A Little History of Religion

A Little History of Religion

by Richard Holloway


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For curious readers young and old, a rich and colorful history of religion from humanity’s earliest days to our own contentious times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300228816
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 09/05/2017
Series: Little Histories
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 128,652
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, is an internationally popular writer and broadcaster. His more than twenty books include the best-selling Leaving Alexandria: A Memoir of Faith and Doubt. He lives in Edinburgh, UK.

Table of Contents

1 Is Anybody There? 1

2 The Doors 7

3 The Wheel 12

4 One into Many 18

5 Prince to Buddha 24

6 Do No Harm 30

7 The Wanderer 36

8 In the Bulrushes 42

9 The Ten Commandments 48

10 Prophets 53

11 The End 59

12 Heretoc 65

13 The Last Battle 71

14 Worldly Religion 78

15 The Way to Go 83

16 Stirring up the Mud 89

17 Religion Gets Personal 95

18 The Convert 101

19 The Messiah 107

20 Jesus Comes to Rome 113

21 The Church Takes Charge 119

22 The Last Prophet 125

23 Submission 131

24 Struggle 137

25 Hell 143

26 Vicar of Christ 149

27 Protest 155

28 The Big Split 161

29 Nanak's Reformation 167

30 The Middle Way 173

31 Beheading the Beast 179

32 Friends 185

33 Made in America 191

34 Born in the USA 197

35 The Great Disappointment 203

36 Mystics and Movie Stars 209

37 Opening Doors 215

38 Angry Religion 221

39 Holy Wars 227

40 The End of Religion? 232

Index 239


What made you want to write this book?
I have been wrestling with the meaning of religion for most of my life. Writing the book was an opportunity to survey the whole field, not just the little corner I was familiar with.
How do you think your own background informed the book?
For most of my life I was what you might call a religious professional, but it was never an easy relationship. It was like being in a turbulent marriage: deep affection combined with endless argument and disagreement.
The difficulty is that religion, which is best understood as the human search for meaning, changes character when it becomes organized into a system that makes claims for itself, usually claims to superiority over other systems. Much the way political parties do. So religion ceases to be an exploration and becomes something more defensive. It’s like the difference between a wanderer and a settler. In religion, it’s important to recognize that some things will never be settled and to live with that uncertainty.
What role should religion play in our lives?
Whatever role we choose for ourselves—including none at all—as long as there is no compulsion about it and as long as it makes us kinder not more cruel. The fascinating thing about religion is that it can prompt us to extremes of either love or hatred. Choose love.

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