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

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  2,422 Ratings  ·  310 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
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Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen BatchelorWhen God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy by Chet RaymoRaising Freethinkers by Dale McGowanParenting Beyond Belief by Dale McGowanGod Is Not One by Stephen R. Prothero
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Sep 01, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it
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
Sep 01, 2010 Terence rated it liked it
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
Feb 29, 2012 Lydia rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 21, 2016 Caidyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in religion and wants a new viewpoint.
Recommended to Caidyn by: My professor
This book, and the class I read it for, sparked a lot in me this semester. One, it's made me far more open minded and understanding about religions. While I was never an angry atheist, I was very skeptical and a bit against religion. I would never tell someone to stop believing what they do, but it wasn't for me. Then, I became agnostic. And now... well, I am somewhat religious. More spiritual, but I know what religion I would pick for myself to be labeled under. Second, this book prompted me to ...more
Bob Nichols
May 16, 2011 Bob Nichols rated it it was ok
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
Rod Hilton
May 08, 2010 Rod Hilton rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, audiobooks
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
Sep 23, 2010 David rated it liked it
Shelves: religions
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.
Al Bità
Jul 28, 2010 Al Bità rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
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
Joel Wentz
Feb 20, 2017 Joel Wentz rated it liked it
This book does not quite live up to its promise, particularly in the subtitle, but it still serves as a tremendous 'intro' to the religions of the world.

Prothero seems like a brilliant teacher, and his writing is clear, compact, and breezy. For a subject as potentially unwieldy as 'world religions,' this book is surprisingly easy to understand. The reader gains a "zoomed out" view of the major belief systems that influence world cultures, and for someone who is interested in the subject, without
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
Jul 06, 2010 Glen Engel-Cox rated it really liked it
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
Dec 10, 2012 Keith rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
This was a interesting overview of 8 major religions. I am confident that the brief chapters are not close to exhaustive and I have a suspicion that they are skewed in a way that is necessitated by the editing done to get the book to a manageable length. That said I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more. A good book always makes you want to read more and this book certainly sparked my interest. One disturbing realization I had was that the paths religions take is akin to the telephone game. The ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Sistermagpie rated it it was amazing
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
Margaret Sankey
Apr 23, 2012 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
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
Dec 04, 2010 Laurie rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
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
Oct 25, 2014 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that Professor Prothero actually does what he sets out to do. What he tries to do is show that, unlike Huston Smith and his cohort who emphasize the unity of religions, religions are so diverse and their practical effects so contradictory with each other that they could never meaningfully have any kind of unity. Maybe I overstate the case, but that's basically it. When we think of all religions as one we come close to asserting ours is the only one or somehow forget the crucial diff ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Gary rated it liked it
There are two kinds of variability with in all categories, a between and a within. Except for well designed experiments it is not possible to separate the variability because of confounding (the mixing up). This book looks at mostly the within differences (variability) for each of the major religions he writes about. Each major religion understudy has larger difference within its subgroups than they often seem to have between categories. I wish he would have analyzed the between also.

The author
Oct 20, 2010 Kerfe rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 21, 2010 Kevin rated it liked it
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
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
Aug 04, 2010 Jon rated it liked it
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
Julie Davis
Oct 05, 2010 Julie Davis rated it did not like it
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
Mar 31, 2011 Jan rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Introduction to eight of the world's religions, namely Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba Religion, Judaism, and Daoism. Prothero's theory is that not all religions lead to the same place. He has a simplistic formula that points out that each religion is focused on a different world problem and thus offers a different solution. For example:

Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission

Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation

Buddhism: th
Apr 08, 2011 Rachael rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2016 Dustin rated it really liked it
This book is invaluable for its intelligent survey of 8 major religions, and for that alone everyone should read this book - especially as America becomes more global and more diverse.

However, I'm not sure I agree with his conclusion about how to approach religion; in fact, I almost believe his approach is insulting.

He compares religions to several blind men who are feeling an elephant, which represents God. One man feels the trunk and concludes it's a snake while another one feels the tail an
Daniel Cornwall
People looking for a basic outline of major world religions won't be disappointed by this book. I found Prothero's central insight - different religions identify different core human problems and propose different solutions - to be very helpful in understanding why different religions so often to be at odds with each other. It's like baseball and basketball players trying to come to agreement on how the game is played.

Prothero is not hostile to religion, but he asks us to view in a clear and re
Dec 19, 2015 Matthias rated it it was ok
Prothero's thesis that religions are not different paths to the same goal, but systems that address different problems by offering different solutions is compelling. Unfortunately, this book is not a defense of its own thesis. Rather, it's a survey of Prothero's somewhat arbitrary selection of the most influential religions in the world, and not a very good one either. His introduction to each religion does little to inform a newcomer to religious study about its particular beliefs and practices ...more
Sharman Wilson
I will go back to this book as a reference, I'm sure. It seemed pretty thorough to me, going deeply into 8 influential world religions. What I really appreciated was the way Prothero made helpful comparisons or showed differences between this or that religion. There was way too much information for me to absorb in one reading, but it helped me to get a feel for each of these traditions. It probably wasn't the best book for reading aloud together--Brent would probably have liked to have skimmed i ...more
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SR Summer Reading: Prothero, God Is Not One 7 15 Aug 26, 2014 04:46AM  
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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
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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.” 10 likes
“Almost all religions provide opportunities for human beings to convince themselves of their own righteousness, to speak in the name of God, and even to go to war on God's behalf. This 'blasphemy of certainty' is also rife among secularists who in their case have not God but science or the proletariat on their side.” 8 likes
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