Religion help/poll

O.K, I’ve been reading a few GD religious threads and I started thinking. It’s probably about time I made my mind up about the whole religion thing. When I first signed up here, I posted in this thread. (about halfway down the first page)

In that thread I stated that I needed to research various religions (considering my complete lack of knowledge about most religions) before I could make an informed choice/judgement. I feel it’s about that time.

With that in mind, and with Neurotik providing the first suggestion (Catholic New American bible) would the Doper’s mind pointing me in the direction of some literature that pretty much encompasses their religious beliefs. I would prefer literature that is stand alone (i.e that I don’t have to also track down a priest to question him about things, though I don’t mind posting questions here, I’m just unable to get to most religious denominations).

So fire away. To understand (and perhaps to believe) your religion, what do you think I should have a read of ?


My suggestion would be to go to the local used book store and look in the religion section.
Why limit yourself to just one book/religion in your quest for knowledge?
I’m still searching for one book that can describe what I see as truth, and although I’ve not found just one to go by, I’ve found many good things in many good books.
It’s a personal search, and noone here (including me) can really tell you what will speak to your heart.
Good luck in your search!

Thanks for the response, Tabeitha.

I understand that no book will ever contain the full and definitive belief of each individual Doper. I’m actually not interested in having the exact same belief as any particular Doper, since I agree it is extremely personal. I am just after some recommendations of where to start looking, from a group of people who generally tend to be fairly educated. I most definitely will not limit myself to any one book or religion.


Hi Goo!

I have no idea how old you are, but I have a problem understanding why you have to decide on a partcular belief system right now. Perhaps, you feel like you need some faith and don’t know which one. That’s fine – if you have a general idea you could just pick something that feels comfortable and go from there. I think I saw a post saying that you were possibly an atheist, that’s OK too (I’m one myself). But if you aren’t sure of your beliefs, I doubt that any god will be upset if you take the time to search for what fits with your personal feelings.

Since you said that you aren’t familair with a lot of different religons maybe you could start by reading up a bit. If you are interested, I would be happy to help you find some good online resources. For myself, I can’t recommend any books but have read quite a bit online.

I would suggest that you continue reading some GD religious threads (and perhaps search for older ones) and try to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Why do you feel that you have to decide now?

I would recommend “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
It’s not a religious text. It is however, a rather short book (under 200 pages) that describes a journey in search of the truth. Or as the cover says “a shimmering, iridescent tale of spiritual quest” I enjoyed it anyway.
Just my taste, but keep in mind I’ve also read:
“The Celestine Vision”
“Seat of the Soul”
“The Tao of Pooh” (gotta love Pooh)
“The Medicine Woman Inner Guidebook”
“The Four Agreements”
and of course the “Bible”
so I am by no means an expert here!!
Again good luck, and I’m interested to see what other dopers may recomend.

I also agree with rsa, there is no hurry to make up your mind, I doubt I ever will, but I enjoy the reading (especially some of those GD threads :slight_smile: ).

For a treatment of Christianity generally approved of by (dare I say it) “most” Christians, be sure to check out the works of C.S. Lewis. I’d particularly recommend:

  • The Screwtape Letters (a first-rate work of literature, btw)
  • Pilgrim’s Regress
  • Mere Christianity

If you’d like just a real good read without too much theology, read his Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet; Perelandra; That Hideous Strength) which is kind of like Narnia books for adults - it has all the “flavor” of Christianity while using metaphor and fantasy.

I can’t give you a book that really encompasses my belief system, but I can throw out some suggestions

A good friend of mine who was Hindu used to recommend Am I a Hindu?. If you read that and you’re interested in learning more about Hinduism you should probably pick up the Bhagavad Gita. Shop around for a translation you like.

When I was working on a research paper on the Talmud last year I found Basic Judaism by Milton Steinberg to be great for explaining Judaism to a Gentile.

If you’re interested in rational arguments for Christianity The Handbook of Christian Apologetics was pretty good. And of course I second the recommendation of anything at all by C. S. Lewis - start with Mere Christianity.

