book report: God is not One by Stephen Prothero

Dear Dr. Prothero,
Can I call you Steve?
I received your book as an anniversary gift, my wife was so kind to pick something from my Amazon wish list. Your book, God is not One:The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter, was near the top of the list and ended up in my mailbox. I think your book was a great introduction to eight influential religions of the contemporary world, but I was not satisfied, and that is all my fault. I do have one or two gripes with your book and I will state those first before I tell you my faults.

Gripe 1: Naming Mormonism as a potential 4th branch of Christianity after Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. I don't have your book in front of me, and I'm not saying these were your exact words, but I think you give that church too much credit. If we take everyone's self-reported numbers at face value, their 13 million worldwide, really is a drop in the bucket among the 2 billion Christians of the world.

Gripe 2: You began the book promising not to shy away from the dirty parts of each religion. But you did, especially in the Islam section. I don't think you delivered.

Gripe 3: In the Introduction to your book you told me that you would show how all religions are not the same and do not have the same goals or understanding of the world and beyond. So I was expecting a compare and contrast, but mostly got compare, which was good by itself. You stood them up next to each other but did very little with those differences. And this leads to my deficient expectations, although I blame you for leading me along.

I think the best way to contrast the religions you discussed would have been to show how they have interfaced over the centuries. For example, how did the southeast nation of Indonesia, a Confucian/Hindu area become the largest Islamic nation in the world. Or, how did Christian Turkey become Muslim? How did South Korea become a Presbyterian nation? How does Yoruban Africa become Christian? How does the little cult of Christ become the largest religion in the world? How does the little cult of Mohammed become the 2nd largest?

Steve, maybe you can't answer how, but I would have liked seeing this interaction between the faiths over the years. Maybe in you next book.

Comments

John P. Harris said…
Great thoughts about the book, which I have not read but would consider... However, I would rather you write a book about the very things you discussed in the closing of your blog... NOW that would be a great read... John
John Umland said…
Sure, if only I could take funded Sabbaticals to do the research. All I have time for, and not much lately, is the blog. Thanks for reading.
God is good
jpu
Ron Krumpos said…
Those who believe in the kinship of faiths are invited to join the social network of the Parliament of the World's Religions. We can work together. See http://www.peacenext.org/profile/RonKrumpos I would be glad to be one of your first friends there.
John Umland said…
Thanks for the invite Ron, but have you read this book? Mysticism, which you advocate is not contextless. The mystic is transcending to something, and if she is not transcending to Jesus as Jesus defines himself, then the Christian must infer the mystic is either not transcending, having a physical, self-idolizing experience, or transcending to the demonic. Both places are not good.
God is good
jpu
Ron Krumpos said…
John,

Some of the most prominent mystics have been Christians and I quote many of them in my e-book: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Athanasius, St. Augustine of Hippo, Augustine Baker, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Catherine of Genoa, Dionysius, Meister Eckhart, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Gregory of Nyssa, Bede Griffiths, St. John of the Cross, Nicholas of Cusa, St. Jan van Ruysbroek, Henry Suso, St. Symeon the New Thelogian, St. Teresa of Avila, Angela of Foligno, Maximus the Confessor, and mention many more.
John Umland said…
Hi Ron
those Saints may have been mystical, but they would all agree the experience is distinctly with Jesus Christ and not an indescript force. Considering all those saints would agree with the creeds of the church, they would all agree any other mystic is not experiencing the true God. Transcendence apart from Christ is demonic or egoistic and not acceptable to God.
God is good
jpu
Ron Krumpos said…
John,

You said "Transcendence apart from Christ is demonic or egoistic and not acceptable to God." I doubt that many Christian mystics would agree with you, certainly not those who I have met.

Divine reality, by any name, is accessible to all people who are willing and able to give up their ego and individuality to realize it. Jesus said "The Kingdom of God is within you." He did not limit that to Christians.

I respect your beliefs. Let us just agree to disagree.
John Umland said…
Ok Ron,
however, I suspect the saints who are orthodox in their beliefs would agree with the Bible and not with your friends.
God is good
jpu

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