God is not one?
April 10, 2011
For me the best thing about having to fly is getting the time to read and this trip was no exception. The book that caught my eye at the departure gate this week was ‘God Is Not One’ by Boston University professor and bestselling author Stephen Prothero. I am a sucker for anything philosophical and thought-provoking and this book didn’t disappoint. In just over 350 pages Stephen manages to sum up the key differences between nine of the worlds most influential religions starting with Islam – the way of submission before moving to Christianity – the way of salvation, Confucianism – the way of prosperity, Hinduism- the way of devotion and beyond.
Although the topic of this intellectually stimulating books hardly classifies it as a light read I found myself swept up in the analysis and whisked away into my own private world of reflection.
Some highlights for me were the reminders about the ‘no man is an island’ concept and the way that various religions tackle (or ignore) the personal, the community and finally the state. It was also interesting to read about the different perspectives and teachings available to help us on our journey to oneness with some religions focusing on the mind while others emphasise the body and the human experience.
Finally the analysis of atheism as an alternative religion was quite entertaining especially as the conclusion of the chapter saw atheists sorted into two groups – ‘friendly’ Vs ‘Angry’! Given the amount of violence and the pain suffered in the name of religion it’s a wonder that there are any friendly atheists at all but there are and I thank Stephen for pointing them out.
Whatever your religious views this book is a must-read for anyone seeking to broaden their religious literacy. After all, there is no denying the impact that ones religious leaning has on the lens through which the world is viewed.
Seek first to understand and then to hold their hand xxx
PS: After musing on the book for a number of hours over copious amounts of coffee and a large bar of chocolate I have to say that St Thomas Aquinas was right, it is easier to say what God is not than what God is. Neti, Neti.