Reference Lists?

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Reference Lists?

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1AnnaRichenda First Message
Feb 5, 2007, 2:02 pm

Hi! I started this group for a very selfish reason. I have studied primarily western religions, Christian history, and psychology/philosophy type books (Jung for example). I would love to branch out a bit and get some core reference texts regarding alternate historical perspectives and world religions. I know there are many Library Thing users who are experts in various studies, and I had hoped they would be willing to share core texts in their specialties, including "for dummies" style overview texts and comprehensive scholarship.

I have studied a bit of monastic history, and I would heartily recommend Jane Tibbetts Schulenburg's Forgetful of their Sex as a look at the thoughts/actions/philosophies of real women monastics. I liked Joanne MacNamara's Sisters In Arms, as well, though I wished for more primary source material. Medieval English Nunneries by Eileen Power is great for daily lives and lots of primary examples, but her scope is narrow, only England. Another extraordinarily helpful book, for English religious & Anglican history would be The Stripping of the Altars, by Eamon Duffy. I am also partial to Maria Gimbutkas' work in neolithic religious symbolism, though she has often been scoffed at in mainstream scholarship.

Another great reference is Stephen Pollington's Leechcraft. This book covers "Early English Charms and Healing" though the Anglo-Saxon & Northern European traditions. Dwarves, Elves, Flying Venom and plant lore & early Christian influences. Great resource!

2strichmo First Message
Feb 5, 2007, 9:39 pm

Try H. Byron Earhart's RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF THE WORLD for a general overview of all the major traditions and some of the more minor ones as well. This often used as an academic text for basic World Religions sorts of courses, but is far better written than most textbooks. I've taught it as well and the students generally reacted pretty well (i.e. they actually felt it worthy of reading the assignments).

Let me think a bit and I may have some more suggestions regarding non-Western faiths.

Thanks for asking and creating this group.


Edited: Sep 29, 2008, 1:29 am

One of the best introductions to the different religions of the world in my opinion, is the World's Religions by Huston Smith. Most of my knowledge lies in Buddhism, Hinduism, Esotericism, and Occultism. As I imagine you aren't that interested in the last two, I would recommend: Am I a Hindu? Its an introduction to Hinduism, written in question and answer format, and its been recommended to me by every Hindu I've ever talked to, and anyone that knows anything about the religion. For Buddhism, I recommend: What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula This will ground you in the basics of the religion. This is a bit more scholarly book than a lot of others, but it is written by a Bikkhu (monk) and it is well worth reading. I would recommend you read in the Buddha's Words as well. This will give you a good grounding in the Pali Cannon, the largest body of scripture in Buddhism. These texts are used primarily by Therevada Buddhists, but most are studied by every tradition.

Sep 6, 2008, 12:19 am

Some people like The World's Religions by Ninian Smart.

The hard thing to find is a short unbiased intro to Christianity.

Jan 3, 2009, 5:55 pm

Christianity is so varied and sectarian, more so than Buddhism because of its exclusive truth claim, that I'm not sure such a book exists. I've heard Mere Christianity is quite good, but its been a while since I read it. Heart of Christianity is also supposed to be good, and comes from a more liberal minded viewpoint than Mere.

Jan 3, 2009, 6:56 pm

My suggestion is to begin with a look at the History of Christianity, as well as some of the ancient Christian texts:

The Historical Jesus and The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan are tremendous

Raymond Brown as a foremost scholar and his volume An Introduction to the New Testament is fascinating

Some Gnostic introductions:

What is Gnosticism? by Karen L. King

The Nag Hammadi Library by James Robinson

The Gnostic Bible by Meyer and Barnstone

I'd recommend having a look at any of those.

Jan 12, 2009, 4:12 am

I just acquired the first two volumes of Mircea Eliade's a History of Religious Ideas at a used bookstore. I've heard its quite good, although I've never read anything by him before, so I can't vouch for it personally. However the terminology used in the second book "From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity" makes me a bit worried.

Jan 12, 2009, 12:53 pm

I think Eliade was somewhat associated with the traditionalism of Rene Guenon and Frithjof Schuon. They believed in a common core to many religious traditions (perhaps in a mystical sense), but usually had something of a conservative outlook. Huston Smith, who has written extensively on world religions, also slides into this camp.

Jan 13, 2009, 2:52 pm

Well, he should be right up my alley then! I've read a couple of Huston Smith's books, including the World's Religions. I actually got to see him in person when he was touring for his book on Christianity, and managed to get an autographed copy of the book.