Malory Nye who is an Acting Principal and Professor of Multiculturalism at the Al-Maktoum Institute, in Scotland, wrote Religion: The Basics. He is the founder of a journal called “Culture and Religion” and has written many books on religion and multiculturalism.
There seems to be three major aims to the book. The first is to give an accessible introduction to the different facets of the contemporary study of religion; to show that the study of religion is a dynamic field that is important not only to the past, but also to the contemporary world and finally to explore religion from a cultural perspective.
The first chapter of the book is about religion and the approach the author is going to take in the book. He gives his thoughts on what a religion is, how the study of religion could be done and how people should not limit themselves on finding a definite definition for religion. Chapter two explores all the different ways in which the term culture can be understood because the study of religion cannot be separated from the study of culture. In chapter three we learn to explore some of the ways in which we can talk about religion in terms of power and vice versa. The works of Max Weber, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault are looked at. Chapter four answers the question: In what ways do religious traditions and ideologies create gender relations, and exert forces of power? Belief is the subject of chapter five and the author discusses the role belief plays in religion, problems associated with it and the cognitive approaches to belief and religion. He also discusses belief and the absence of religion, the different classifications of belief, doctrine and common sense, as well as belief and practice. Chapter six discusses ritual, it examines the many ways we can try to understand and interpret ritual. The subject of chapter seven is texts and what they are, why they should or should not be studied, how they are studied and by whom, as well as how who wrote them matters. It is a very interesting chapter. The last chapter is about contemporary religions and cultures. This chapter brings religion into the here and now.
What I loved the most about this book is that even if you get lost a bit in the chapters the author provides you with a summary at the end of each chapter that gives you the gist of what he was talking about, and could help you get back on track. Also he provides a Further Reading List at the end of each chapter to give you a place to start your research into the component he was talking about.
I’d say the book does reasonably well at reaching its defined aims. The book is a good book to read when you plan to study religion, but it is not about the basic components of religion. It is more about the basic components of what affects the study of religion. It is about what might distort that study and what could make it better.