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.