God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter
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God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,508 ratings  ·  250 reviews
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, dizzying scientific and technological advancements, interconnected globalized economies, and even the so-called New Atheists have done nothing to change one thing: our world remains furiously religious. For good and for evil, religion is the single greatest influence in the world. We accept as self-evident that competing economic sy...more
Hardcover, 388 pages
Published April 20th 2010 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2010)
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Ryan
Stephen R. Prothero's God is Not One compares eight of the "greatest" religions in the world. Who made the cut? In descending order of greatness, the religions Prothero discusses are: Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion, Judaism, and Daoism. This "ranking" of religions might wrinkle some readers' noses, but it primarily serves to justify stopping this overview at the eight most influential religions. It is not a "best" to "worst" list.

Still, it's worth asking w...more
Lydia
After reading Stephen Prothero’s “God Is Not One” I have a deeper and less judgmental understanding of religious differences and the religious experience. I feel we are all on a journey in this life to find a perfect love and we find it in different ways: through the love of God, or Allah; through meditation and the love of self; through the love of a mate, parent, sibling, or child. Regardless of where this perfect love is found, once you find it, you realize that life is something incredible a...more
Terence
Oct 06, 2010 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested in religions
Shelves: religion-general
I am not going to spend much time discussing the bulk of this book – the nine chapters that introduce you to “the eight rival religions that run the world” (in Prothero’s estimation) and atheism – because that turns out not to be the important part. I’ve had a difficult time writing this review because I didn’t know where to start but then it hit me as I was desultorily leafing through the book that the most important section is the author’s introduction, where he sets out why “god is not one” a...more
Rod Hilton
In Stephen Prothero's last book, Religious Literacy, Prothero made the case that the level of understanding about the major world religions is dangerously low. Apparently many people reacted to this book by telling Prothero the same thing I thought when I finished reading that book: "I see that our cultural knowledge of religion is poor, I know I'm a part of that, and I want a single book to read to educate myself." God Is Not One is that book.

God Is Not One offers a high-level look at the eight...more
Bob Nichols
Prothero does a good job summarizing major religious systems. Left here, this would be an excellent book.

In emphasizing diversity of religious beliefs and practices, the author directly challenges those who claim that differences are superficial and that God is really One. That's a "lovely sentiment," he writes, but it's "dangerous, disrespectful and untrue." As becomes clearer at the end of the book, Prothero is also criticizing the New Atheists (Harris, Dawkins and others) who, he argues, pai...more
Al Bità
This is an interesting take on comparative religions which introduces the reader into eight 'great religions', in order: Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Judaism and Daoism. By 'great' the author means those which he considers most influential in the modern world. Sometimes this also means those with the largest numbers, but this is not necessarily always the case. Prothero himself admits much is missing from his choices — some examples: Shinto, Jainism, Zoroastrian...more
Sarah
Having abandoned this book to gather dust on my ‘to-read’ shelf for over six months, I’m now a bit upset with myself at not having read it sooner. I am no stranger to Dawkins-esque New Atheism, which Mr. Prothero (not unjustly) describes as “angry” and “self-righteous.” After reading through an endless (and repetitive) collection of New Atheist books, though, I felt utterly drained of anger and in dire need of a long religious study hiatus.

Six months and a few epic novels later, I find myself cl...more
David
Prothero gives us an easy-to-read primer on the most eight influential religions in the world today. He orders them according to their influence, putting Islam first. Some could argue with the religions included or the order, and Prothero briefly addresses such objections.

This book would be helpful for those interested in world religions and how these religions influence the world. Islam and Christianity are obvious and come first, together holding over half of the world population as adherents....more
Sistermagpie
I saw the author of this book interviews on TV, wanted to read it, and promptly forgot his name and the name of the book. But I finally tracked it down--go me!

