Expanding and deepening our spiritual understandings
The “stay-at-home” policy gave us lots of time for reading, and now the hotter weather provides us another reason for curling up with a book in a cool spot.
Learning about various religions can help us not only to enrich our spiritual lives but also to understand our own faith tradition more deeply. Numerous easily attainable books provide descriptions and explanations about the histories, belief systems, and practices of world religions. Members of Mid Ohio Valley Interfaith have identified just of few of them for your exploration.
“The Baha’i Faith: The Emerging Global Religion” by William S. Hatcher and J. Douglas Martin introduces a new distinct religion that is based on the teachings of Baha?u?llah. At the faith’s center is the concept of the unity of humankind as a global family.
“The Baha’i Faith: Teachings, History, and Practices” by Shahin Vafai is a short introduction, available only on Kindle.
In “The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction,” Richard H. Robinson & William L. Johnson describe the origins of Buddhism in India and its spread throughout Asia.
“Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology” by Daniel Migliore examines major Christian doctrines through contemporary lens. The book is truly an introduction to theology, so there is a lot there. But it is for the general reader, so no knowledge of theology is needed to understand it.
Other recommendations: “The Long Loneliness” by Dorothy Day, both “Girl Meets God: A Memoir and Still” by Lauren Winner, “Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and “Why We Can’t Wait” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The Druze” by Robert Brenton Betts is a short account (119 pages) that describes the emergence of the Druze religion, an offshoot of Islam, as well as their little known religious practices. The Druze live primarily in Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel although there are also sizeable populations in North and South America. The book includes population statistics, maps, a glossary of terms, and a bibliography.
“Hinduism: Beliefs & Practices” by Jeaneane Fowler, can serve as both a short (160 pages) introduction to the faith tradition and a guide for a practitioner.
In “Why Am I a Hindu?: The Science of Sanatan Dharma, Udaylal Pai” clearly explains complex concepts in conversational language.
P.S. Jaini, in “The Jain Path of Purification,” gives an overview of Jain beliefs and practices. Jains value all living creatures and practice nonviolence. The largest Jain communities are in India; others are in Europe, Japan, Canada, and the United States.
“A History of the Jewish People” is a collection of short essays by noted Jewish scholars that examines Jewish history, beliefs, and practices. Its editor is H.H. Ben-Sasson.
In “Wandering,” Chaim Potok, a noted scholar and rabbi, presents a riveting account of Jewish history over a 4000-year span of time.
Karen Armstrong, a known expert in the field, presents an overview of Islamic history, religious beliefs, and practices in the highly readable book entitled “Islam.”
In “Islam: The Straight Path,” John L. Esposito not only provides a summary of Muslim communities and practices around the world but also addresses the controversial issues of the role of women in Islam, jihad as a religious and spiritual war, the relationship between Islam and democracy, and the internal divisions within Islamic societies.
In 203 pages of text and photographs, “The Yazidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion” by Birgul Acikyildiz provides a glimpse into the lives and practices of the Yazidis, who live primarily in northern Iraq. The Yazidis are an ancient religious community whose beliefs were heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism and mysticism. The book also contains extensive lists of terms and holy sites in northern Iraq, a bibliography, and notes.
With “The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts,” Baba Ifa Karade provides an overview of the Yoruba religion of Africa that is accessible to the Western mind. He describes the orisha as helpful angelic forces and guides that reside in the natural world, and he shows how Yoruba teachings compare with those of other religions.
An Overview of Faith Traditions
Huston Smith holds that “authentic religion is the clearest opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos enter human life.” In “The World’s Religions,” he presents the essential elements and teachings of the world faiths (Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and Primal Religions) as “religion alive.”
Mid Ohio Interfaith seeks to cultivate a welcoming and inclusive community whose members are knowledgeable and appreciative of diverse faith traditions and their cultural contexts. Please visit Facebook to learn of resources and upcoming events.