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God A Brief History Paperback – 29 Jan 2004


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dorling Kindersley; New edition edition (29 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405304901
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405304900
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 2.3 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,548,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

John Bowker was Dean of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1984 to 1991 and is currently a Fellow of Gresham College, London and Honorary Canon of Canterbury Cathedral. He is also Adjunct Professor of Religion at North Carolina State University. Professor Bowker's many books include The Meanings of Death, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions and DK's World Religions. He lives in Cambridge.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Wardell on 7 May 2014
Format: Paperback
Good scholarship respects the nuances of their subject. In God A Brief History John Bowker shows little sign of such respect. Instead we get a wikipedia-lite tour of various religious beliefs which is shot through with Bowker’s largely unjustified thesis that ultimately all these religions are pointing towards the same God. While Bowker has the grace not to get too specific this God seems really to be the God one would expect a WASPish Dorling Kindersley customer to be familiar with.

To take one example or the general problem, in the section dealing with Chinese religions, Bowker somehow links Confucianism and Taoism with his concept of God (a view not seriously held by sinologist since the early missionary days). Instead of learning about these faiths on their own terms, we learn about these faith as seen through white, Christian, Anlgo-saxon eyes. In some places this general God-thesis becomes so dominant that Bowker is not above presenting outright falsehoods to make his case (see for example his bizarre claim that Mozi was a development of Confucianism - when in fact it arose in opposition, cf. Graham 1997).

Religion and God are fascinating topics and this book represents a huge disservice to the field. The pictures are pretty though…
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 12 July 2005
Format: Paperback
The monotheists, finally compelled to curtail their militant approach to conversion, have turned to new methods. Some of these are almost intellectual. Bowker's approach is deft. He simply lists as many gods as he can find evidence for, then insists they are simply expressions of the one he favours. That's "God", of course - the enduring monotheist [and in this case, decidedly "Christian"] version of one of the thousands of deities humanity has invented over the centuries. There are, of course, creative deities, vicious deities, loving deities and hosts of those with specialised roles. One can only wonder what the Queen, as Defender of the Faith, would think of all these additional responsibilities.
Bowker's theme isn't new. Unlike some of his fellows using this approach, he simply ignores the "personality" disparities among the gods. There's only the one, he assumes, then goes on to list - and lavishly illustrate - personifications that carry cognomens that at least provide some identity.
Bowker lines up his gods in a grand geographical and chronological sequence. There are Indian gods, Chinese and Japanese spiritual beings and any others he can adduce. The "pagan" sprites are ignored, presumably since they didn't generate sophisticated artistic representation to warrant inclusion. Shamans in the Amazon could set him straight on this, but it's hard to see Bowker tramping the rain forest to garner "uncivilized" insights. All those peoples [and their deities] he catalogues, presenting brief histories and pictorial examples. In the end, in each case, however, they are all boiled down to his single deity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A HISTORY of the HUMAN SEARCH 6 Feb. 2003
By Rebecca of Amazon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is not really a "history of God." It is more a "history" of the "human search" for God. Big difference. This book is about what God means to people in every generation and in every part of the world who have deepened and extended their knowledge of who God is. This is not a comprehensive history of all that has been thought and believed, it is more an understanding of who and what God is to humans around the globe.

This book explores the ways in which a belief in God began and how it has developed in the major religious traditions of the world. If you believe there is only one true God, you are going to have some problems with the way God is presented in this book. There is even an argument for atheism and a section on the positive role of witches.

This book is really not just about God, it is about a wide variety of topics including ritual, myth, music, science, art, sacrifice, architecture, The religions of India, Asia, Abraham and "In the End." Since many religions have their own dating systems, the dates in this book are given according to the western calendar.

This is really a brief overview of all the religions in the world.

"The claim is sometimes made that belief in God is like belief in fairies or Father Christmas: we may believe in such things when young but grown out of them when we are older and wiser. Phenomenology at the second level shows why that claim is wrong."

