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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Religious Geography

Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land by Avraham Negev and Shimon Gibson (Continuum) comprehensive, illustrated guide has become a classic reference on Middle Eastern archaeology since its first publication in 1972. This fourth edition is again revised and updated, with the latest findings from digs in the Holy Land compiled from the work of twenty world-renowned archaeologists.


A History of Israel and the Holy Land edited by Michael Avi-Yonah (Continuum) this collection of scholarly essays makes a valiant effort to provide an objective history of such a disputed area. Arranged in chronological order, they cover the history of the "Holy Land" from prehistoric times to the current peace negotiations. Although most of the scholars are Israeli, there is no effort here to discount the richly diverse ethnic and religious heritage of the land. Hanoch Reviv provides some fascinating and provocative views of the supposed conflicts between Israelites and Canaanites. Moshe Sharon sheds light upon the meticulous planning that lay behind the Arab invasion of Syria and Palestine. Emmanuel Sivan's description of life for Moslems and Jews under the onslaught of the Crusaders is both informative and moving. Very useful drawings, photographs, and maps supplement the text of these fine essays. Recommended.

Historical Atlas of Christianity by Franklin Hamlin Littell (Continuum) strong points include the solid scholarship of the 180 one- to two-page essays, the 400 maps, and the illustrations throughout. The book is divided into three sections "Early Christianity in Its Setting," "The Christian Roman Empire," and "The Age of Personal Decision" and appendixes include a list of members of the World Council of Churches and a subject index. The work is useful in an introductory way as it covers too much too briefly.

Atlas of the World's Religions edited by Ninian Smart and Ailsa Heritage (Oxford University Press) 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.

In his introduction, Smart fittingly points out that the religions of the world "are not just products of spirituality but also of geography." Natural environment, political climate, and the relocation of peoples have all formed the development of the world's religious traditions. In this volume, text, images, and maps are combined in an attempt to present the history of religions from the time of early humans to the present day.

The content is assembled by religious traditions. In several instances a geographic arrangement is used to group religions such as the Pacific and Africa.  Some small text, images, and a historical timelines 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  edited by Tim Dowley, Alan Millard, David Wright (Baker Academic, 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

Religion Today
The Historical Geography of Religion
The World's Religions
1. The Hindu World
2. Buddhism
3. East Asian Traditions
4. The Pacific
5. The Ancient Near East and Europe
6. Judaism
7. Christianity
8. Islam
9. Africa
10. Indigenous Religions
Picture Acknowledgements

Atlas of the Bible and Christianity  edited by Tim Dowley, Alan Millard, David Wright (Baker Academic, 1997) Is comprehensive history of Christianity as told through 160 color maps representing Christianity from its early origins to the modern day. Produced by the Hardlines Cartographic Company of Oxford, the maps in Baker's Atlas are the computer-generated results of years of intensive research. Divided into four major sections-Old Testament Period, New Testament Period, The Early Church, The Modern Church-the maps depict a wide range of events and processes in the history of Christianity, including the journeys of Old Testament characters, the travels of Jesus and Paul, the invasions of the Barbarians, the birth of Islam, the expulsion of the Jews, and Christian missions and movements around the modern world. Each map is accompanied by a brief explanatory text as well as color photographs of cultural artifacts and historical sites. Baker's Atlas does an especially excellent job in representing the plurality of schisms and sects that appeared and disappeared in the history of Christianity. Lesser known events and historic phenomena, such as the economy of Palestine in 10 BCE, the development of monasticism, the spread of Christianity into Russia, and the condemnation of the Waldensians are also explained and depicted.

 CD_ROM esdition is Out of Print: Macmillan's Encyclopedia of Religion

Religious Sites in America: A Reference Guide by Mary Ellen Snodgrass is a keen selection of a wide variety of religious places in the USA. It is hardly encyclopedic but it does offer important information about the places listed in alphabetical order. Ranging over the incredible diversity of American religious expression, Religious Sites in America: Religious Sites in America: A Reference Guide explores more than 160 worship groups as representative examples of individual beliefs and practices. It covers active religious centers in all 50 states, from cathedrals to store-front chapels, including the location, origin, and history of a site, its size and accessibility, and its purpose and influence.

