Book Review:: Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions by James A. Beverley

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions (Thomas Nelson, May 2009) doesn’t sound like the makings of an exciting book, but rather a college text book for a class a student was forced to take.  However, this resource is anything but boring and you must (not should—MUST) add it to your book collection.

James A. Beverley’s book is an extraordinary undertaking covering over 200 religions, including sects within Christianity.  Selections on other popular religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses not only include helpful photographs and illustrations, but also a breakdown of the groups core beliefs, common questions Christians have about the religion and ways to interact with followers as well as I suggested information for further study through current books and websites.  Oh, and then there’s the meaty history lesson on the development of each religion or sect as well as pertinent information on creeds, and other observances of the religion itself.

For example, take Chapter 19 on Witchcraft, which is also cross-referenced as “Wicca.”  There are a plethora of topics tackled in this chapter including types of witchcraft, the history of witchcraft, and various creeds used by practioners.  What I find particularly interesting is the “Witches Q&A” which seeks to dispel common errors we have about witchcraft, so we don’t look completely ignorant in our conversations.  One question asked is, “Do witches kill animals and humans?”  To which the answer is a resounding “no.”  And any rogue witch that would engage in this practice would be cast out of the “coven” (another word I picked up thanks to the key facts guide.)

Some of it may seem like common sense, but Beverley’s suggestions are sometimes surprising.  The author, who is a sought-after expert on world religions, does an incredible job of encouraging Christians to engage with those outside their fish bowls of faith.  However, he always cautions against becoming mystified with another religion.

I’ve never seen such a well-done and comprehensive guide on religion.  Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is readable, practical, and extremely important for Christians, who are constantly bombarded by a plethora of beliefs.  Be smart and savvy in your understanding of other religions; purchase Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religion.

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