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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Filling the god-shaped hole, 12 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: 50 Religion Ideas You Really Need to Know (Hardcover)
'Everyone has an opinion about religion.' is the very first sentence of Peter Stanford's introduction to this book, and so it probably is. Just looking at some of the major conflicts in the world today it even seems to matter very much to a lot of people! I, however, came to this book not as a 'believer' but largely out of curiosity. Part of my motivation was actually literary: as an eager student of English literature but having been raised myself as a Catholic, it irked me not to know more about High and Low Anglicanism, Methodism, Presbyterians, the Kirk, etc. etc. because I found these play a central role in many of the novels I read (just think of the Barsetshire-novels by Anthony Trollope).

So I was eager to find a simple, objective and comprehensive overview of the world's (major) religions. And that is precisely what I got. True to his word, Stanford summarizes this vast topic leaving his 'own feelings and denominational attachment to one side so as to present as rounded a picture as possible'.

He does so grouping together the 50 separate ideas into 7 chapters:
- Common ground
- Christianity
- The Reformed Tradition
- Judaism
- Islam
- Eastern Traditions
- Modern Dilemmas

If you're an amateur (which seems a strange word to apply to religion) like me, this short book in just over 200 pages will provide you with a very easy-to-follow overview and leave you with a good grasp of the similarities and differences between the world's major religions. The information given is basic of course, and I'm sure one can, as some do, devote a lifetime to the study of just one of these religions, and experts will perhaps find fault with the lack of detail. But that is not what this book sets out to do, so according to me besides the point.

So whether you do or do not feel 'a god-shaped hole' in your innermost being, and whether or not that hole has been filled, I can only heartily recommend this book to all. I'm sure that it'll help me personally appreciate English literature all the more, and has even inspired me to finally start reading A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years because, to use a religious concept: I was becoming nothing short of guilt-ridden seeing this book sit unopened on my shelves.
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Location: Ghent, Belgium

Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,282