CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 3. . . .September 18, 2009
The six major faiths are featured in the “World Religions” series. Main topics covered include the origins, beliefs, traditions, forms of worship, the various sects or groups within the faith, holidays and celebrations of faith, and the challenges facing the religion today as modern life occasionally clashes with traditional values. Each book begins with a focus on a family that practises the faith. “Debate” boxes pose questions (some of them fairly “safe” and others more controversial) about faith-based issues. One example, taken from Christianity, asks readers to ponder whether or not the Bible should be open to new interpretation while another example, taken from Hinduism, asks whether or not people should believe in an eternal spiritual reality. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are provided as well as a list of books, web sites and organizations for further research. Each title also has a double-page spread entitled “Reference”. This section includes a map of the world indicating the greatest concentration of people of the featured faith, a timeline, and a calendar of major festivals throughout the year. Though the text could probably be read fairly easily by a fifth or sixth grader, there are topics in the books which make them unsuitable for elementary students, some examples being the religions’ views on contraception, abortion, premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery, euthanasia and the use of recreational drugs. Abundant colour pictures, maps, and diagrams, showing the exterior and interior of various houses of worship, enhance the text.
There are 360 million Buddhists worldwide, most of whom live in Southeast Asia. Begun by an Indian prince who gave up a life of comfort and luxury to live as a poor ascetic, seeking the answer to the problem of suffering, Buddhism encompasses three universal truths: everything changes; everyone and everything in this world is interconnected; and human life is full of suffering because of greed, hatred and ignorance. In Buddhism, readers will learn that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion because there is no god (hence members of other religious groups may also be Buddhists). Instead, followers are encouraged to abide by five precepts- treating others kindly, not stealing, not being greedy, not lying and not abusing drugs or alcohol- and the Noble Eightfold Path. Other topics in this title include the roles of monks and nuns, the three main types of Buddhism, and practices such as meditation, mindful breathing, and making mandalas and offerings.
Christianity describes the life and teachings of Jesus and the importance of the Bible, both the Old and New testaments, to this faith. Other topics covered include the parables, the Ten Commandments, the spread of Christianity, the main differences between the various denominations, major holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the seven sacraments, and the importance of doing charitable activities, such as helping the poor, and tithing. Terms such as mass, Eucharist, confession, communion and confirmation are explained. The one small flaw in this title is that the concept of the Trinity is not made very clear.
Judaism is described, not only as a religion, but also as a way of life, with a history that goes back 4000 years. In Judaism, readers will learn about the three basic principles, God, the Torah and Israel, in addition to the similarities and differences between the Jewish faith and Christianity. Other topics include Jewish laws, traditions such as the Bar Mitzvah, the branches of Judaism, Sabbath observances, the role of the Rabbi, Jewish dietary laws, the calendar, and life on a kibbutz.
Sikhs believe in one God and that everything, both animate and inanimate, has a consciousness. They are taught to place little importance on temporal things, such as wealth and possessions, and to avoid egocentricism. In Sikhism, there is information about the five symbols of faith worn by Sikhs- the kesh (uncut hair), kangha (comb), kara (iron or steel wrist bangle), kirpan (sword) and kachhehra (knee-lenth baggy shorts)- and the teachings revealed by God to ten men known as gurus, Sikh ceremonies such as the amrit sankskar, and the holy scriptures.
All of the titles in the series are well-researched and provide many details about each of the faiths. They promote acceptance and cultural awareness and encourage readers to think critically about important issues of faith.
Gail Hamilton is a recently retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.