I enjoyed the section on Rumi because I've read some of his poetry and now I understand what a sulfi is. Apparently is it a man or woman with a broken heart. Someone who is always sensitive to the heartbreak of the world and who is always sensitive to Divine Beauty. Once the heart breaks open, it goes on breaking forever and there is beauty and majesty and agony in the experience.

"I was snow. I melted in you rays. The earth drank me: mist now, and pure spirit,I climb back to the sun."

A fascinating book on the human search for God.

~The Rebecca Review
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Introduction to Comparative Religion 20 Aug. 2004
By Empedocles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Bowker's aim with this book is to provide an overview of God and how human beings relate to him through history. This is an enormous task that many scholars bawk at, and instead choose to remain only with a certain world view, believing it is the only correct one there is to reaching the truth. Thankfully Bowker avoids a parochial viewpoint (he is a Christian) without scoffing unfairly or patronisingly at the idea of God or those who believe in him. He starts sensibly by not trying to define what God is, but rather proposing a way that God may interact with us, all of us (humanity) down through time by using language, signs and the body. Then he examines, with a high degree of fairness and objectivity, the way various world religions have tried to make sense of this experience and also the mystery called 'God.'

For me Bowker's strength is that he avoids the error of asserting his (the Christian) vision of God is the only and perfect way of reaching God. History shows instead there are many different paths to God - some which even deny the existence of the God as understood by the adherents of Abrahamic faiths - yet all seem to reach the same end point. As one Muslim publication I read once said 'There are many paths, but one end point.'

My only gripe with the book is I would like to have seen more on the current debate between religion and science. A couple of pages at the end or beginning covering this important and topical issue would have made the book a little better.

But otherwise this is an excellent book, and one I will give to anyone (even those of my own faith, Christianity) who claims 'it is my way (to God) or the highway.'
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Chaotic, like God? 10 Oct. 2004
By Gary Sprandel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book focuses on the religions of India, Asia, and "The Religions of Abraham" (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Each religion is discussed with many 2-4 page sections discussing a particular topic, and including a few pictures, and side bars for quotes. This format lends it self well to introducing a diverse set of personages, but it also prevents a smoothly flowing narrative, so at times the book seems to bounce around. The chaotic effect is not without some merit, and if nothing else, you get an appreciation for the breadth of experiences. In the section on India, the introduction of name, upon name of different Gods, becomes overwhelming,

The breadth of the book is impressive, and the inclusion of poetry, throughout was useful. The photos throughout the book are impressive, and almost as much as the text lend an experiential flavor. Sometimes the book tries to be too biographical, rather than emphasizing concepts. Particularly lacking however, was an introduction of African, Native American, and Latin American expressions of God. He does included Buddhism however, which does not really have a clear notion of God.
Concise but somewhat confusing and hard read. 8 Oct. 2012
By ash - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Should be read more than once to give one a perspective that there are many a ways to understand and reach God. Our way may not be the only way as some of us tend to believe. Some chapters are very lucid and quite understandable, some are a hard read.The History of Abrahamic religions except Judaism are quite clear and fluid - Maybe it is clear to me being an adherent of 'one of the religions of Abraham'. The section on Ibn Arabi and Rabia in Islam; The East West debate and Thomas Aquinas in Christianity are good. I like especially the poetry and brief explanation in the boxes on the sides.
Going to give another try to see what I can learn from Hinduism and the Religions of Asia. Worth reading again and that is the reason I am buying one -The one I read was loaned from the local library.
Outstanding Book 20 Jan. 2014
By wmjbutler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book does not promote any religion, and it says it like it is. If you want to push a certain religion, don't give this to anyone. If you want to promote an understanding of current and dead religions, this is a great book. I have read it cover - to - cover, and I love how it succinctly reviews each religion, and discusses the origin of each religion. You will learn things about religions that your religious leader won't tell you. For example, it discusses how Christianity is an evolution of so-called pagan religions that have come and gone. And, how the beliefs and directives in Christianity are like the lore of previous religions. It does the same for all the religions it discusses, and there are a lot.
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