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Religious Worlds


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About the Author

William Paden is professor of religion at University of Vermont.


This comprehensive study by a professor of religion at the University of Vermont provides a useful overview of contemporary trends in the study of the faiths of today's world. Early chapters present the previously held models that were used to interpret ``exotic religions'' to the Western world. Most often these religions were compared unfavorably with Protestant Christianity. After the French Revolution, a rationalist approach to ``foreign'' religions was popular among European intellectuals. More recently, the universalist reading has gained a wide following. Moving beyond these models, Paden presents a synthesis of the work of the acknowledged deans of modern comparative studies, Eliade and Van der Leeuw, that focuses on understanding religious practices and beliefs through an analysis of structure and pattern. However, much of the book's second half reads as lists of parallels between otherwise differing faiths. An unfortunate bias is the author's tendency to lump together Judaism and Christianity under the rubric of ``the phenomena of biblical religions,'' thus ignoring recent work in comparative studies that emphasizes the sharp distinctions between them. (Dec.)

One of the best thought out and written introductions to the study of religion I have seen thus far. It not only explains but invites discussion and comment. --Charles H. Long, University of California, Santa Barbara

A good introduction to the phenomenology of religion. Stressing that religions are not just systems of belief, but forms of behavior...Paden focuses on four key complementary categories: myth, ritual, gods and systems of purity. --Choice [Religious Worlds] provides clear bases of comparison from all of the world religions. --American Anthropologist A richly textured study of religion . . . . erudite and written in a very lucid prose style. --Philosophy East & West A useful overview of contemporary trends in the study of the faiths of today's world. --Publishers Weekly A work of thoughtful breadth. --Religious Studies Review

Beacon, dist. by Harper. Dec. 1988. c. 186p. index. ISBN 0-8070-1210-6. $19.95; pap. ISBN 0-8070-1211-4. $9.95. rel ~ see Cox, Harvey. Many Mansions.

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