Top ebooks in comparative religion

In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, now expanded with new bonus content, Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi struggled with an inner turmoil that will challenge Christians, Muslims, and all those who are interested in the world’s greatest religions.

Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart--and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

The New York Times bestselling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has been expanded to include:

A revised foreword and introductionA new afterword by Mark Mittelberg and reflection by Nabeel's wifeA substantially extended epilogue that shares how Nabeel told his friend David of his decision to follow Christ, how his parents found out, and much moreExpert contributions from scholars and ministry leaders on each section of the book, contributions previously included only in the ebook editionAn appendix with a topical table of contents (for teaching from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus)An appendix tackling the objection that Ahmadi Muslims are not true MuslimsAnd a sneak peek prologue from Nabeel’s book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?
American society has changed dramatically since A Culture of Conspiracy was first published in 2001. In this revised and expanded edition, Michael Barkun delves deeper into America's conspiracy sub-culture, exploring the rise of 9/11 conspiracy theories, the "birther" controversy surrounding Barack Obama's American citizenship, and how the conspiracy landscape has changed with the rise of the Internet and other new media.

What do UFO believers, Christian millennialists, and right-wing conspiracy theorists have in common? According to Michael Barkun in this fascinating yet disturbing book, quite a lot. It is well known that some Americans are obsessed with conspiracies. The Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 2001 terrorist attacks have all generated elaborate stories of hidden plots. What is far less known is the extent to which conspiracist worldviews have recently become linked in strange and unpredictable ways with other "fringe" notions such as a belief in UFOs, Nostradamus, and the Illuminati. Unraveling the extraordinary genealogies and permutations of these increasingly widespread ideas, Barkun shows how this web of urban legends has spread among subcultures on the Internet and through mass media, how a new style of conspiracy thinking has recently arisen, and how this phenomenon relates to larger changes in American culture. This book, written by a leading expert on the subject, is the most comprehensive and authoritative examination of contemporary American conspiracism to date.

Barkun discusses a range of material-involving inner-earth caves, government black helicopters, alien abductions, secret New World Order cabals, and much more-that few realize exists in our culture. Looking closely at the manifestations of these ideas in a wide range of literature and source material from religious and political literature, to New Age and UFO publications, to popular culture phenomena such as The X-Files, and to websites, radio programs, and more, Barkun finds that America is in the throes of an unrivaled period of millenarian activity. His book underscores the importance of understanding why this phenomenon is now spreading into more mainstream segments of American culture.

Today the Quran is used by some to justify war and acts of terrorism, the Torah to deny Palestinians the right to live in the Land of Israel, and the Bible to condemn homosexuality and contraception. The significance of scripture may not be immediately obvious in our secular world, but its misunderstanding is perhaps the root cause of many of today's controversies.

In this timely and important book, one of the most trusted and admired writers on the world of faith examines the meaning of scripture. The sacred texts have been coopted by fundamentalists, who insist that they must be taken literally, and by others who interpret scripture to bolster their own prejudices. These texts are seen to prescribe ethical norms and codes of behavior that are divinely ordained: they are believed to contain eternal truths. But as Karen Armstrong shows in this chronicle of the development and significance of major religions, such a narrow, peculiar reading of scripture is a relatively recent, modern phenomenon. For most of their history, the world's religious traditions have regarded these texts as tools that enable the individual to connect with the divine, to experience a different level of consciousness, and to help them engage with the world in more meaningful and compassionate ways.

At a time of intolerance and mutual incomprehension, The Lost Art of Scripture shines fresh light on the world's major religions to help us build bridges between faiths and rediscover a creative and spiritual engagement with holy texts.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The bestselling author of Zealot and host of Believer explores humanity’s quest to make sense of the divine in this concise and fascinating history of our understanding of God.
 
In Zealot, Reza Aslan replaced the staid, well-worn portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth with a startling new image of the man in all his contradictions. In his new book, Aslan takes on a subject even more immense: God, writ large.
 
In layered prose and with thoughtful, accessible scholarship, Aslan narrates the history of religion as a remarkably cohesive attempt to understand the divine by giving it human traits and emotions. According to Aslan, this innate desire to humanize God is hardwired in our brains, making it a central feature of nearly every religious tradition. As Aslan writes, “Whether we are aware of it or not, and regardless of whether we’re believers or not, what the vast majority of us think about when we think about God is a divine version of ourselves.”
 
But this projection is not without consequences. We bestow upon God not just all that is good in human nature—our compassion, our thirst for justice—but all that is bad in it: our greed, our bigotry, our penchant for violence. All these qualities inform our religions, cultures, and governments.
 
More than just a history of our understanding of God, this book is an attempt to get to the root of this humanizing impulse in order to develop a more universal spirituality. Whether you believe in one God, many gods, or no god at all, God: A Human History will challenge the way you think about the divine and its role in our everyday lives.

