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The Religious Experience (5th Edition) by Ninian Smart, Prentice Hall; ISBN: 002412141X; 1996

The classic introduction to the modern study of religion that originally appeared in the 1960's as The Religious Experience of Mankind


Religions in Four Dimensions: Existential and Aesthetic, Historical and Comparative by Walter Arnold. Kaufmann, McGraw-Hill; ASIN: 0070333947; 1976

One of the few truly critical introductions to world religions. He spares no one.

Dimensions of the Sacred: An Anatomy of the World's Beliefs by Ninian Smart, University of California Press; ISBN: 0520219600; 1999, $19.95 USD

A classic introduction to the study of religion.


Discovering Religious History in the Modern Age. by Barbara Harshav (Translator), Hans G. Kippenberg, Princeton Univ Pr; ISBN: 0691009090; 2001, $19.95 USD

This is the best introduction to the study of religion currently on the market.

The Politics of Religious Studies by Donald Wiebe, St. Martin's Press (Short); ISBN: 0312238886; 2000, $21.95 USD

I must confess, somehow this passed me by, but Don is always good for a fight. So I must read this book asp. It's bound to be full of controversial arguments and new ideas.

  R.C. Zaehner, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, Hutchinson, London, 1959, Hutchinson; ASIN: 0091075203, $25.98 USA  
The following texts should be read by any student who wishes to master the field of Religious Studies.  The list provided here is an introductory one which is intended to introduce the reader to the field.
Tom Paine, The Age of Reason, Secaucus, New Jersey, Citadel Press, 1974
Essential reading for anyone studying religion or theology.
Ninian Smart, The World's Religions, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1989, pp. 578.
This is by far the best introductory text currently available in Religious Studies.
R.C. Zaehner, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, Hutchinson, London, 1959, pp. 435.
An invaluable reference work with essays by leading scholars in all fields.  Although first published in 1959 the book has gone through many editions and is still in print.
A.L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, ollins, London, 1954.
An essential and highly informative introduction to Indian religions and civilization.
Hajime Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet and Japan. East West Center, Honolulu, 1964.
A valuable introduction to non‑western ways of thought and action that provides an essential background to understanding religious behavior.
Ninian Smart, Reasons and Faiths, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1958, pp. 211.
An excellent philosophical introduction to inter‑religious dialogue and understanding.
Ninian Smart, Doctrine and Argument in Indian Philosophy, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1964, pp. 256.
Mircea Eliade, Yoga, Immortality and Freedom, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1958, pp. 536.
This is the classic introduction to Yoga. Critics may find fault and some of the material may be outdated but it is a must for anyone approaching the religions of India.
Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and Profane: the Nature of Religion, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1959, pp. 256.
Mercea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1954
Although a considerable improvement of Joseph Campbell the books of on mythology are, I believe, flawed by his fascist orientation. The issue of Eliades fascism is a hotly debated subject among scholars, nevertheless, I am convinced that he was, and remained, a fascist in his basic ideology and that he promoted fascist thinking through his theories of myth.
R.C. Zaehner, Hinduism, Oxford University Press, London, 1968.
An excellent, if philosophical, introduction to the religion we know as Hinduism.
Thomas Hopkins, The Hindu Religious Tradition, Dickenson Publishing Co., Encino, California, 1971.
A good general introductory text.
Edward Conze, Buddhism: It's Essence and Development, Bruno Cassirer, Oxford, 1951, pp. 212.
No other work approaches Conze's genius for conveying the feel of Buddhism as well as the facts about the Buddhist tradition.
Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1962.
A much neglected work that Conze viewed as his greatest contribution to Buddhist studies.
H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1953.
An invaluable text for understanding Arabic concepts that shape Islamic theology.  This is particularly important for anyone studying Islam that is a religion claiming to be based on a sacred and untranslatable scripture.
Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur'an: Islam in Its Scripture, Allan and Unwin, London, 1971.
A useful study that sets Islam firmly within its own scriptural tradition.
Kenneth Cragg, The House of Islam, Dickenson, Belmont, California, 1969.
A good popular introduction to Islam.
David H. Smith, Chinese Religions, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1968.
This book is regarded by many as the best survey of Chinese religions available.
Charles A. Moore and A.V.. Morris, eds., The Japanese Mind: Essentials of Japanese Philosophy and Culture. East-West Centre, Honolulu, 1967.
A stimulating work which emphasizes the diversity of Japanese thought.
H. B. Earhart, Japanese Religions: Unity and Diversity, Dickenson, Belmont, California, 1969.
A good general survey.
F. B. Welbourn, Atoms and Ancestors, A.J. Arnold, London, 1969.
The style of this short book easily misleads the uninitiated.  Nevertheless, this is by far the best introduction to African religions.  A revised edition is being prepared by Irving Hexham.
F.B. Welbourn, East African Rebels, SCM Press, London, 1961
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand inter‑religious contact, religious change, and the impact of missionaries on traditional religions.
Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, A Theory of Religion, New York, Peter Lang, 1987
Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, The Future of Religion, Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985
Rodney Stark, One True God: The Historical Consequences of Monotheism, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001