Entries examine uniquely American worship: Navajo sand painting, Harvest Ministries, Inc."Evangelism, Messianic Judaism, ki healing, annual pilgrimages to Idaho's Old Mission, a passion play enacted by the Hermanos Penitentes, high holy days celebrated over the Internet, and peyotism, one of the oldest worship practices indigenous to the continent. Because all sites are active religious centers, entries detail site supervision, location, and layout and include telephone and fag numbers and e-mail and Web addresses. In addition to a site's significance, history, and architecture, the coverage also summarizes its religious activities and outreach programs. A detailed timeline charts the growth of widespread religious expression in America. There is a glossary, an extensive bibliography, a subject index, and illustrations.


 From whatever ethnic background or family predisposition, people continually search the dark world for paths to light. Patterns of thanksgiving and entreaty vary with the individual; yet derive from a universal longing-to fill the empty spaces within. These yearnings are the stimuli to worship.

Styles of communing with God evolve from the fiber of human experience. From prehistory, aboriginal Americans have venerated the Great Spirit, the animistic creator and protector of humankind. Although European invaders and proselytizers have belittled Indian spirituality, Native Americans have continued to retreat into nature's grandeur. To protect their lifeways, they are willing to fight government agencies for the right to venerate in peace and serenity the phenomena of hill and water, horizon and sky. Out of disgust at urban pollution and a need to revive the spirit, non-native city dwellers are emulating the serenity of Indian worship by retreating to desert overlooks, silent abbeys, seaside chapels, synagogues, and meditation gardens to commune with the almighty.

For those newcomers to North America who brought a formalized faith and scripture to guide them, the building of churches, temples, abbeys, and shrines resettled the displaced worshipper in a familiar atmosphere of sanctity. For healing and respite, they have propitiated powers that lie outside human control by intoning unique god-names: ­Allah, Zarathustra, Buddha, Yahweh, Christ, the Goddess, Loa, the kami. When social and political intrusions have disrupted or threatened worship, the faith-driven have pocked history with uprisings, lawsuits, sermons, and outcries in art and press. The willingness of the righteous to protect hallowed turf continues to fuel debate over the right of one group to invade the consecrated ground of another, whether at home or in the training of the next generation.

The demand for freedom to practice faith unmolested has changed little from the country's founding. For all their reformations, schisms, and syncretism, the nation's religious bodies remain strong in heart and mind. Congregants retain the history of their forebears and respect the travails of those who came to the New World in search of liberty-the German Lutherans of Amana, Mennonites, Sephardic Jews, Waldensians, Burmese Buddhists, and Santerians-and the African and Chinese slave laborers whom the greedy uprooted and relocated for profit. Majority faiths, beset by late twentieth-century waves of immigration, are still relearning the basic principles of democracy that shelter minority groups and foster tolerance for prayers in Spanish, female clergy, and full membership for homosexuals. The tensions within religious America continue to force the citizenry, both churched and unchurched, to reevaluate where, when, how, and to what degree the search for God will affect us all.

 The plan of Religious Sites in America: is to present 160 examples of worship groups nationwide as models of individual beliefs and practice as they exist at the beginning of the twenty-first century. I have chosen sites in all fifty states-from elegant churches, temples, and cathedrals to storefront start-ups, nondenominational chapels, retreats, re­ligious tourist attractions, New Age experiments, and shrines to deities that date to petroglyph, rune, medieval chant, Sun Dance, pentagram, firepit, and oral tradition. Although the past per­meates tenets and activities, all sites are active religious centers. Each entry contains details of su­pervision, location and layout, phone and fax, and e-mail and Web site. Text describes the unique­ness, history, sacred architecture, current activities and outreach, and sources of information on each.

