Stepping Out with the Sacred: Human Attempts to Engage the Divine, by Val Webb (Continuum, 2010) In this book, Webb explains, “I roam across religious traditions, listening for examples and explanations of how people have engaged the sacred.” She emphasizes the fact that she leaves open the question of whether or not there is Something to engage, and if so, whether engaging it is possible. Read more in the January 2012 Connections.
The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions, by Karen Armstrong (Knopf, 2006) Armstrong writes about the insights of the Axial Age, in which “the great world traditions that have continued to nourish humanity came into being: Confucianism and Daoism in China; Hinduism and Buddhism in India; monotheism in Israel; and philosophical rationalism in Greece.” She believes we have diluted our religions’ most valuable insights today and replaced them with a religiosity that too often harms rather than helps. Read about these timeless insights in the July 2007 Connections, and see whether you think today’s Christians need to put more emphasis on them.
A New Religious America: How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation, by Diana L. Eck (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) Eck, a United Methodist who heads Harvard’s “Pluralism Project,” tells how membership in non-Christian religions has increased in the U.S. in recent decades, and explains her view that this change is the biggest challenge today’s church faces. The January 2002 Connections reviews the key points of Eck’s book, and the October 2001 issue refers briefly to Eck’s findings.
Relating to People of Other Religions: What Every Christian Needs to Know, by M. Thomas Thangaraj (Abingdon, 1997) Thangaraj is a Christian who grew up in India among Hindus and now teaches at Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary. He reminds readers of the many scriptures that refer to the variety God has created. His book has an especially helpful discussion of what he considers the most common ways in which Christians regard other religions. This book is easy reading and would be a good basis for talking about the subject in a church group. Read more about it in the December 2001 Connections.
The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life, edited and with a preface by Phil Cousineau (University of California Press, 2003) In this collection of essays by Smith and interviews with him, taken from various points in his long career, he speaks about his understanding of what religion is—”the search for the Real, and the effort to approximate one’s life to it.” He discusses the different ways in which people understand and describe the Absolute, and he laments the influence of what he calls “scientism” on modern thinking. Read some of Smith’s views on these subjects in the February 2005 Connections.