The following text is from Irivng Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.

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Twenty year's experience in teaching introductory courses in Religious Studies to undergraduates convinced me of the need to write a short reference work to guide them through the confusion of names, technical terms and dates. The present work has grown directly out of class handouts I have distributed over the years and has benefitted from student comments and criticism.

My aim throughout has been to produce a book which would be of practical value to the struggling student, therefore, my selection of items and the amount of space given to each has been governed by a number of related considerations. First of all I recognize that even today the vast majority of courses in Religious Studies Departments in Britain and North America are essentially Christian in orientation. As a result there are relatively more entries dealing with the Western tradition than with other religions.

Secondly, information on some items can prove to be very difficult to obtain. Therefore, I have addressed each item not according to an evaluation of its overall importance in Religious Studies generally, but in terms of the difficulty students are likely to encounter in gaining information. This means, for example, that I may spend more time discussing a relatively obscure figure like Abraham Kuyper than I do on Thomas Aquinas or that the Plymouth Brethren may be given more space than certain other better known churches.

Third, in addition to items related to major traditions and world religions I have included materials on African and other neglected religious traditions as well as new religious movements commonly known as cults. This is because I believe that there is an overemphasis on certain narrowly defined academic traditions in Religious Studies to the neglect of studies dealing with religion as it actually occurs in the world. It other words academics are happy to study other academics regardless of what is actually happening in everyday life. Thus, for example, although many of my colleagues would disagree, I believe that the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, is a far more influential figure and deserves as much attention as the father of modern theology, Freidrich Schleiermacher, yet current textbooks and course offerings invariable mention Schleiermacher but rarely pay any attention to Joseph Smith. By recognizing the importance of living religions, popular piety and sociological studies I hope more balance will enter Religious Studies.

Fourth, some readers may be surprised that I have retained the essentially Christian system of dates "B.C." and "A.D." instead of the increasingly popular "Common Era" or "C.E." and "B.C.E." This is because the "Common Era" is common to Jews and Christians but still excludes Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. It is therefore is a very misleading term. For this reason I prefer the traditional Western usage to a modern innovation which does not even have the saving grace that it developed in a homogeneous society.

I acknowledge my debt to my original teacher Ninian Smart whose professionalism and enthusiasm for Religious Studies kindled my own interest. From him I learnt the value of empathy and philosophical analysis. Later, from Fred Welbourn, I realized the importance of "getting one's hands dirty" by studying living religions not only texts abstracted from their social setting.

I must confess the use of many sources the most important of which are Geddes MacGregor's Dictionary of Religion and Philosophy, Peter A. Angeles Dictionary of Philosophy, S. G. F. Brandon's A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, Erwin L. Lueker's Lutheran Cyclopedia, J. D. Douglas' The New Bible Dictionary, Daniel G. Reid's Dictionary of Christianity in America, Paul Edward's The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, F. L. Cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Lefferts A. Loetscher, Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Phillip P. Wiener, Dictionary of the History of Ideas, Sinclare B. Ferguson and David F. Wright, New Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Benjamin Walker, Hindu World, H. A. R. Gibb and J. H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, Gordon Melton's various reference works on New Religions, Karl Rahner, and handouts provided by my various teachers especially Colin Lyas, Edward Conze, Bob Morgan, David Catchpole, and Jacob Zakkie (James Dickie).

Three further comments deserve attention. First, any dictionary type work is going to be somewhat similar because it is impossible not to repeat certain facts or definitions which are in general usage. Second, although I have consciously attempted to avoid plagiarism many of my notes are now so old that I simply do not know where I obtained the information originally therefore some unintentional use of other people's work could have crept into the text. Third, I hope that the text will be judged in terms of its contribution to student needs, the way items were selected, and it's value as a research tool.

In conclusion I wish to express my thanks to Avril Dyson who typed not only the final manuscript but many of the earlier drafts, revisions and student notes which are incorporated into this book.