World religions – Is there a meaning for you?

| January 15, 2014

Knowing more about the beliefs people hold has benefits for all of us. Ronald Forbes has written his book about world religions from a sincere appreciation of what each faith offers.

The greatest myth about any religion is that it remains unchanged ‘from the start’. Religions don’t. They evolve as both organisations and individuals come into contact with one another – through working together, marriage, competing, or fighting and conquest. People are curious about ideas and they constantly exchange them.

Today, in the ‘one world’ culture, religions of all kinds are coming into close contact with one another and jostling for adherents. Everyone wants to get the others following the One True Faith. There are benefits for all of us, both socially and at work, in knowing more about the beliefs that people hold, the value they have for the believer, the differences between one faith and another – and also the risks and sacrifices that each religion can entail.

Starting from world travels and exploration of any religion and indigenous peoples that came my way I began working on my book in 1997. I was recommended a co-author, Dr Chris Hartney in the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney (and much more), and he joined me with his own contributions and some underlying academic rigour.

We suggest criteria you could consider in assessing any religious tradition and making your own judgements. Atheistic beliefs are included – they are after all, beliefs, and have had as great an impact as other religions, both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’.

The book is written from a deep and sincere appreciation of what each religion offers. At the end are firsthand accounts from people of widely differing faiths. In these stories, we see the power of religion to touch the soul, to heal, and to change lives. These stories are written by people who had read nothing of the book but simply answered the question: “What it means to me to be a ____”.

The book begins with the most ancient religions, the ones that have endured the onset of the major religions (mainly Christianity and Islam). We start with the ‘Pagans’, ranging from the Celts to the Americas and the Pacific, including that most ancient living tradition, the Australian Aboriginals.

Next are the ones most familiar to us, the Abrahamic religions – those that begin with the Jewish prophet Abraham: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. After that come the Eastern religions, starting with Hinduism (the oldest) and following on to Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and then Atheism – and Consumerism (with laughs). Included are the many branches and sects in between, and serious reference to some ‘cults’.

We have written this book from a sense of heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for all religion – at its core. We summarise the key concepts of each and its benefits to humanity. Then we show the other side of the coin, the many problems that religions have caused humanity. Since these problems weren’t the intention of their founders, we call them the ‘Unintended Consequences’.

In presenting the best and worst of each faith, we believe that what is true will weather the storm and in time surpass that which may be harmful or untrue. Along the way we mention music and the arts and cultural aspects, even some language you might find helpful.

If you’d like to read it, go to: Proceeds of the launch go to a major interfaith organisation, the United Religions Initiative (URI). If you like the book, write a review, spread the word! I will greatly value any comment, positive or negative you may care to make on this blog.