Back matter offers an overview of innova­tions and shifts in worship style. Study aids fea­ture a multifaceted time line of events resulting from American religious pluralism:

• conflicts (Battle of Williamsburg, execution of Quakers, Selma voting rights march,
Wounded Knee Massacre, Battle of New Orleans, the Mexican War)
• publishers and publications (Christian Science Monitor, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," The Final Call, Song of Hiawatha, Summer Service of the Methodists in North America, The Tantrik Path, The Seven Storey Mountain, Witchcraft Today, Ramona, "Paul Revere's Ride," Beacon Press)
• drama (Pastorela, From This Day Forward, "The Glory of Christmas," Heaven Bound)
• sermons ("The Last Supper," "I Have a Dream," "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?")
• structures (Old Swedes Church, Medicine Wheel, kivas, Palace of Gold, Jade Buddha Temple, sweat lodges)
• historical events (Captain Cook's voyage to the Sandwich Islands, Fugitive Slave Act, Religious Freedom Act, the Long Walk, purchase of Alaska)
• authors (Helen Hunt Jackson, Ram Dass, Paula Gunn Allen, L. Ron Hubbard, Willa Cather, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson)
• visionaries (Baha'u'llah, Mary Baker Eddy Wovoka, Meher Baba, Sweet Medicine, Ann Lee, Black Elk, Vivekenanda)
• orators (Greg Laurie, Billy Graham, Malcolm X, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Louis Farrakhan, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Timothy Dwight)
• activists (Arvol Looking Horse, Calvin Butts, James R. Weddell, Lillian Wald, Gladdys Muir, Noa Emmett Aluli, Arthur M. Brazier)
• mystics (Eagle Elk, Nanak Dev, John Paul Twitchell, White Buffalo Calf Woman, Meher Baba)
• historical figures (Bernardo Abeyta, loann Veniaminov, Pope, George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Olympia Brown. Bhagwan Rajneesh)
• innovators (I. M. Pei, Nampeyo, Sisters of Charity, Quanah Parker, King David Kalahaua, William Billings, Pierre L'Enfant, Oral Roberts, BrighamYoung)
• movements (Quaker and Mennonite abolitionism, Promise Keepers, Earth First!, Zoroastrianism, Moonies, Second Great Awakening, Vedanta Society,
• totemism, Metropolitan Community Church)
• native American tribes (Yavapai, Makah, Digger Indians, Polynesian aborigines, Hopi, Aleut)
• newsmakers (Mark Levy Fidel Castro, Vatican II, "Dynamite Bob" Chambliss, W D. Fard, Dalai Lama)
• national parks and monuments (CrazyHorse Monument, Mt. Graham, Pipestone National Monument, Zion National Forest, Devils Tower,Yellowstone, Mesa Verde, Crater Lake).

 The glossary offers pronunciations in the h­based system for unfamiliar religious and archi­tectural terms, e.g., canon, ashram, lauds, binah, dharma, Sufi, tefillin, chuppah, calumet, hip roof, and scry. Research aids include a division of sites by state, extensive bibliography of print and electronic sources, and a thorough index with cross-references.

At the outset, I found such wide variance that I chose to adapt entries to suit the situation. Controversy colors the ministry of some groups, in particular, the Voodoo Spiritual Temple in New Orleans, Wiccan practices of Diana's Grove in Missouri, same-sex marriages at Harvard's "Mem Church," obsessive secrecy and restriction of gender at Vermont's Charterhouse of the Transfiguration, gay members at Philadelphia's Germantown Mennonite Church, and a multi­cultural congregation victimized by neo-Nazi vandalism at Triumph Church in Vicksburg, Mis­sissippi. Some entries contain capsule biographies of leaders John Wesley, Elizabeth Seton, Thomas O'Reilly Thomas Merton,Vivekenanda, Jean-Baptiste Lamy Junipero Serra, Bhumibol, Yukitaka Yamamoto, Pierre Jean de Smet, Isaac Meyer Wise, Elizabeth Schellenberg, Richard Allen, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Benedict of Nursia, Peter-Valdes, and Robert Schuller. Along­side ministries are the designs and designers of outstanding landmarks-Robert Mills, Henry Hobson Richardson, Adah Robinson, E. Fay Jones, Lloyd Wright, Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, Eero Saarinen, Jean-Baptiste Louis Bour­geois, Peter Harrison, and Richard Upjohn-as well as the names of mosaicists, composers, ma­sons, organ builders, sculptors, pipe makers, calligraphers, and landscapers who have enhanced sacred places with religious symbolism.

