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Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto

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Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddism

Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto

Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto) encompass a significant percentage of the world’s population and are part of some of the oldest cultures on the planet. For most Americans, though, they are nearly invisible. Most people may have heard of them, but probably don’t know anything about them. This religious illiteracy inhibits cultural and political understanding in an increasingly connected world.

Summary

Title: Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto
Author: edited by Michael D. Coogan
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0195221915

Pro:
• More detail than most coffee-table style books
• Solid introductions to eastern religions for the average reader
• Includes selections from original texts, scriptures

Con:
• Less detail than most academic books

Description:
• Explanation of beliefs, history of eastern religions
• Collection of five previously published books
• Numerous full-color photographs and illustrations

Book Review

There is no question but that Americans should learn more about religions around the world, but good means for doing so aren’t as common as they should be. These religions communicate foreign concepts in foreign languages — there simply aren’t any easy reference points that would facilitate understanding, as there can be with Islam, for example. Eastern Religions, edited by Michael D. Coogan, may provide the access that will help people.

Eastern Religions combines five previous books: Hinduism, by Vasudha Narayanan; Taoism, by Jennifer Oldstone-Moore; Shinto, by C. Scott Littleton; Buddhism, by Malcolm David Eckel, and Confucianism, also by Jennifer Oldstone-Moore. Each of the five books, now combined into a single volume, constitutes a separate section and retains its original basic structure: different chapters on historical origins, sacred texts, the nature of divinity, customs, afterlife beliefs, and more. The structure of the book invites the reader to compare and contrast the various ways in which these religions deal with subjects like gods, ethics, and the afterlife.

If you have all or most of the individual books, there’s probably no reason to get this new collection — if you really want, you can complete your collection more easily by purchasing what you are missing. If you only have one or two, however, it might be easier to buy this and sell what you already have.

One advantage that this combined volume has over the individual books is the combined index. Although there may not be too many occasions to take advantage of this, it is possible that you will be looking for a concept that occurs in more than one religion. With the individual books, you’ll have to look it up multiple times; with the combined volume you can look it up once and get all the entries at once.

Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddism

Eastern Religions: Hinduism, Buddism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto

Also as with the original books, this volume presents each religion in combination with many full-color photos and illustrations which help readers connect more readily with the people they are reading about. These books are less technical than those used in the typical college course, but more detailed than the typical “coffee table book.”

They could be used in college courses, but they are probably better suited for adults or students simply looking to learn something about these religions on their own. It‘s not quite a comprehensive introduction, in the sense that there are certainly plenty of things left out, but it is a very good introduction which covers a broad range of important topics.

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