As others have suggested, Mere Christianity is probably one of the best places to start in understanding the Christian faith. It’s fairly clear and straightforward, although it delves into some very heavy subjects and will probably lead to some deep thinking. Keep a Bible with a concordance nearby, it could prove helpful.

And, hey, read the Bible, too. It may raise more questions than it answers, but since it’s the basis for Christianity and Judaism, you should have a familiarity with it.

Or if you’re really not sure what religion best fits your beliefs, just take this simple quiz…

I was going to post a link to that quiz (which looks like the same one at beliefnet) but istara beat me to it. Take it with a big grain of salt, but it may give you a good starting place to begin your study. Good luck.

I’m curious about that myself. It seems to me that what a person believes is one of the least important things there is–the important thing is what a person does.

On the Buddhism side, Alan Watts’ Way of Zen is a decent gateway to the Zen flavor of it; it’s very well-balanced by Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen. Both of those are rather heavier on the Zen side rather than the Buddhism side, but that’s often just the ticket for someone coming from an undecided/atheistic context.

Leaning more into the Buddhism side of the equation, The Dhammapada is in a core position analogous to the Gospels–if all the verbiage other than it were lost by suddenly vanishing into the same dimension that lost socks go to, the essence would still be there.

Leaping across to an entirely different tradition, if you’re seeking out of a mystical urge–not a desire to have something to believe in, but to know (a tricky proposition; if you ever find yourself truly certain, expect to be massively surprised at any moment)–I would recommend Gerschom Scholem’s scholarly works on the kabbalah; a good overview being Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. A great deal of kabbalah is inextricably linked into Judaism, but the universals of it are still there to be found for us goyim as well.

The quiz listed above is good starting place. You might also want to check out for some good overviews. More details can be found here.

My bookclub read a book called “The Joy of Sects” A pretty readable comparative religion book - although it did have its problems, it would provide a place to start. He covers the Big 3 Western faiths (Jewish, Christian, Islam), and the 3 major Eastern faiths (Hindu, Buddhist, Tao) some depth. Then, if something grabs you, go from there.

Most colleges offer a comparative religion course, and many Unitarian churchs do as well, if you are interested in a more guided search.

21st Century Wicca was the most digestible and, frankly, best book I read out of the 20 or so I bought when I first started learning about Paganism. If I remember correctly it has a bibliography, from which I branched out to learn more. I second the mention of That site is amazing.

However, you really shouldn’t push yourself into finding a religion. I sort of stumbled into it, and I like it better this way. Researching is a fine idea, but I wouldn’t go into it with the mindset that you have to come out of it a religious person.

My perspectives are esoteric and not based on believing or following something that someone else said or wrote as my guide. You can find the essential writings here though.

I took the test and got the following top three results :

  1. Secular Humanism (100%)
  2. Nontheist (96%)
  3. Unitarian Universalism (92%)

Since a few people have asked why I feel I have to decide now, I’ll try and answer. It’s not that I have to decide on a religion, it’s that I want to look around and see if any of the organised religions have something that appeals to me, and if not, I’ll continue on the path I’m currently on. I have an introductory knowledge of Shinto, and I have picked up the bits of christianity that you pick up when living in a western society. Other than that I have no knowledge of organised religions, and I want to see if any of them are for me.

Considering that a lot of organised religions promise some pretty hefty rewards (re-incarnation, eternal paradise) I think I’d be pretty stupid NOT to check them out. If none of them ‘clicks’, well, no skin off my nose, I’ve tried, and probably learnt a bit in the process.

I guess the point in my life I’m at is that I want to honestly search, see if I get the ‘call’ that I’ve heard others speak of, or see if my current ‘philosophy’ suits me perfectly.

Hope that makes sense ! Keep the suggestions coming, it’s good to see different faiths here on the SD, but I’m sure there are more out there.

Get thee hence and read Joseph Campbell… Hero of a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth are the two you’re most likely to lay your hands on. Then come back and we’ll chat. :wink:

Hmm. Just took that quiz again. A few months back I was apparently a Reformist Jew. Now I’m a Liberal Quaker. I am least compatible as a Jehovah’s Witness. Interesting.