Cover Image: The Evolution of Religions

The Evolution of Religions

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Member Reviews

At just over 1000 pages, this is a pretty big book that attempts to tackle a big question … how religion fits into the human condition (as humans themselves continue to evolve). Even so, there was limited space to go into much detail and any examination of pre-literate religions remain in the realm of educated speculation … presumed to have started with spiritual/animistic beliefs and rituals. As a fan of comparative studies, this was extremely helpful, since the entire purpose of a taxonomy is to enable the reader/student to compare and contrast the subject matter … and how better than to propose such an evolutionary tree than an evolutionary biologist and systematist … still there were plenty of times where the author acknowledged that this categorization didn’t work well, however, Grande’s ability to call out similarities and differences with antecedents was extremely help in understanding the worldviews professed by the predominate, contemporary religions: Hindu, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam (which also tended to have the most detail). I particularly enjoyed the exploration of the heterodoxy that periodically springs up in each of these. Ultimately this is a fairly decent introduction to the religions of today and how they evolved into what they are … and hopefully enable a better toleration of each other along with that better understanding.

My primary complete would be that some of the charts/illustrations were awkwardly formatted with the text alignment and orientation changing within the same illustration … making some of them hard to figure out … and the best part … of of these is well presented in easily accessible language that doesn’t require a background in any of the covered studies (although if you do, you may notice a few, small, nuance errors that don’t really detract much from the overall understanding).

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Comparative religion books are often written by religious scholars or historians. But this one has a twist: It’s written by a scientist—an evolutionary biologist and systematist to be exact. There’s beauty in having a scientist write such a book. Lance Grande remains neutral, or agnostic if you will, to the different religions. His purpose is to analyze how organized religions came into being, how they change and evolve over time, and how they create new groups and subgroups—or become extinct.

Organized religions developed from early supernaturalism into Asian cyclicism, Old World polytheism, linear monotheism, traditional and reformation Christianity, gnosticism and Biblical demiurgism, and Islam. Grande focuses on each group’s origin and development, doctrines, rituals/practices, and supernatural beings/deities from prehistoric times to today.

From that evolutionary perspective, Grande discovers the history of related traditions (as in the title). He shows how, for example, the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) are historically and ideologically intertwined, but also how they diversified—by using historical and scriptural records. The amazingly detailed charts help us visualize the relationships between religions and the subgroups that grew out of them, while the sidebars, images, and glossary provide additional context.

It’s an imperfect science due to changing archaeological interpretations and new discoveries, variables in oral traditions and written transcriptions, and the physical destruction or recovery of scriptures. That's why Grande created the framework and then invites others to fill in the missing pieces and build upon his work.

Evolution of Religions is a big book, but it’s written in such a methodical way that you’ll understand the broad concepts behind many organized religions around the world.

Prerelease book provided for review consideration.

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The Evolution of Religions was a complex book that discussed numerous current,and extinct world religions, and like the title insinuates, also discusses the evolution of what are today's religions and then concludes with where the author believes today's religions are going.

The author goes into great detail about almost all religions presented, in fact, in some cases, maybe too much detail. With one religion - an existing religion - there is seemingly a lack of information. In general, as expected, the Abrahamic monotheistic religions were the most well-discussed. With the conclusion - may be surprising to some but not to others.

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I really enjoyed this book. I have often said that all religions have commonalities and I adore how the author took us on a journey that shows how religions have evolved and expanded overtime. It also addresses the need for acceptance across religions and I strongly agree with him. Whether you are a member of a more well know organized region, or even agnostic, this is such an interesting work that you will learn much about many practices across the world and over time.

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In "The Evolution of Religions," Lance Grande, a prominent figure in evolutionary systematics, embarks on an extraordinary exploration into the vast tapestry of religious diversity across time and space. Employing a fusion of evolutionary philosophy and meticulous cultural analysis, Grande unravels the complex evolution of numerous religions, uncovering the historical intricacies and interconnectedness that have shaped the religious landscape. Eschewing conventional hierarchical narratives, the book employs innovative evolutionary trees to vividly depict the dynamic interplay between world religions, challenging outdated perspectives and emphasizing unity amidst divergence. Rich with illuminating illustrations, Grande's work offers a panoramic view of the formation, extinction, and diversification of global belief systems, advocating for greater empathy and open-minded comprehension of cultural differences. "The Evolution of Religions" becomes a beacon of knowledge, advocating for tolerance and understanding as indispensable traits for humanity's harmonious future.

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