God is Not One challenges an idea that's become synonymous with religious tolerance, the idea that all religions are just "the same" underneath. It's not about saying one religion is better than another, but looking at how each of the 8 most popular religions approach the problem of life and what solutions they offer. For instance, submiss...more
Chad Bearden
To begin with, the bizarre coda about atheism that many reviewers have cited as the reason for a low rating does, to be sure, leave one with a bad taste in the mouth. For all his seeming knowledge of the religions he explains, he doesn't appear to have a firm grasp on what atheism is. After carefully reading the coda, I think I can see where Prothero is coming from, but he does a poor job in writing an objective account of what atheism, represents. More on that later in the review. Anyway, yes,...more
Glen Engel-Cox
A few weeks ago I read an interview with the author of this book and that intrigued me enough to make this the first purchase through Apple's iBooks application on my iPhone. During this last weekend's dive trip, and I had enough free time to spend educating (and re-educating) myself on the world's greatest religions. Prothero is a religious studies professor, and this book comes across as a basic college 101 survey course, albeit one that does have a thesis: that it is a mistake for people to c...more
Margaret Sankey
The other reviews of this book are hilarious and make me wonder if anyone read the book at all--"comparative religion makes me see that we're all about love!". Prothero's point, aided by cogent summaries of the world's major diaspora religions, is that while there is some overlap about goodness and an ideal world, there are specific reasons why religions emerged the way they did for very different purposes (his sports analogy is a good one--most sports have a score-keeping system, but runs are v...more
Laurie
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, found it measured, respectful, fascinating, and satisfying---until I came to the chapter on atheism. There I was bitterly disappointed. Prothero spends the majority of his coverage of atheism on the "New Atheists"---Hitchens, Dawkins, et. al., with all their bombastic diatribes and argumentative ways. He shows very little effort and even less interest (or respect) for the more average atheist, the one who, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, "has not yet been convinced by t...more
John Barbour
Prothero argues in this book that all religions are not the same. duh! They may have a similar starting point; that the world is not as it should be; but they differ in what is wrong with the world and what the solution is. The only reason this book is good is that it attacks the leading orthodoxy prevalent in the western world that all religions are basically the same. This is a position championed by popular culture, Huston Smith, "The Religions of Man 1958, Karen Armstrong , Oprah Winfrey, Jo...more
Kevin
There is a LOT of material in here.

"The Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century popularized the idea of religious tolerance, and we are doubtless better for it," he writes. "But the idea of religious unity is wishful thinking nonetheless, and it has not made the world a safer place. In fact, this naive theological groupthink — call it Godthink — has made the world more dangerous by blinding us to the clashes of religions that threaten us worldwide."

Lumped into the Godthink category are the 'New...more
Jon
The first four words of the title are very misleading, suggesting that this will be an argument for polytheism. The expansion in the subtitle explains what the books is really about. Prothero devotes a chapter to each of the great religions, in descending order of greatness--Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion, Judaism, and Daoism, with a brief coda responding to the new atheists a la Dawkins and Hitchens. He includes in his assessment of greatness both the hol...more
Rachael
Prothero attacks at a popular level the notion that all religions are at their heart the same thing, different paths up the same mountain. He gives a basic rendition of many of the world's major religions, including Yoruba and the New Atheist Movement among the usual groups. I think is fundamental argument is accurate and he does a balanced job of discussing why it is they are all religions, they share family resemblances, but how it is inaccurate and even insulting to claim that they are really...more
Julie Davis
Reading this for the Patheos Book Club where it is an upcoming book. I'll be submitting a review.

The premise is an interesting one, which is that current popular thinking of all religions being the same is not true. I concur. My previous reading on the subject has been the excellent The Illustrated World's Religions by Huston Smith which has been what has illuminated my admittedly small knowledge of what other faiths believe and practice.

My strategy with a book like this which surveys a number...more
Jan
Prothero's book takes aim at the relatively modern idea that all religions are "one." Instead, he argues that such a notion is fundamentally ignorant of the world's top 8 religions - of what the end-goal of each of these religions is and how their adherents are to achieve those goals. To that end, he explores each of those religions - Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba, Judaism, and Daoism - in 8 short, easy-to-read chapters (plus one brief chapter on atheism).

I though...more
Kerfe
A recent well-publicized survey of Americans revealed that those who know the most about the world's religions call themselves atheist or agnostic. 50% of self-professed Christians don't even know basic information about their own faith. Stephen Prothereo's mission is to correct ignorance about religion.

