Not for the first time have I tried to find a book which offered a broad introduction to an area of geographical inquiry, and not for the first time have I set about the task of writing it myself when the search failed! My aim has been simply to pull together and package in a sensible framework a wealth of geographical research and writing on the theme of religion which has appeared particularly over the last decade.
The central theme of this book is geography and religion, not the geography of religion. The distinction is important, because whilst there are many fascinating questions to be answered concerning spatial patterns of religions, these represent only a part of the field. To focus only on the geography of religion would be to overlook many important geographical themes, and it would be a travesty to the many geographers whose work explores religion in other contexts.
The book neither assumes nor requires any particular religious belief or sympathy of its readers. Neither does it seek to endorse any particular religion and criticise others. I have tried hard to remain objective throughout, and treat all of the themes with an even hand.
Doubtless most readers will find some sections over-played and others underplayed, and many may be surprised at the inclusion of some themes and the exclusion of others. Inevitably in a book of this sort the selection partly reflects the author’s interests, but the main constraint has been the availability of geographical work on different themes. I have tried to capture the diversity of work within the field, and I hope that the book might offer a map of interesting and important themes which readers will find useful.
A note on terminology. In referring to dates, I have adopted the recent convention of referring to dates more than 2,000 years ago as BCE (Before Christian Era) rather than BC (Before Christ) and dates less than 2,000 years ago as CE (Christian Era) rather than AD (Anno Domini). As Hinnells (1984a: 13) suggests, ‘these make no assumptions about a person’s religious position’ and are less antagonistic to people of non-Christian religions than BC and AD.