Introducing World Religions  book cover
1st Edition

Introducing World Religions

ISBN 9780415772709
Published March 24, 2008 by Routledge
416 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Introducing World Religions offers an exciting new approach to the study of the world's religions. Taking its inspiration from performance studies and using an innovative dramatic metaphor, it enables students to explore religious ideas and culture in terms of the players (key figures), the script (foundational texts) and performance (religious practices). The discussion of key players treats human and non-human figures on the world stage, including the principle (God, Dharma, Dao), imaginal figures (angels, baals, bodhisattvas), exceptional persons (founders, prophets, gurus), and historical persons (significant players in the drama of religions). The discussion of the foundational texts includes materials that balance or challenge mainstream texts with an alternative perspective. The section on performance explores non-verbal religious activities such as pilgrimage, icon painting, dance, divination, and meditation.

Those concerned with introducing "post-colonial" discourse to students without losing the classic category of "the sacred" should find this textbook to be balanced and evocative. It presents workable concepts from the camps of both "religionists" and "reductionists" and students are challenged to move between "inside" and "outside" positions as they survey what have been called (controversially) "world religions".

Specially designed to assist learning it includes:

  • chapter timelines showing key persons, events and dates
  • themed boxes to encourage methodological enquiry
  • key-point chapter summaries to support understanding and review
  • study questions to assist classroom discussion
  • maps, charts and photographs
  • glossary of key terms and concepts
  • key reading, a comprehensive bibliography and index.

Ideal for one-semester or modular introductory survey courses on the world's religions, Introducing World Religions will be essential reading for any student of religions, worldwide. The accompanying website to this book can be found at



Victoria Urubshurow is Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College, where she was given a "Teaching Excellence Award" in 2007. She has taught  college courses in world religions and culture for over two decades in various permutations including: Religions of the World: East, Religions of the World: West, Buddhism, Hinduism, Religions of China and Japan, Islam, Introduction to Philosophy, Myth and Ritual, and Women in the Western World. As an historian of culture she has written on theory of religious symbols, spiritual biography, and aspects of Buddhism, including a volume on Buddha's life.


'A very interesting approach that should resonate with many students on introductory courses in religion. Although the idea of basing the analysis of religions on performance is novel at this basic level, it is easy to grasp and will be attractive to students and those coming to religious studies as a discipline for the first time. The coverage is comprehensive and the emphasis throughout is on comparative consideration of linked and contrasting beliefs and rituals, and I anticipate that many in the profession will find this an exciting text to use on their courses.' - Oliver Leaman, University of Kentucky, USA

'I have not put down this text book since I received it. The book is beautifully done. The chapters are well organized, and include a complete introductory picture of each religion, including religions that are traditionally left out of texts like Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Baha'i, and others. Including a well rounded picture of a religion is no small task! Yet this text does so. The chapters include historical perspective, key figures, historical figures, women, and mystics. They also include useful time lines, and some very interesting illustrations. I've noticed that illustrations go a long way in breaking up the monotony of print with students, and make a surprising difference in how a text is received. And all for under fifty dollars. Wonderful. Urubshurow clearly takes her material seriously, and presents it in a clear, concise, and wonderfully accessible manner.'Bill Lester, Yuba College, USA