Prothero thinks that too many people try to smooth over the differences in religious belief and practice in the hopes that this will result in peaceful co-existence. But how can you accept and/or...more
Stacy
This was the perfect book for me since sadly, I really know nothing about most religions. The introduction did an excellent job of setting up the premise that really god isn't the same for all religions and taking the time to understand why is important. Each individual chapter on the various religions really gave me an understanding of what they were about. It doesn't provide in depth analysis but at least gives you an idea. This book made me want to go out and buy books on some of the religion...more
James
Prothero, a professor in Boston University’s Department of Religion, has made it his mission to educate America’s ignorant public about religions. In God Is Not One, he explodes the old platitude that all religions have the same essential doctrines. Prothero considers belief in the underlying unity of faiths to be a dangerous hindrance to understanding current events.

To help dispel this myth, he describes eight of the world’s most influential religions: Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hindui...more
David
Good overview by an author who is very knowledgeable. One problem unaddressed in this book: Explaining a religion is different than living the religion. I have met Christians, for instance, who are not bible scholars and don't spend time thinking about doctrine because they are too busy helping needy people. Ultimately knowing is a subset of faith, not the other way around. But the book is very useful in looking at why there are clashes of values between cultures of different core faiths.
Jim Van Meggelen
I enjoyed this book. I felt that it treated each religion respectfully. The book is not interested in deciding whether any one religion is better than the others (Atheism is discussed as a religion in its own right), but rather concludes that religion is an undeniable fact of human existence, and therefore needs to be included in any useful analysis of current society.

My personal feeling is that anyone who is passionate about their religion may find the clinical treatment of their personal favou...more
Mikhael
A decent explanation of the most common religions. He provides well-rounded and unbiased thoughts. That said, his chapter on atheism was terrible. Prothero is clearly of the mind that one cannot ever escape religion.
Jeremy
Ironically, this great book actually reinforced my opinion that there are far more commonalities in world religion than there are differences. But Prothero's eloquent point is certainly valid.
C. Derick Varn
A quick guide to eight of the major world religions which focuses on the key differences in the worldview of the various religions. While none of the sections are comprehensive, I felt like I got truly new information about African traditions and their influence on fringe religious movements in the Americas. While basic, in our age of religious and cultural illiteracy, this is a good introductory take on comparative religion that does not search for facts that make world religions seem ethicall...more
Brent Wilson
At my age, I should be better informed about the diversity of world religions. This book filled an important gap in my general religious literacy. I never dreamed that Hinduism had so many layers and so many varieties - and that's very similar to most religions - wildly diverse traditions within traditions!

I now understand how Confucianism and Daoism complement each other - almost depend on each other. The Dao is very enticing but it seems to depend on some other principle to maintain order in s...more
David
I started reading about religion in late elementary school, with Joseph Baer's "What the Great Religions Believe" and "How the Great Religions Began." Growing up--and frankly until well into my adulthood--, I went through several "true believer" periods. These included a Southern Baptist "if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, you're lost;" to, more recently, a Huston Smith-like "perennial philosophy" that cavorts freely with the idea that all religion really is, at i...more
Paul
Good introduction to the major religions of the world. Prothero makes the assertion that religions contain very different assumptions about what is important in life and people should live it. I don't have a problem with what Prothero's assertion, but he only makes it in the book's Introduction and Conclusion. The middle chapters summarize the beliefs and practices of the world's most influential religions and are very informative. Anybody who works in the field of social services, health care o...more
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Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books, most recently Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn't and American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Idol. He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs and on television on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS, MSNBC and Comedy Cent...more
More about Stephen R. Prothero...
Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon The American Bible Religions of the East: Paths to Enlightenment (The Modern Scholar) Purified by Fire: A History of Cremation in America

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“Widespread criticisms of jihad in Islam and the so-called sword verses in the Quran have unearthed for fair-minded Christians difficult questions about Christianity's own traditions of holy war and 'texts of terror.' Like Hinduism's Mahabharata epic, the Bible devotes entire books to war and rumors thereof. Unlike the Quran, however, it contains hardly any rules for how to conduct a just war.” 8 likes
“On the ethics of war the Quran and the New Testament are worlds apart. Whereas Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, the Quran tells us, 'Whoso commits aggression against you, do you commit aggression against him' (2:194). The New Testament says nothing about how to wage war. The Quran, by contrast, is filled with just-war precepts. Here war is allowed in self-defense (2:190; 22:39), but hell is the punishment for killing other Muslims (4:93), and the execution of prisoners of war is explicitly condemned (47:4). Whether in the abstract is is better to rely on a scripture that regulates war or a scripture that hopes war away is an open question, but no Muslim-majority country has yet dropped an atomic bomb in war.” 6 likes
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