Praise for God

“Timely, riveting, enlightening and necessary.”—HuffPost

“Tantalizing . . . Driven by [Reza] Aslan’s grace and curiosity, God . . . helps us pan out from our troubled times, while asking us to consider a more expansive view of the divine in contemporary life.”—The Seattle Times

“A fascinating exploration of the interaction of our humanity and God.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“[Aslan’s] slim, yet ambitious book [is] the story of how humans have created God with a capital G, and it’s thoroughly mind-blowing.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“Aslan is a born storyteller, and there is much to enjoy in this intelligent survey.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 Adds new voices to the feminist conversation and brings a rich variety of diverse approaches to Buddhist women’s identities, “the feminine,” and Buddhist feminism.
This groundbreaking book explores Buddhist thought and culture, from multiple Buddhist perspectives, as sources for feminist reflection and social action. Too often, when writers apply terms such as “woman,” “femininity,” and “feminism” to Buddhist texts and contexts, they begin with models of feminist thinking that foreground questions and concerns arising from Western experience. This oversight has led to many facile assumptions, denials, and oversimplifications that ignore women’s diverse social and historical contexts. But now, with the tools of feminist analysis that have developed in recent decades, constructs of the feminine in Buddhist texts, imagery, and philosophy can be examined—with the acknowledgment that there are limitations to applying these theoretical paradigms to other cultures. Contributors to this volume offer a feminist analysis, which integrates gender theory and Buddhist perspectives, to Buddhist texts and women’s narratives from Asia. How do Buddhist concepts of self and no-self intersect with concepts of gender identity, especially for women? How are the female body, sexuality, and femininity constructed (and contested) in diverse Buddhist contexts? How might power and gender identity be perceived differently through a Buddhist lens? By exploring feminist approaches and representations of “the feminine,” including persistent questions about women’s identities as householders and renunciants, this book helps us to understand how Buddhist influences on attitudes toward women, and how feminist thinking from other parts of the world, can inform and enlarge contemporary discussions of feminism.
One of the world's foremost exponents of the "pluralist" position as the most adequate Christian theological account of religious diversity turns to a new and urgent issue facing the community of world religions. For Paul Knitter, the spectre of environmental and social injustice looms over any serious discussion of humankind's future. As urgent as it is to have peace among the world's believers to achieve peace among nations, it is urgent that these communities unite in understanding and defending of the earth. In One Earth Many Religions Knitter looks back at his own "dialogical odyssey" and forward to the way that interfaith encounters and dialogue must focus attention on new challenges. Nothing less than enlisting the commitment of the world's religions on the task of saving our common home will do. In making that case, Knitter makes clear the complex structurespolitical, economic, and social as well as religious - that face those who approach this task. While articulating a "this-worldly soteriology" necessary to overcome our eco-human plight, Knitter offers practical considerations on actions and projects that have and should have been undertaken to stem the tide of environmental and human suffering. The global crisis is both at the center of One Earth Many Religions and a test case for Knitter and others engaged in the dialogue of religions. Can religious differences concerning the nature of the transcendent themselves be transcended in order to promote eco-human well-being? The issue seems basic and clearif interreligious dialogue cannot effect such a change, then one must question whether religion is of any use whatsoever.
"Welcome to the Faith Club. We're three mothers from three faiths—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism—who got together to write a picture book for our children that would highlight the connections between our religions. But no sooner had we started talking about our beliefs and how to explain them to our children than our differences led to misunderstandings. Our project nearly fell apart."

After September 11th, Ranya Idliby, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, faced constant questions about Islam, God, and death from her children, the only Muslims in their classrooms. Inspired by a story about Muhammad, Ranya reached out to two other mothers—a Christian and a Jew—to try to understand and answer these questions for her children. After just a few meetings, however, it became clear that the women themselves needed an honest and open environment where they could admit—and discuss—their concerns, stereotypes, and misunderstandings about one another. After hours of soul-searching about the issues that divided them, Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla grew close enough to discover and explore what united them.

The Faith Club is a memoir of spiritual reflections in three voices that will make readers feel as if they are eavesdropping on the authors' private conversations, provocative discussions, and often controversial opinions and conclusions. The authors wrestle with the issues of anti-Semitism, prejudice against Muslims, and preconceptions of Christians at a time when fundamentalists dominate the public face of Christianity. They write beautifully and affectingly of their families, their losses and grief, their fears and hopes for themselves and their loved ones. And as the authors reveal their deepest beliefs, readers watch the blossoming of a profound interfaith friendship and the birth of a new way of relating to others.

In a final chapter, they provide detailed advice on how to start a faith club: the questions to ask, the books to read, and most important, the open-minded attitude to maintain in order to come through the experience with an enriched personal faith and understanding of others.

Pioneering, timely, and deeply thoughtful, The Faith Club's caring message will resonate with people of all faiths.
The 1993 government assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, resulted in the deaths of four federal agents and eighty Branch Davidians, including seventeen children. Whether these tragic deaths could have been avoided is still debatable, but what seems clear is that the events in Texas have broad implications for religious freedom in America.

