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

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  3,144 ratings  ·  378 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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Sep 01, 2010 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 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
Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
Jan 21, 2016 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 (BW Reviews; he/him/his) 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
Feb 29, 2012 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
Bob Nichols
May 16, 2011 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
Jun 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I found Stephen Prothero's book on the eight great religious traditions utterly convincing – for the argument his book opposes.

Although, to be fair, the book's argument is more nuanced than the title, subtitle and even the author's own introduction claims it is.

OK, this review is getting off the rails a bit. Let me set aside the snark and say, first, that as an easy-to-read sketch of the eight most influential world religions – the three western monotheisms, four eastern humanisms and African Y
Sep 23, 2010 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.
Rod Hilton
May 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, religion
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
Aug 13, 2012 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
Al Bità
Jul 28, 2010 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
Glen Engel-Cox
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon
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
Apr 23, 2012 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
Justin Tapp
God is Not One: The Eight Ancient Religions that Run the World
The author (a Boston U. professor) is making what is, apparently, a radical statement in modern American academia-- all religions are not the same. The goal of the book is to provide a simple summary of major religions; stating the primary problem posed and solved in each religion.
He is primarily mindful of New Atheists who label all religionss as equally harmful, but also is concerned about those advocating simple solutions to religi
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
Joel Wentz
Feb 20, 2017 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
Oct 21, 2010 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
Dec 04, 2010 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
Dec 19, 2015 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
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book for lining up the eight major religions (in terms of numbers and influence, the latter a more subjective assessment) and setting out their basic components. Obviously, it's not going to be a book that goes into much detail on these religions, and there are bound to be some generalities that a reader might quibble with, especially if he is a member of one of these religions. But without such a compilation who can even easily name the eight religions?

Prothero lists them
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book sets out to prove that the eight major religions are more dissimilar than similar. It fails in that effort. To the contrary, it shows how all of the major religions identify a broadly similar problem in the world – call it sin, death, ego, or suffering – and identify a problem to fix it that universally includes an ethical imperative to treat others better. It is the most well-researched and well-written book on comparative religion I have read. Each chapter is presented in a first per ...more
Russell Fox
A thoughtful, well-written, occasionally genuinely eye-opening discussion of major world religions. I learned a lot, but what I particularly enjoyed were the occasional comparisons that he would set up. These were all the more valuable because they were rare; perhaps wisely, Prothero really wasn't aiming for any kind of genuine systematization in his analysis, but instead saw himself as offering kind of anecdotal parallels. His observation that Jesus for Christians is for what the Quran is for M ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
God is Not One is a fascinating look at the fundamental differences between eight of the world's major religions. Written from a secular perspective, this book is refreshing in its respectful explanations of each religion described as it encourages us to focus on how each is intended to address and solve a different problem (e.g. overcoming sin vs attaining enlightenment), the role of faith and works in each, the existence of any higher power, God, or gods.
Alice Lemon
I was quite impressed with this book when I finally got around to reading it. While it is (intentionally) fairly basic and introductory, it does provide a good introduction to Islam, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba religion, Judaism, and Daoism. In particular, I liked the author's approach of focusing on the differences in the spiritual focuses--what problem they try to solve--of different religions: this seems like an important consideration for my worldbuilding projects.
Dave Reads
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've always been fascinated by different religious faiths and traditions. "God Is Not One: Eight Rival Religions That Run The World" is a fascinating book on how they are the same and how they differ.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At the suggestion of a colleague, I’ve been enjoying this as the main text for my “World Religions” course. I’m excited to see what students have been thinking, but I don’t want to go back to a traditional textbook. I like them thinking comparatively from the jump.
Joel Devore
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A great resource to learn about different religions. The author stays objective, for the most part, but adds great insight as to why interfaith dialogue is important and can affect change.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
While I found Prothero’s, Religious Literacy thought provoking, this book, God is Not One, really got on my nerves. It commits a part-to-whole fallacy: It claims that it will argue that God is not one—but then proceeds to argue that religions are not one. Um, duh! Then, in his attempt to prove that various major religions are not the same, he includes some practices that he acknowledges the practitioners themselves do not view as religion…and then argues why those practices are not the same as o ...more
Oct 25, 2014 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 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interfaith
In this book BU Religion scholar Stephen Prothero outlines the basic beliefs and practices of 8 world religions plus a short chapter on atheism to make the point that all religions are not basically the same or heading toward the same God. He takes on the Perennial tradition first noted by Aldous Huxley and continued to day by Huston Smith, Richard Rohr and Ken Wilbur. Prothero goes in great detail to describe each religion, but in the process somewhat undermines his thesis by often comparing be ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
I wish I hadn't wasted my time.

I picked up this book because of this particular bit in the description: "Stephen Prothero argues that persistent attempts to portray all religions as different paths to the same God overlook the distinct problem that each tradition seeks to solve." Religious belief intrigues me and I was interested in learning more about belief systems that I knew little about; particularly Confucianism, Daoism, and Yoruba Religion.

Prothero doesn't waste time taking swipes at ath
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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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