Religions of India

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, emerging out of a mix of Aryan and Dravidian animism in about the second millennium before Christ. Its earliest forms, as described in the Rig Veda (Samhitas), were polytheistic. Such polytheism was consistent with the religious practices of Rome, Greece, Egypt, the Nordic peoples, and most other nations at that time. By the time of the Upanishads, Hinduism had morphed into a pantheistic monism. The caste system divided people in four classes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors, kings), Vaisyas (merchants, landowners), Sudras (servants, later Dalits – untouchables). Accepting this system and performing the duties of one’s class was the primary evidence of being a Hindu. In the Christian era, Hinduism became more monotheistic, with Vishnu, Shiva and other gods being perceived as manifestations of the One God. Adherents were called to love Vishnu or Shiva as Christians are called to love God, as revealed in Jesus Christ. This monotheistic view, too, is evolving. Liberal pluralism in the past two hundred years has attacked the caste system, emphasized the spiritual aspects of Hindu belief, but denied that any part of Hinduism, or any religion, is objectively true.

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Immigration, Religion, and the West

How do the religious practices of immigrants to the Western World affect their integration? How does the process of immigration affects their faith?

The Syrian Civil War and the advent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have caused a human disaster of the highest degree. According to recent media estimates, 300,000 have died and 10 million have been made homeless since demonstrations began in the fateful “Arab Spring” of 2011.[1] A terrible situation has become worse. US, Kurdish and Iranian forces are attacking ISIS, but Russian forces in Syria are also targeting US-backed Syrian rebels who are trying to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. There is no end in sight.

Unsurprisingly such misery has generated millions of refugees. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have accepted 3.5 million between them,[2] but a tide of refugees is beginning to roll towards Europe. Many countries have absorbed some, and Germany has agreed to accept 800,000.[3] Libya, sub-Saharan Africa, and many other failed states also send tens of thousands of migrants to Europe, and the United States, every year.

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Islam

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Islam.

Islam is one of the major forces in the modern world. It is the second largest religion in number of followers, surpassed only by Christianity. However Islam is not only a religion, it is also a political system and a way of life. As defined primarily by the Quran, the Hadiths, and the Shariah, the “spiritual” and “material” aspects of the Faith are inseparable. Muhammad was a prophet, but unlike Jesus, who said “my kingdom is not of this world”, Muhammad was also a political leader and conqueror. At his death he ruled over tens of thousands of Arab Muslim warriors that shortly injured the Byzantines, destroyed the Persians, and conquered much of the Middle East. Eventually the sword of Islam spread from Spain to India, from Africa to Central Asia. Below are some reviews on some of the key titles in the study of this fascinating and important faith.

Annotated Bibliography – Some Research Materials related to Islam

Book Review – God’s Battalions, the Case for the Crusades

Book Review – Islam in the World

Book Review – Islamic Philosophy

Book Review – Major Themes of the Quran

Book Review – The Islamic Conception of Justice

Book Review – The Middle East

Book Review – The Venture of Islam

Major Themes of the Quran – Discussion Guide

New Religious Movements

A compendium of book reviews on common texts in Witchcraft, Wiccan, Paganism, and other new religious movements. 

The world seems to be growing ever more diverse, and with modern communication and transportation making the world smaller than ever, each person can come in contact with ideas vastly different from his or her own. More than at any time in history, Christians and members of other religions are challenged in their faith by a smorgasbord of ideas. The internet allows each person to speak to the world, if the world can find his website, and social media such as Twitter and Facebook allows each person to send a message to millions of others, if millions of people wish to follow her.

The secular modernist of 100 years ago would probably be dismayed to see the world today, for religion has become more, not less, important. From ISIS in the Fertile Crescent to the growth of Christianity in Communist China, the disruptions of the modern world have caused more people to seek meaning in faith than ever before.

I have begun a formal study of world religions, a journey which is growing more fascinating with each reading project, each visit, and each interview. As part of that journey I have been reviewing books and articles on various subjects. I will be posting some of these reviews on MDHarrisMD.com. Hopefully they will be useful to others as they encounter the smorgasbord of ideas, and challenges to their faith, in the 21st century.

Book Review – Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft

Book Review – Witchcraft and Magic

Book Review – Witching Culture

Journal Article Review – The Pagan Explosion Revisited

Journal Article Review – The Status of Witchcraft in the Modern World

Book Review – Violence and New Religious Movements

Book Review – Moon Sisters, Krishna Mothers and Rajneesh Lovers

The Cults of the Millennium