Religious Worlds: The Comparative Study of Religion

William E. Paden, Author Beacon Press (MA) $13 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1211-6
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.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1988
Release date: 12/01/1988
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-8070-1210-9
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