Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs

Article excerpt

Hidden Religion: The Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs. By Micah Issitt and Carlyn Main. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014. 531 p. Acid free $100.00 (ISBN 978-1-61069-477-3). E-book (978-1-61069-478-0) available, call for pricing.

This readable reference book generally seems to meet its stated goal. The authors' preface states their hope "that the information in this book will inspire our readers to take the quest for knowledge further, perhaps exploring fields and issues previously unimagined" (xiv). While it might be a long conversation if a goal were to focus on what "greatest" means in the title, it does seem this work could be a handy supplement or kick start for research.

To begin, there is an opening essay, "Introduction: History and Mystery," with these discussion sections: "Life, the Universe, and Everything," "Religious Evolution," and "Symbols and Secrets." Reading this discussion is like listening to an interesting speaker, both engaging and stimulating, although a slight frustration for this reviewer was not finding any citations relevant to the historical, sociological, and religious development claims made in the essay.

The book is arranged using these major headings: "Abrahamic and Iranian Religions," "Dharmic Religions," "East Asian Religions," "African Religious Traditions," "Indigineous American Religions," "Oceanic Religions," and "Western Paganism." Under those headings are short, introductory essays for religions (and nonreligion), along with confidently presented entries for a large array of visual symbols, beliefs, and practices.

An appreciated feature is the reading list with every entry. Lists include at least two books from good publishers or a book and a website. The value of these websites could be limited or need supplementing. For example, there might be a need to supplement information about Jainism obtained using the Jain Student Center website at the University of Michigan. …

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