All research bears an element of surprise. For me, the wealth of worship styles and related is­sues extended far beyond my expectations. In addition to the prayer styles of Zen Buddhists, pluralism of Philadelphia Unitarians, songfests of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, revivalism of the Methodist Tabernacle, and zealotry of Assem­blies of God, I encountered:

• the whale-centered community of Point Barrow, Alaska
• a marriage outreach at the tiny Little Brown Church in the Vale in Nashua, Iowa
• an annual summer solstice encampment at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve, Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin
• a hiding place for runaway slaves under the coffer at Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island
• a silo-shaped campus worship center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
a series of unity rides that link landmasses sacred to plains Indians
• religious tourism at Holy Land USA in Bedford, Virginia, and the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Alabama
• glossolalia among ecstatic worshippers at Louisiana's Pentecostals of Alexandria
• young confirmands studying history firsthand at Baltimore's Lovely Lady United Methodist Church
• religious, genealogical, and historical archives at the Shaker community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine
• annual observance of French liturgy at the French Huguenot Church of Charleston, South Carolina
• a shrine to four dead children at Birming­ham's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
• vegetarian cooking classes at the jade BuddhaTemple in Houston,Texas
• a medieval morality play at Big.Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia
• a prehistoric navigation school at Kaho'Olawe, Hawaii
• a miniature of Japan's Tsubaki Shrine in Stockton, California
• outspoken civil rights leadership at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church
• a magical domed Palace of Gold in the hill country of Moundville, West Virginia
• consumption of dirt from a holy well at an Indian-Hispanic shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico
• outdoor drama, From This Day Forward, commemorating the flight of Waldensians from Italy to Valdese, North Carolina
• a multiplex worship center at the Air Force Academy in Colorado
• a Buddhist temple in a rain forest in Kapaa, Hawaii
• a clock made of flowers on the Canadian border in Dunseith, North Dakota
• sympathetic news reporting from the Seattle Times for the plight of the Snoqualmie of Carnation, Washington
• permaculture classes at the Lama Foundation of San Cristobal, New Mexico
• members at the Detroit Zen Center providing homes for the homeless
• Penina Moise's Hymns Written for the Use of Hebrew Congregations at Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina
• singing classes at Gurdwara Sahib El Sobrante in California training for ministers and counselors at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina.

Artistic expression covers a range of styles and forms:

• fresco at Montreat-Anderson's Chapel of the Prodigal
• free noontime organ concerts at the Mormon Tabernacle
• stained glass splendors at the Washington National Cathedral
• rock music and popcorn at Houston's Second Baptist Church
• photo-ops at Arizona's Antelope Canyon
• Greek Orthodox iconography at Califor­nia's Fort Ross
• a fish-shaped Presbyterian church in Stamford, Connecticut
• ecycled rock at the Grotto of the Re­demption in Iowa
• brandy-soaked fruitcake from Our Lady of Guadelupe Trappist Abbey in Lafayette, Oregon.

The finished text offers glimpses of uniquely American worship in Navajo sand painting, Harvest Ministries evangelism, Messianic Ju­daism in Philadelphia, ki healing at the Kanna­gara Jinja shrine in Washington state, annual pil­grimages to Idaho's Old Mission, a live passion play enacted by the Hermanos Penitentes, high holy days celebrated live over the Internet, and widespread native American peyotism, perhaps the oldest worship style indigenous to North America. Overall, these expressions of faith de­fine who we are and how we seek the divine.

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