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Invitation to World Religions

Third Edition

Jeffrey Brodd, Layne Little, Bradley Nystrom, Robert Platzner, Richard Shek, and Erin Stiles

Publication Date - July 2018

ISBN: 9780190690816

656 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $104.99

An invitation into the teachings, history, and ways of life of the world's religions


Featuring a unique, consistent, and modular chapter structure--"Teachings," "History," and "Way of Life"--and numerous pedagogical features, Invitation to World Religions, Third Edition, invites students to explore the world's great religions with respect and a sense of wonder. This chapter structure enables students to navigate each religion in a consistent and systematic way and to make comparisons between religions. The book describes the essential features of each religion and shows how they have responded to basic human needs and to the cultural contexts in which they developed. The authors also encourage students to develop an appreciation for what religious beliefs and practices actually mean to their adherents.

New to this Edition

  • A "Global Snapshot" feature in each chapter highlights each religion's diaspora, typically emphasizing the tradition's presence in North America
  • More coverage of religion and conflict offers clear and balanced explorations of the ways in which religion has sometimes been used to justify oppression and violence
  • New, vibrant, and diverse "Voices" interviews provide further evidence of the variety of contemporary religious practices


  • A consistent, modular chapter structure--"Teachings," "History," and "Way of Life"--enables students to navigate each religion in a consistent and systematic way and helps them make comparisons between religions
  • A lucid and accessible writing style imparts a sense of invitation, welcoming students into the beliefs and practices of religious adherents around the world
  • A large team of authors with diverse specialties ensures that each religion is covered with true expertise
  • Personal, candid "Voices" interviews offer a diverse array of people sharing the ways in which they live their faiths
  • "Seeking Answers" sections at the end of each chapter encourage students to compare the ways in which different religions address the same essential questions
  • "Visual Guides" offer keys to important religious symbols in easy-to-read tables for quick reference and comparison
  • Chapter-opening maps and timelines throughout provide geographical context for each religion's development and help students trace the evolution of each religion within its larger social and political context
  • "For Review" and "For Further Reflection" questions prompt students to reexamine essential concepts and then invite them to think critically and to engage in deeper analyses
  • Key terms are boldfaced at their first appearance and defined in the glossaries that follow each chapter and also in a comprehensive glossary at the end of the book
  • Suggestions for further reading direct students to some of the best and most recent print and online resources on each tradition
  • A wealth of rich, robust, and relevant color photographs and illustrations keeps students visually engaged
  • A robust ancillary program includes an Instructor's Manual with Computerized Test Bank on the book's Ancillary Resource Center and a Companion Website with additional student resources

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Brodd is Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Layne Little is Lecturer of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bradley Nystrom is Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Robert Platzner is Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Richard Shek is Professor of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

Erin Stiles is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno.


"Invitation to World Religions is a great text. I appreciate the careful consideration of political and cultural differences that affect religious studies, and the language is clear and engaging. I also like the regular engagement with living communities and adherents."--Samantha Langsdale, University of North Texas

"This text's greatest strengths are its consistency in chapter format, its accessible language for student comprehension, and its scholarship."--Laura Stevens, Northwest Florida State College

"The content of Invitation to World Religions is its greatest strength. The supplemental resources are without any doubt the best I have ever encountered. And the writing style is easy to follow and just the right tone for undergraduates."--Kenneth Atkinson, University of Northern Iowa

