Book Review - Essence of World Religions


I was fortunate to receive a free copy of Essence of World Religions during a local all-vegan Thanksgiving Dinner that I attended this year. It piqued my interest because it appeared to be a basic introduction to many of the common world religions, some of which I had never even heard of before. A few of friends that were seated at my table mentioned that they had read the book the previous year and found it to be a good overview of the topic and a valuable resource.

The book was originally published in 1994 as part of the JAINA Education Series program, and the edition I received is the Third Edition, published in November 2004. The preface of the book stresses that it is intended to be an introductory resource, stating "The strength of this book is its simplicity." Because of that, many complex and subtle distinctions between the religions have been left out of the book. The main focus is on providing a basic comparative summary of the following religions:

  • Religions of India
  1. Hinduism
  2. Buddhism
  3. Jainism
  4. Sikhism
  • Religions of the Far-East
  1. Confucianism
  2. Taoism
  3. Shintoism
  • Religions of the West
  1. Judaism
  2. Zoroastrianism
  3. Christianity
  4. Islam
  5. Bahä'i

Each religion's section covers the time it was founded, a description of the founder (if there was one at all), the major scriptures that are consulted, any sects that may exist, the number of current adherents, the ultimate goals and beliefs, identifying symbols, and a list of observed holidays. Some religions have additional sections added that are specific to them.

I found this book to be extremely eye-opening, because there is a lot in common between these religions. Of course, there is a lot of different between them as well, but the book primarily focuses on the similarities. I would definitely recommend the book to anyone who is interested in a primer for these religions or spirituality in general.

3/5 stars. 80 pages.