Atlas of the World's Religions

ISBN 13: 9780195214499

Atlas of the World's Religions

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9780195214499: Atlas of the World's Religions
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This superbly illustrated and organized reference source is the first comprehensive visual guide to the world's religious traditions. With text by leading experts, and lavishly illustrated with photographs, thematic maps, site reconstructions, and tables and charts, many in full color, the Atlas charts the origin, growth, and spread of all major faiths. A survey of contemporary religious life, its historical background, and a glossary, index, and list of resources enhance the research value of the book.

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About the Author:

Ninian Smart, Founded British First Department of Religious Studies at University of Lancaster; and J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions, University of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus).

From Booklist:

In his introduction, editor Smart correctly points out that the religions of the world "are not just products of spirituality but also of geography." Natural terrain, political climate, and the migration of peoples have all shaped the development of the world's religious traditions. Here, text, images, and maps are blended in an attempt to present the history of religions from the time of early humans to the present day.

Content elements are grouped by religious tradition (e.g., Buddhism, Islam), though in some cases a geographic arrangement is used (e.g., the Pacific, Africa). Text, images, and a historical time line introduce these major groupings, which are then subdivided into more specific topics. For example, the section on Islam has focused treatment of the history of the Shi'a as well as the rise and spread of Sufism. Two pages are given to the introductions to the major groupings and to each of the focused topics. Almost all of the maps and images are in color. The atlas includes a glossary of terms, alphabetically listed but grouped together by the aforementioned tradition or geographic region. Concluding the volume are a bibliography and a detailed index. The index is important because there are no cross-references to tell the reader that there is information on the spread of Sufism in the chapter on Africa as well as the chapter on Islam, to take one example.

Some maps are more successful than others in showing the influence of geography on the spread of religion. The map showing "the Spread of Buddhism into Southeast Asia" displays how that development paralleled existing trade routes. "The Spread of Sufism," on the other hand, indicates the general directions taken by the Sufi orders as they moved away from their place of founding but shows no trade routes or lines of communication that might help explain the spread. Neither is the text helpful. It claims that the influence of the Sufi orders traveled along main trade routes but neglects to say where the routes were. Some maps, such as those labeled "Schools of Christian Mysticism" and "Christianity and Rationalism," provide lists of names and dates but aren't very helpful in showing connections.

For readers seeking more in-depth treatment, there are a number of atlases for specific religious traditions as well as periods within a particular tradition. Two examples are Atlas of the Bible and Christianity (Baker, 1997) and An Historical Atlas of Islam (Brill, 1981). Because of the inadequacy of some of the maps and the small amount of coverage given to each topic, the Oxford atlas does not really stand on its own. Libraries with few atlases or maps that treat religious traditions might use it as an adjunct to standard reference titles such as Macmillan's Encyclopedia of Religion [RBB O 1 96].

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