GOD: A Brief History

John Westerdale Bowker, Author . DK $35 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7894-8050-7

Having already written a lushly illustrated overview of the beliefs and practices of the world's religions (World Religions, also from DK), Bowker turns his attention to God and produces a book chock-full of facts, stories, legends and illustrations about the ways that religious traditions have developed their beliefs in God. Bowker first examines the ideas of Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Freud and others to demonstrate that all individuals and societies grapple with the meaning of God. In roughly chronological order, Bowker surveys the history of belief in God in animistic religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He explores various aspects of this belief, such as the meaning of dharma, the concept of wisdom and the nature of pilgrimage. Yet Bowker's book contains numerous problems. First, he never explains what he means by God. Is God the same as the Sacred or the Divine? Without a clearer explanation, many of the religions that he examines—Buddhism, for example—cannot be said to have a God. Second, does God indeed have a history? That implies that God would have had a beginning and will have an end, which runs counter to the notion that God is eternal and ahistorical. Third, because he does not provide a clear definition of God, Bowker levels the differences among the world's religions so that it appears that the God of Judaism is the same as the God of Hinduism. At best, Bowker provides a superficial overview of the history of belief in God for the "religion lite" crowd. (June)

Forecast:Despite its problems, expect strong sales: this strikingly illustrated coffee-table sensation is a Main selection of both the BOMC and the One Spirit Book Club.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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