Atlas of belief

5th December 1997 at 00:00
RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD. By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien, and Martin Palmer. Macdonald Young Books Pounds 14.99.

If publishers can produce a family Bible, why not a family world religions resource? This book has chapters on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Bah '!, with striking colour photographs and diagrams.

The next worry is can you do justice to all those religions in 160 pages? Religions of the World does remarkably well, not least by acknowledging the impossibility of the task. The text is sensitive to diversity within religions and to western interpretations that might force religions into labels they might themselves disown. Even the idea of "religion" can be seen as a western construct placed upon a set of complex traditions.

The text tries to illustrate classic teachings and modern strands in each religion. But the language is less wide-ranging than the content, so the book does not constitute a distinctively family resource. Below key stage 4, many would struggle, and even there not all would cope easily. But this will remain an appealing book for browsing, and a valuable library and homework resource.

Unlike some other whistle-stop tours of religions, the text is not simplistic. Religions cannot be condensed into one-paragraph summaries, and this book scores highly for refusing to pretend they can.

Terence Copley

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