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Faiths and Religions of the World: who believes in what, where and when

Worth Press, 2007.
RRP $39.95

As members of a global village, we may want to have a better understanding of our Muslim, Hindu or Scientologist neighbours. In fact, our neighbours may be Sikh, Kabbalah, Breatharian or any one of a great number of alternatives.

This book encompasses virtually all belief systems, albeit briefly.  It is therefore not for the serious student; rather it falls into the category of “coffee table” book, to be picked up occasionally by some curious enquirer wondering “what, where and when” (as the title suggests).

With so many books on religion already available, is there a need for such a book as this? The author declares that “this book does something different – it shows the histories of the major religions in parallel, across the pages of a chronological diagram.”  Thus enquirers, as they turn the (200 gsm) pages, often with fold-outs, are treated to easy-to-follow synopses covering a period of some 6000 years. They can also peruse, if they wish, solid blocks of text on the founders of the great religions and their basic beliefs.

Christianity is fairly well reported, though (I suspect) with a Roman Catholic/High Anglican bias. Not all branches of the Church have seven sacraments, for instance.  One disappointment for curious enquirers: they would learn nothing from its pages about the Uniting Church in Australia as we do not rate even a mention.

The book is solidly bound; its pages are visually beautiful; its subject matter is comprehensively indexed.  Altogether, it is a book that answers most of our “what/where/when” questions and is therefore worthy of gracing the coffee table of the curious.

Reviewed by Warwick Church a member of the Proserpine-Whitsunday Coast congregation in Central Queensland