The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion

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9780060675158: The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion

Led by general editor Jonathan Z. Smith, a team drawn from the American Academy of Religion has collected more than 3,200 entries written by 327 leading experts from around the world and across the theological and religious spectrum. The exceptional editorial team includes associate editor William Scott Green and area editors Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, Lawrence S. Cunningham, Gary L. Ebersole, Malcom David Eckel, Sam D. Gill, Alfred Hiltebeitel, Richard C. Martin, Carole A. Myscofski, Jacob Neusner, and Hans H. Penner.

Designed for the general reader, this highly accessible resource addresses everything from the great living traditions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism to the very latest new religions. Diverse topics -- from the experience of women in Islam to the troublesome realities of religion and violence -- are covered with compelling facts and figures, eloquent prose, and riveting accuracy.

Have You Ever Wondered

  • What draws a person to alternative religious traditions? And what exactly is a "cult"?

  • What are the branches on the Jewish Chanukah menorah symbolize? And why bitter herbs are eaten at Passover?

  • Why children color eggs at Easter time? What a tree has to do with Christmas?

  • Why is there such a debate over the ordination of women in the Catholic Church?

  • If organized religion is necessary for a fulfilled humankind? How it all began, anyway?

All these questions and much, much more are answered in this essential and powerful new tool: The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion -- the definitive guide to understanding religion today.

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From the Publisher:

From the world's premier association of religion experts comes an authoritative, state-of-the-art, comprehensive A--to--Z guide to the world of religion.

From Booklist:

With the collaboration of the American Academy of Religion, an international team of scholars contributed more than 3,200 articles to this book. While entries are not signed, the forematter lists more than 300 contributed articles as well as the area editors who comprise the editorial board. The preface notes that the dictionary "seeks to expand public understanding of religion by going beyond the usual concentration on major world religions" ; thus the scope includes all geographic areas from the Paleolithic era to present times.

While the basic organization is that of a dictionary with concise entries on specific topics such as names, rituals, places, and festivals and more extensive entries for such topics as Mysticism or Japanese Folk Religion, there are also 11 long feature articles about major world religions, broad categories of religion such as the religions of antiquity, and an essay on the academic study of religion. Maps and time lines are included where appropriate. The broad essays on historical religious traditions are complemented by entries on such central topics as art and architecture, authoritative texts, the festal cycle, etc. Thus the broad essay on Islam is related to such articles as Islam (ethics) and Islam (life cycle).

The preface notes that the dictionary devotes significant attention to religions of traditional peoples, extinct religions, and new religious movements. While not as extensive as America's Alternative Religions (SUNY Press, 1995) for North America, there is indeed fairly comprehensive coverage of new religious movements throughout the world. While mainstream Christianity is well represented in the dictionary, it seems to be assumed that information on this faith is readily available in other resources. For example, two lines are given to the concept Guardian Angel while Guardian Spirit in Native American traditions is 38 lines. Articles that compare concepts in religions are useful, but once again emphasis is often on non-Christian religions. Under Death, for example, the concept is discussed only in terms of Islam and Japanese Buddhism.

The dictionary tries to overcome the fragmentation inherent in such a format with a cross-referencing system that is only partially effective. There are no internal cross-references indicating that names or concepts mentioned in articles also have separate entries. Under Pope there is only a terse three-line definition and no cross-reference to longer treatment under Papacy. There are no bibliographies, but there is a wealth of information about scholarly sources and major authors within the entries.

This is a mass of information for the price. For large libraries it is no substitute for the 16-volume Encyclopedia of Religion (Macmillan, 1987), but the one-volume format is handy for reference work, and college students will find it a resource for information about religions not familiar in the West. The pronunciation indications provided are helpful. The level of writing is scholarly and occasionally not accessible to even the educated lay reader. Public and academic libraries will definitely want to purchase; high-school libraries will not find it as useful.

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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