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I read the Christian and Muslim sections of this book first in order to see if what was written lined up with my own knowledge and experience. I was completely turned off by the second sentence of the Christian section which included this statement: So I continued on with the book with a highly skeptical eye, wondering what of other religions would be misrepresented, that I would not have the prior knowledge to recognize.
Other reviewers have pointed out the very British perspective from which this book was written. It is somewhat humorous to consider what would happen if a non-Westerner read this book and then attended a Baptist church in North America. In all fairness she does acknowledge that other persuasions of "Christian" exist. I read the Muslim section with the context of having lived in Turkey for 13 years.
I found many pointers which were acurate as well as some things that didn't apply to Turkey. I don't have this experiential perspective with which to comment on the veracity of the other sections of the book, but what concerns me is that the reason one buys this book is to learn in preparation for interacting with someone of another faith.
Faith practices differ so much from country to country and by sect or denomination, that this book, however well intentioned, would certainly not be a dependable help, though much of it appears to be accurate for some places and sects.
So regretfully, I cannot recommend this book. The reader who wants this kind of information would be better served to read a book focused on the religious practices of a particular country, or better yet to simply ask their foreign friend what to expect.
Many arguably most people will, at various times in their lives and for various reasons, will have occasions where they will be visitors at religious ceremonies different from their own. Basic knowledge and understanding of religious traditions other than one's own is important so as not to embarrass one's self and more importantly, one's host! Disrespect out of ignorance is still disrespect, and should be avoided! I reviewed this book through the Vine program because the subject matter interested me.
I have had occasion to worship in almost every Christian tradition imaginable and have been a guest in the Reform Jewish tradition as well.
So yes, I have more than a passing interest in the topic. This book just failed to deliver. Akasha Lonsdale describes herself as an "Interfaith Minister" who attended two years of seminary unnamed. The "seminary" is, in fact, the "Interfaith Foundation" in the United Kingdom which is not affiliated with any church, temple, or religion -- and grants no degrees.
Apparently the graduates are permitted to function as clergy in the United Kingdom. This, in and of itself is fine -- but does reduce the book's value to anyone living outside the UK. The author uses colloquialisms common to a British audience, but far less so to an American audience.
As a corollary, the only Protestant tradition described in detail is that of the Church of England -- the Anglican tradition. She does mention that Anglicans in the United States are called Episcopalians, but does not discuss the significant differences in detail between the two. Further, the United States is a melting pot of Protestant traditions -- and since these traditions are never addressed, the book's usefulness is further diminished.
Third, the inconsistencies and inaccuracies: Following each section of the book, the author provides a helpful list of terms and definitions -- except in the chapter concerning Roman Catholicism! Was this a publishing oversight? I feel fairly sure that that a Sikh reading the book would want this information, every bit as much as a Catholic would want the same information about a Sikh!
More importantly, though, I found factual errors in the sections dealing with Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Judaism. Please note that I am NOT referring to theological differences of opinion, but rather actual errors of facts. Because I found these errors in the chapters covering subjects I already knew something about, I found I had to question the accuracy of the information in the chapters covering subjects with which I was NOT familiar.
I would be very interested in hearing from a Hindu or Sikh or Buddhist reviewer if they had a similar experience. As stated at the start of this review, I truly believe that respectful behavior at unfamiliar religious services is extremely important, and am saddened that I am not able to recommend this book. Fortunately, in my experience, there are alternatives. The best introduction to the subject that I've found is "How To Be a Perfect Stranger" which deals not only with the major world religions, but also with the differences between the various denominations and sects within the major world religions as well.
Never point your feet at the Murti sacred deity in a Hindu Temple 3. Be prepared to stand for up to three hours at an Orthodox Christian wedding 4. Don't take flowers to a Jewish funeral 5.
Keep your head covered at all times inside a Sikh Gurdwara Temple 6. Flowers are welcome at a Catholic or Protestant funeral 7. Be prepared to be gender segregated at a Muslim wedding 8. Cover your arms, legs and chest, but not your head, at a Buddhist Temple. Her two-year seminary training in London included instruction in the major religions and sacred traditions of the world, and her vocation brings her into frequent contact with people of every faith and none.
She has practiced as a psychotherapist, both privately and within Britain's National Health Service. Her corporate background was in senior human resource management.