Table of Contents

    *=New to this Edition
    Approaching the Study of World Religions
    Religion as a Subject of Academic Inquiry
    What Religions Do
    Religious Questions and Challenges
    * Religion and Violence
    Dimensions of Religions
    Historical Development
    Way of Life
    Religions in the Modern World
    Modernization and Related Phenomena
    The Changing Roles of Women in Religions
    The Encounter of Religion and Science
    An Academic Approach to the Study of Religions
    Balance and Empathy
    Comparative and Multidisciplinary Approaches
    The Teachings of Native Religions
    Creation and Origins
    Life Lessons in Myths
    The Importance of Balance: Humanity and the Natural World
    Sacred Language and Sacred Time
    * VOICES: An Interview with Brian Melendez
    The History of North American Indigenous Religions
    Conquest, Colonization, and Christianity
    Resistance Movements
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: The World Turns to Standing Rock
    Native Religions and Non-Native Practitioners
    North American Indigenous Religions as a Way of Life
    Women and Gender in Native American Religions
    Rites of Passage
    Rites of Renewal and Rites of Purification
    The Teachings of Indigenous African Religions
    Supernatural Beings: Gods and Spirits
    VOICES: Interviews with Sammy Letoole and Festus Ogunbitan
    Humanity and the Human Condition
    The History of Indigenous African Religions
    The Spread of Islam
    Christianity and Colonialism
    Reform and Resistance
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: African Religions in the Americas
    Indigenous African Religions as a Way of Life
    Communicating with the Spirit World
    Using Supernatural Powers
    Women in Indigenous African Religions
    Life Cycle Rituals
    The Teachings of Hinduism
    Hindu Beliefs about Divine Reality
    The Individual and the Quest for Liberation
    Three Paths to Liberation
    Vendanta: The Predominant School of Hindu Philosophy
    The Individual and Society
    VOICES: An Interview with Jayashree Venkatesan
    Hindu Sacred Texts
    The Sects of Hinduism
    The History of Hinduism
    The Indus Valley Civilization
    Who Are the Aryans?
    The Vedic Period
    The Age of the Guptas
    The Development of Bhakti
    Hindus and Muslims During the Mughal Dynasty
    Colonial Critique and the Hindu Reformers
    Gandhi and the Struggle for Indian Independence
    Hindutva and Hindu Nationalism
    * Hindu Nationalism and Violence
    GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: From India to Iowa: Hinduism in the Heartland
    The Future of Hinduism
    Hinduism as a Way of Life
    Temples and Icons
    Forms of Worship
    Rites of Passage
    Women in Hinduism
    Festivals and Holidays
    Performance Traditions
    The Teachings of Buddhism
    The Life of the Buddha
    What Did the Buddha Teach?
    VOICES: An Interview with Katherine Sei
    The History of Buddhism
    The Period of the Buddhist Councils
    Theravada Buddhism
    Mahayana Buddhism
    Vajrayana Buddhism
    Buddhism in India
    Buddhism Beyond India
    The Western Transmission
    * Buddhism and Sectarian Violence: Myanmar and Sri Lanka
    Buddhists in the World Today
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: The Emergence of Western Buddhism
    Buddhism as a Way of Life
    Who Is a Buddhist?
    The Buddha's Teachings on Ethics and "Skillful Means"
    Meditation and the Cultivation of Mind
    Mantra, Liturgical Ritual, and Chanting
    Conversion and Ordination
    Women in Buddhism
    Sacred Places and Objects of Veneration
    Holidays and Festivals
    Funerary Rites
    The Teachings of Jainism
    Mahavira, the Twenty-fourth and Last Tirthankara of This World Cycle
    An Eternal Succession of Tirthankaras
    Jainism and Hinduism
    Ahimsa and Asceticism: Jainism's Ideals
    Theory of the Universe
    Liberation and Salvation
    The History of Jainism
    The Indian Historical Context
    The Legacy of the Tirthankaras: Jainism through the Centuries
    Jainism in Today's World
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Jains Beyond India
    Jainism as a Way of Life
    Digambaras and Shvetambaras
    VOICES: An Interview with Girish Shah
    The Ascetic Life
    Jainism and Women
    The Religious Life of the Jain Laity
    The Teachings of Sikhism
    The Life of Guru Nanak
    Sikh Scripture
    On God, the Human Condition, and Spiritual Liberation
    Teachings of Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa
    The History of Sikhism
    Guru Nanak's Successors
    Guru Gobind Singh and the Khalsa
    Sikhs in Conflict and in Search of Nationhood
    Sikhs in the Diaspora
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: A Century of Sikhs in America
    Sikhism as a Way of Life
    VOICES: An Interview with Onkar Singh
    Daily Devotional Practices
    Sikh Worship in the Gurdwara
    Life-Cycle Rituals
    Worship, Work, and Charity
    Women and Sikhism
    Sikh Identity
    The Teachings of Confucianism and Daoism
    Ancient Chinese Religious Views
    The Teachings of Confucius
    Confucianism and Women
    The Teachings of Daoism
    Daoism and Women
