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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many faces of faithful response
The 'Oxford Dictionary of World Religions' is a concise and comprehensive single-volume reference to the religions, faith systems, and spiritual practises of the world. This dictionary has one of the broadest ranges for any multi-religious guide around. The book contains nearly 13,000 entries, broadly categorised as follows:
- Religions
- Movements, sects,...
Published on 27 Dec. 2005 by Kurt Messick

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars False prophet
OK, I shell out in good faith for the hardback (not too much, admittedly) on the grounds that this must-have reference source covers (back cover) 'all aspects of the world's religions past and present', and the first thing I look up is Vestal Virgins. Nothing. Roman religion? Nothing. (As the editor notes, the very word religion is of Latin origin.) Heck, even priestess...
Published on 17 Feb. 2013 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many faces of faithful response, 27 Dec. 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Hardcover)
The 'Oxford Dictionary of World Religions' is a concise and comprehensive single-volume reference to the religions, faith systems, and spiritual practises of the world. This dictionary has one of the broadest ranges for any multi-religious guide around. The book contains nearly 13,000 entries, broadly categorised as follows:
- Religions
- Movements, sects, cults
- Scriptural and philosophical text synopses and analyses
- Biographies of individuals
- Sacred sites
- Customs and practises
- Ethics and moral systems
- Themes on general topics
Edited by John Bowker, the text is introduced by an essay which pulls together philosophical, sociological and historical information tying together the concepts of religion. 'A strange thing about religion is that we all know what it is until someone ask us to tell them. As Augustine said of time, "What, then, is time? If no one asks me I know; but if I have to say what it is to one who asks, I know not." That has not stopped people trying to define religion, but their definitions are clearly different.'
Bowker, who has published several books including award winning books on the relationship of God and science, and the meaning of death in religious frameworks, has pulled together a team of over 80 contributors, some of the brightest names in the study of religion. Thus, articles and entries are contributed by experts in their respective fields, edited and cross-referenced by Bowker and his team of eight consultant editors who hold academic posts on three continents.
In an innovative fashion, Bowker has included a topical index in back which shows in an abbreviated and quickly-referenced fashion the interrelationship between topics; for instance, if one is using this text to research Anglicanism, in addition to such well-known entries such as Book of Common Prayer and Lambeth Conferences, one would be directed also to see the articles on:
African Greek Orthodox Church
Cambridge Platonists
Sundar Singh
Order of Ethiopia
Latitudinarianism
This makes for interesting reading. Every now and then, an article will be surprising. If you want to research Wrathful Dieties, there is an article so entitled, which discusses both the specifics of events in scripture (God in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scripture is sometimes shown as a wrathful and vengeful) and the general purpose behind the wrathful imagery (moral seriousness).
Also, if you want to know for certain what a Holy Fool is, here is the place! I confess I sometimes feel like a holy fool (as opposed to being more generally an unholy one), but this book has clarified this for me so that I no longer feel that way. According to the dictionary, holy fools are: 'Figures who subvert prevailing orthodoxy and orthopraxis in order to point to the truth which lies beyond immediate conformity. The holy fool endeavours to express the insistence of all religions that detachment from the standards of the world is the sine qua non of advance into truth.'
Many of the articles contain suggestions for further reading, either specific titles or, more generally, authors of note on the topic in question. This is a great reference source, and one I have referenced frequently both in my studies and my personal researches.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth its weight in gold, 3 Feb. 2008
By 
spiritus (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Hardcover)
Whether you are a religious studies student or someone who simply wants to understand what religion is really about, you will find this marvellous reference book of immense value. This will be especially true if you are someone genuinely interested in learning about the nature and meaning of religion without being overly attached to one tradition in particular. That is because this book manages not only to describe each religious tradition objectively and accurately (the contributors are some of the leading scholars in their fields) but brings out the reality that the 'different' religions of humanity are not so different after all sharing as they do such similar philosophical bases, values and goals. Away from the hype and propaganda of the mass media and the similar distortions of sectarian presentations of religion this book is a welcome antidote to the widespread ignorance of religion in our brash secularist age. As a useful and faithful friend for ten years it never ceases to amaze me how this tremendously accomplished book was put together combining as it does such astonishing breadth and detail. You will not regret investing in this splendid educational resource.
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5.0 out of 5 stars academic, 18 May 2014
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Found this book very useful when writing my assignment for my course at the University, and I would recommend this book to students
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars False prophet, 17 Feb. 2013
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OK, I shell out in good faith for the hardback (not too much, admittedly) on the grounds that this must-have reference source covers (back cover) 'all aspects of the world's religions past and present', and the first thing I look up is Vestal Virgins. Nothing. Roman religion? Nothing. (As the editor notes, the very word religion is of Latin origin.) Heck, even priestess doesn't get a look-in. So what term have I misunderstood here - religion? Or world? Or past? Or possibly all?? Atheism gets in ('atheism is a religion like health is a disease.' Ricky Gervais); humanism doesn't.

If this work is restricted to extant religions it implies that once a religion ceases to have any followers it ceases to be of interest, is that so? (Right - really boring, those Aztecs.) So defunct religions become anthropology, do they? But Lévi-Strauss gets in - and how anyone can consider Christianity without reference to paganism (as it's charmingly called) is, well, beyond belief. What else is the story of religion but the battle between syncretism and dogma? Or to paraphrase St. Rick of the Office again, imagine a tabula rasa, the mental slate wiped clean, and in 10,000 years' time we'd be back with the same periodic table but every religion would be different.

So why didn't they level with us and call it the Encyclopedia of Living Religion, which up-beat title might have sold better. The answer is because it forms part of a (very prestigious) series. It begins to look as though the editor took on the job under false pretences. He finds it worthy of remark that more than 3/4 of the world are, in his nicely ambiguous term, 'attached' to some faith-system or other; it is the more remarkable that, given the pressure impressionable young people are under to identify with such a system and the fact that, in the editor's words (he is fond of citing himself), 'religiosity is inevitable', approaching a quarter have opted out. Not quite so inevitable after all, then? Let this serve as a parable unto ye, therefore, not to believe everything ye read. This piece of slapdashery is for God-Busters only, 'students' of faith who have already taken up a position too far in to see the wood for the trees. Call me anthropos - or should that be woodsprite? Happy hunting, guys!

19 Feb
I've just noticed (p672) a floating reference to someone called 'Lord Samuel' who I deduce, with Wikipedia's help, must be that somewhat preposterous figure (and amateur philosopher) Herbert Lewis, 1st Viscount, commonly known, on this side of the pond at least, as Herbert Samuel. The article citing him is not credited and Samuel is not listed in its bibliography or mentioned anywhere else, as far as one can discover without an index to proper names or (which would have been preferable) a bibliography of the whole. But it's that kind of book. It should have been issued under OUP's American imprint - which is not to impugn America, only OUP America; they're very welcome to it - and that you can believe
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The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions
The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions by John Bowker (Hardcover - 27 Mar. 1997)
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