The Religion Toolkit - A Complete Guide toReligious Studies
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More About This Title The Religion Toolkit - A Complete Guide toReligious Studies


This complete overview of religious studies provides students with the essential knowledge and tools they need to explore and understand the nature of religion.
  • Covers the early development of religion, with overviews of major and minor religions from Islam to Scientology
  • Considers recent developments including secularization; the relationship between religion and science; and scientific studies on religion, health, and mystical experience
  • Uses humor throughout, allowing students to remain open-minded to the subject
  • Explains what it means to study religion academically, and considers the impact of the study of religion on religion itself
  • Contains numerous student-friendly features including photos, maps, time lines, side bars, historical profiles, and population distribution figures
  • Provides classroom users with a lively website,,  including questions, quizzes, extra material, and helpful primary and secondary sources


John Morreall is Professor of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary. He has published widely in the philosophy of religion, and on the comic dimensions of world religions. His book Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion (1999) won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book 2000. He is also the author of Comic Relief: A Comprehensive Philosophy of Humor (2009), published by Wiley-Blackwell.

Tamara Sonn is the Wm. R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Department of Religious Studies at the College of William and Mary. Her books include Comparing Religions through Law: Judaism and Islam (with J. Neusner, 1999) and Islam: A Brief History, 2nd edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). She was senior editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Islam (2003), and associate editor of The Islamic World Past and Present (2004). She is currently an editor of Oxford Islamic Studies Online, and of Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (2009). In addition, Sonn is editor-in-chief of Oxford Bibliographies Online: Islamic Studies, and co-editor-in-chief of Wiley-Blackwell's Religion Compass.


List of Figures and Maps xiii

Timeline xvi

Acknowledgments xxii

Credits xxiii

1 Introduction: Prepare to Be Surprised 2


2 An Overview of Religion: Making Sense of Life 16

3 The Early Development of Religious Studies 44

4 Religious Studies in the 20th Century 76


5 Early Traditions 104

6 The Family of Western Monotheisms: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions 124

UNIT I Judaism 126

UNIT II Christianity 151

UNIT III Islam 167

UNIT IV The Impact of Religious Studies on the Western Monotheisms 183

7 330 Million Gods – or None: Two Traditions from India 206

8 Balancing and Blending: Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism in China 246

9 Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Baha’i, Scientology, Wicca, and Seneca Traditions: What Makes a “World Religion”? 274

10 Closing Questions 308

Glossary 338

Index 344


"The Religion Toolkit: A Complete Guide to Religious Studies is a unique one-stop resource. Although religion continues to be a powerful source of personal faith and a significant factor in domestic and international politics, astonishingly studies show that most people are religiously illiterate. Morreall and Sonn's tool kit will prove essential for all (students, media, policymakers and the general public) who want to understand religions and their impact today."
—John L. Esposito, Georgetown University

"A decade after 9/11, the world still seems to be torn between competing religious and political ideas. John Morreall and Tamara Sonn provide us a road-map based on objective analysis and scholarly research that offers us a method of understanding the nature of our world. Most important, they give us hope. Anyone interested in making sense of our times should be reading this book."
—Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, American University

"An invaluable guide for students of religion! The overview of Religious Studies theory is one of the clearest I have read."
—Ravi M. Gupta, College of William and Mary

"This is a highly intelligent, accessible and thoughtful contribution to religious studies by two of the most respected and accomplished scholars of religion working in the field today."
—Mumtaz Ahmad, International Islamic University, Islamabad