    The History of Confucianism and Daoism
    The History of Confucianism
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Confucianism in Korea
    The History of Daoism
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Daoism in Feng Shui and Martial Arts
    Confucianism and Daoism as Ways of Life
    Confucian Rituals
    VOICES: An Interview with Jason Ch'ui-hsiao Tseng
    Daoist Practices
    The Teachings of Shinto
    The Meaning of Kami
    Creation Myth in the Kojiki
    VOICES: An Interview with Watanabe Minoru
    The History of Shinto
    Medieval Shinto
    The Modern Period
    * Ultranationalism, Imperialism, and Conflict
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Anime and Shinto
    Shinto as a Way of Life
    Fertility Rites
    Rites of Purification, Presentation, Petition, and Participation
    Religious Observances throughout the Year
    Shinto in Japan Today
    The Teachings of Zoroastrianism
    Monotheism and Dualism
    The Divine Realm
    Creation and the Nature of the World
    Human Nature and Human Destiny
    The History of Zoroastrianism
    The Background of Zoroastrianism
    Zoroastrian Scriptures
    Zoroastrianism Through the Centuries
    Zoroastrianism in the Modern World
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Zoroastrianism in New York
    Zoroastrianism as a Way of Life
    Ritual Practices
    VOICES: An Interview with Rustom Ghadiali
    Women and Zoroastrianism
    Holy Days and Rites of Passage
    The Zoroastrian Community: Social and Ethical Responsibilities
    The Teachings of Judaism
    Covenant and Election
    The Messiah and the Messianic Age
    The Afterlife
    Jewish Mysticism
    The History of Judaism
    Dispersion, Assimilation, and Collective Identity
    The Biblical Period
    The Second Temple Period
    The Formative Age
    The Conflict between Judaism and Christianity
    The Age of Philosophy and Mysticism
    The Modern Era
    Reform Movements in Europe and the United States
    The Shoah and the State of Israel
    * Religious Violence and the Future of Zionism
    The Future of Judaism in the Contemporary World
    Women and Judaism
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Judaism in Indiz
    Judaism as a Way of Life
    The Major Festivals
    VOICES: An Interview with Rabbi Brad Bloom
    The Minor Festivals
    The Sabbath
    Life-Cycle Events
    Other Sacred Practices
    The Teachings of Christianity
    The Life of Jesus
    The Teachings of Jesus
    Paul and the Mission to the Gentiles
    God, Creation, and Original Humanity
    God as Trinity
    The Consequences of Sin
    Grace and Salvation
    The Church
    VOICES: An Interview with Terrie M. and Father Art
    "Last Things"
    The Afterlife
    Christianity and Other Religions: Points of Conflict
    The History of Christianity
    Christianity in the Roman World
    The Church in the Middle Ages
    The Reformation: Protestant Challenge and the Roman Catholic Reponse
    Christianity in the Modern World
    * Women in Christianity
    Christianity Today and Tomorrow: Trends and Prospects
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: The Kimbanguist Church in Africa
    Christianity as a Way of Life
    Church Interiors: Sacred Space
    The Liturgical Year
    Veneration of Saints
    Social and Political Activism
    The Teachings of Islam
    Muhammad and the Revelations
    The Holy Qur'an
    The Teachings of the Qur'an
    Commentary on the Qur'an
    The Sunnah: The Example of the Prophet
    The Five Pillars
    The History of Islam
    The Hijra and the Growth of the Muslim Community
    The Crisis of Succession and the Rightly Guided Caliphs
    The Umayyads and the Abbasids
    Later Islamic Empires: The Ottomans, the Mughals, and the Safavids
    Islam and Nationalism
    Islamic Reform Movements
    Varieties of Islam: Sunni and Shi'a
    * Islam and Political Conflict Today
    Muslims in North America
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: Muslims in the West
    Islam as a Way of Life
    * VOICES: An Interview with Dola K. and Taslima S.
    The Qur'an in Daily Life
    What Is Jihad?
    The Islamic Year and Holidays
    The Shari'ah: Islamic Law
    Marriage and Family
    Women and Islam
    What Is "New" About New Religious Movements?
    Modernization, Globalization, and Secularization
    Theoretical Models and Social Typologies
    Alternative Christianities and their Offshoots
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    * GLOBAL SNAPSHOT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Africa
    Christian Science and New Thought
    Jehovah's Witnesses
    The Family (Children of God)
    The Unification Church
    The Rediscovery of Eastern Religious Thought
    The Theosophical Society
    ISKCON: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness
    The Osho Rajneesh Movement
    Transcendental Meditation
    * Falun Gong
    * VOICES: An Interview with Dr. Xinyu David Zhang
    * Aum Shinrikyo: A Cult of Violence
    The Raelian Movement
    The Church of Scientology
    The Emergence of Universalist Religious Thought
    The Baha'i Faith
    Unitarian Universalism
    The New Atheism

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