be completely comprehensive in its range of topics and there has been selectivity based on general as well as specific principles. The general divisions are indicated in the contents list. The more specific principles operating are of three types.

The first is to indicate the range and variety of religions, religious beliefs and religious forms of life that are found in the world today. Thus in addition to devoting whole divisions of the volume to the Judeo-Christian tradition, to Islam and to the complex of religious beliefs and practices in South and East Asia, we have provided accounts of the indigenous religions of the Americas, of Africa, of Australia and Melanesia. In these latter cases we have been selective and this is true also of the contents of the last division of the volume, devoted to New Religious Movements.

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