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The Religions Next Door

Publisher: B&H Books • 2004 • 245 pages
The Religions Next Door

Aren’t all religions fundamentally the same? Don’t they teach the same basic ethical principles, and worship the same God? To the media, the answer is an obvious “yes” — but the real answer is an emphatic “no.” Now, in “The Religions Next Door: What We Need to Know about Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam — and What Reporters Are Missing,” Marvin Olasky tells the truth about about non-Christian religions — and the danger of believing that all religions hold different variations of the same tenets.

Olasky, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, and editor-in-chief of World magazine, also challenges the way religion is reported in the media, revealing that not only do the media invest little in religion reporting generally, but the reporters they do hire tend to reflect the secular, anti-Christian ideologies of the newsrooms which they serve.

But the heart of Olasky’s book is his straightforward treatment of the four major non-Christian religions — for each of which he provides a concise yet thorough account of its history, beliefs, rituals, and key figures, plus a glossary of terms. “It is neither wise nor compassionate to remain uninformed . . . when one culture may be threatening another, to settle for the most superficial coverage of that culture’s belief, or to assume that both cultures have essentially the same understanding of who God is,” Olasky warns.

A tiny sampling of Marvin Olasky’s insights:

  • How many reporters and editors at leading publications attend religious services weekly? Five in ten? Four in ten? Three? (Keep going, you’ll get there)
  • How syncretism — the attempt to merge religions under the assumption that they are all basically the same — creates an illusion of similarity that can be dangerous, especially when it applies to reporting on religions with militant aspects
  • How the favorable treatment Islam has gotten from the press and in schools has fostered its growth in America
  • The profound differences between God and “Allah,” and between the “paradise” of Islam and the Heaven of Christianity
  • The theology of Islamic jihad and “self-martyrdom”
  • Why Islam has no concept of “inalienable rights,” but accords a subservient status to Jews and Christians, known as dhimmis
  • How Hindu belief underlies India’s caste system — and why the subservient status of 240 million “untouchables” may lead to the greatest civil-rights conflict of the 21st century
  • How Hindu scripture and theology contribute to the epidemic of “sex-selection” abortions of females in India
  • Why Buddhism is a religion of doubt — not only in the existence of God, but of reality itself
  • Why Buddhism is especially appealing to those who have lived as hedonists — such as 60’s rebels and Hollywood stars
  • The Hebrew Scriptures: how archaeological research is vindicating the accuracy of the Old Testament
  • How Judaism changed after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.
  • How Hitler’s anti-Semitism arose not from Christianity but from racial theories stemming from the Enlightenment and Darwinism
  • Why journalists never write about the way Christianity has survived and thrived
  • Why the lack of religious belief among most journalists does not leave them neutral toward religion, as they like to think

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