General Introduction



Smith, Jonathan Z, ed. The Harpercollins Dictionary of Religion. London: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.

A team drawn from the American Academy of Religion has collected more than 3,200 entries written by 327 leading experts from around the world and across the theological and religious spectrum. Designed for the general reader, this highly accessible resource addresses everything from the great living traditions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism to the very latest new religions.

Bowker, John, et alii, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions is the most wide-ranging A-Z reference guide to all aspects of the world’s religions past and present. Whether the reader seeks quick, accessible answers from the short entries or more detailed discussion from the longer more discursive articles, it offers a wealth of unrivalled and unbiased authoritative detail. With a total of over 8,200 entries, an extensive topic index, and an original and in-depth introductory essay this new dictionary, drawing on the latest research, is the definitive compendium on the subject.

Sharma, Arvind, ed. Our Religions: The Seven World Religions Introduced by Preeminent Scholars from Each Tradition. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1994.

An essential introduction to the world’s living religions by experts from each tradition – published in conjunction with the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions.  Includes exploratory essays on Hinduism by Arvind Sharma, Buddhism by Masao Abe, Confucianism by Tu Wei-ming, Taoism by Liu Xiaogan, Judaism by Jacob Neusner, Christianity by Harvey Cox, and Islam by Seyyed Hosein Nasr.

Eliade, Mircea, (Editor in Chief, Charles J. Adams, et al., eds). The Encyclopedia of Religion. 16 vols. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1987.

Containing articles on every aspect of religion by leading scholars in the field, it is a classic, standard reference encyclopedia on matters of religion.

Online Sources

BBC—Religions page

A popular, non-academic introduction to 20 religions.  This website is geared towards journalists who cover religion stories for their newspapers.  It provides basic information.  Each section is neatly divided into categories (beliefs, customs, history, texts, holy days, people …) and sub-headings.

N.B.  This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

Harvard Divinity School

Religious Literacy Project – Religion Profiles

Profiles on particular religious traditions with an emphasis on:

  1. their internal diversity, and
  2. the ways that the traditions are always evolving and changing.


Religion Facts

In spite of its title, it is more than “just the facts” but it is annoyingly pestered with all kinds of advertising.

Religion Link

This website is geared towards journalists who cover religion stories for their newspapers.

Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, William H. Swatos Jr., Editor

The Encyclopedia of Religion in Society was published in 1998 by AltaMira Press.  The contents have been posted on the web site of Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research.  There is a huge array of short entries on a wide variety of religion-related topics.

The Great Courses

The Teaching Company offers hundreds of educational courses ranging from art to astronomy.  They are presented by the top university professors in the field and packaged by communications professionals to enhance the learning process. You can choose the format—video or audio, CD/DVD discs or digital—according to your budget.  There are often special sales.

There are courses on religion and theology—including the Great World Religions—each consisting of twelve to twenty-four 30-minute lectures. The website provides brief, introductory summaries, but purchasers receive pdf files/workbooks with detailed content for each lecture.