This slim debut volume offers brief, easy-to-digest summaries of major religious belief systems.
Guiteau asserts that one question has perplexed humans since the dawn of time: “[W]hy are we here, who put us here and what happens next?” In short but sweeping chapters, he outlines the basic worldviews of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Guiteau’s prose is clear and simple, and his book assumes no knowledge of the subjects, as if it were a primer offering students their first glimpses into the study of world religions. “God appeared to a man named Abram,” he writes in the chapter on Judaism, going on to explain how Abram’s descendants spent many years in the “Promised Land,” but were later enslaved in Egypt before God intervened. In his chapter on Christianity, Guiteau focuses on Jesus’ adult ministry, and how he emphasized love and compassion. The author focuses on the religions’ commonalities, noting, for instance, that Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, like Jesus, had few followers at the beginning of his ministry and suffered ridicule. Of Hinduism, Guiteau notes that the Swami Vivekananda quoted from the New Testament’s book of Matthew: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Although it’s admirable that the author is determined to present such a concise view of world religions, this strategy occasionally provides challenges, as when he writes vaguely of Taoism: “Dao (the way) is difficult to explain in words. It is beyond human comprehension.” The book is largely objective in tone, although a chapter on Islam cautions readers against painting all Muslims as terrorists in the wake of 9/11—a warning that such an evenhanded work doesn’t really need. Overall, however, Guiteau succeeds in hitting the highlights of the major faiths, and his book is a good starting point for those wanting to learn more about what unites and separates them.
An accessible introduction to the study of world religions.