James Tabor and Eugene Gallagher's bold examination of the Waco story offers the first balanced account of the siege. They try to understand what really happened in Waco: What brought the Branch Davidians to Mount Carmel? Why did the government attack? How did the media affect events? The authors address the accusations of illegal weapons possession, strange sexual practices, and child abuse that were made against David Koresh and his followers. Without attempting to excuse such actions, they point out that the public has not heard the complete story and that many media reports were distorted.

The authors have carefully studied the Davidian movement, analyzing the theology and biblical interpretation that were so central to the group's functioning. They also consider how two decades of intense activity against so-called cults have influenced public perceptions of unorthodox religions.

In exploring our fear of unconventional religious groups and how such fear curtails our ability to tolerate religious differences, Why Waco? is an unsettling wake-up call. Using the events at Mount Carmel as a cautionary tale, the authors challenge all Americans, including government officials and media representatives, to closely examine our national commitment to religious freedom.
From the renowned and best-selling author of A History of God, a sweeping exploration of religion and the history of human violence.

For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view? With deep learning and sympathetic understanding, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

While many historians have looked at violence in connection with particular religious manifestations (jihad in Islam or Christianity’s Crusades), Armstrong looks at each faith—not only Christianity and Islam, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Judaism—in its totality over time. As she describes, each arose in an agrarian society with plenty powerful landowners brutalizing peasants while also warring among themselves over land, then the only real source of wealth. In this world, religion was not the discrete and personal matter it would become for us but rather something that permeated all aspects of society. And so it was that agrarian aggression, and the warrior ethos it begot, became bound up with observances of the sacred.

In each tradition, however, a counterbalance to the warrior code also developed. Around sages, prophets, and mystics there grew up communities protesting the injustice and bloodshed endemic to agrarian society, the violence to which religion had become heir. And so by the time the great confessional faiths came of age, all understood themselves as ultimately devoted to peace, equality, and reconciliation, whatever the acts of violence perpetrated in their name.

Industrialization and modernity have ushered in an epoch of spectacular and unexampled violence, although, as Armstrong explains, relatively little of it can be ascribed directly to religion. Nevertheless, she shows us how and in what measure religions, in their relative maturity, came to absorb modern belligerence—and what hope there might be for peace among believers of different creeds in our time.

At a moment of rising geopolitical chaos, the imperative of mutual understanding between nations and faith communities has never been more urgent, the dangers of action based on misunderstanding never greater. Informed by Armstrong’s sweeping erudition and personal commitment to the promotion of compassion, Fields of Blood makes vividly clear that religion is not the problem.
Most who think about African American religion limit themselves to black churches, or perhaps to aspects of Islamic thought and practice. But a close look at the religious landscape of African American communities presents a much more complex, thick, and layered religious reality comprising many competing faiths and practices. The African American Religious Experience in America provides readers with an introduction to the tremendous religious diversity of African American communities in the United States, with snapshots of 11 religious traditions practiced by African Americans--from Buddhism to Catholicism, from Judaism to Voodoo. Each snapshot provides readers a better understanding of how African Americans practice their faiths in the United States.

The African American Religious Experience in America provides resources for students taking classes on the history of American religion, African American Studies, and on American Studies. In addition to the in-depth discussion of the varieties of African American Religion, the volume includes a historical introduction to the development of African American Religion, a glossary of terms, a timeline of important events, a series of short biographies of important figures in the history of African American religion and a bibliography of sources for further study. Finally, the book includes a series of primary source documents that will provide students with first-person accounts of how religion is practiced in the African American community both today and in the past.

Over the past two decades, North Americans have become increasingly interested in understanding and reclaiming the rites that mark significant life passages. In the absence of meaningful rites of passage, we speed through the dangerous intersections of life and often come to regret missing an opportunity to contemplate a child's birth, mark the arrival of maturity, or meditate on the loss of a loved one. Providing a highly personal, thoroughly informed, and cross-cultural perspective on rites of passage for general readers, this book illustrates the power of rites to help us navigate life's troublesome transitions.

The work of a major scholar who has spent years writing and teaching about ritual, Deeply into the Bone instigates a conversation in which readers can fruitfully reflect on their own experiences of passage. Covering the significant life events of birth, initiation, marriage, and death, chapters include first-person stories told by individuals who have undergone rites of passage, accounts of practices from around the world, brief histories of selected ritual traditions, and critical reflections probing popular assumptions about ritual. The book also explores innovative rites for other important events such as beginning school, same-sex commitment ceremonies, abortion, serious illness, divorce, and retirement.

Taking us confidently into the abyss separating the spiritual from the social scientific, the personal from the scholarly, and the narrative from the analytical, Grimes synthesizes an impressive amount of information to help us find more insightful ways of comprehending life's great transitions. As we face our increasingly complex society, Deeply into the Bone will help us reclaim the power of rites and understand their effect on our lives.
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