SELECTING HOLY TEXTS AND REFERENCE BOOKS
FROM THE WORLD'S GREAT RELIGIONS
FOR PUBLIC MEDITATION ROOMS, PUBLIC LIBRARIES, A PERSONAL RELIGIOUS LIBRARY, etc.
Recommended religious texts and reference books:
We define religion very broadly: "Religion
is any specific system of belief about deity, often involving rituals, a code of ethics, a
philosophy of life, and a worldview."
(A worldview is a set of basic, foundational beliefs concerning deity,
humanity and the rest of the universe.) Thus we would consider Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Native American Spirituality, and
Neopaganism to be religions. We also include Agnosticism, Atheism,
Humanism, Ethical Culture etc. as religions, because they also contain a
"belief about deity" -- their belief is that they do not
know whether a deity exists, or they have no knowledge of God, or they
sincerely believe that God does not exist.
We have attempted to find the sacred texts of the 19
most popular religions in the U.S., based on the ARIS religious survey of
2001. 1 Where a group does not have a specific text, as in the case of
Agnosticism, Atheism, Humanism, Wicca, etc., we list some current books dealing
with the religion.
We have listed the most important books and translations first under each
religion, in case your
purchasing budget is limited. The first number beside the name of the religion
is the number of adherents in the U.S., in millions The second number is the
number of followers worldwide, in millions. More
precise figures are available.
|Christianity: (159, 2,069) All Christians hold the Holy Bible in great esteem.
However, there are major differences among the
various English translations.
|To most Protestants, the Bible consists of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a.
Old Testament) and the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament). |
|The Roman Catholic church, Eastern Orthodox churches and the Anglican
Communion add seven additional books: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees,
Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch. These are called
the Deuterocanonical books by the Catholics and Orthodox, or the Apocrypha
by Protestants, "Also, Catholic Bibles contain an additional six
chapters (107 verses) in the book of Esther and another three in the book of
Daniel (174 verses)." 2|
|A famous saying, attributed to St. Jerome is: "Every translator is a
traitor." Translators of the Bible filter the original Hebrew,
Aramaic and Greek through their own viewpoints, prejudices and theological
beliefs. As a result, various versions
|Exodus 21:22 as either condemning abortion or being unrelated to
|Exodus 22:18 as calling for the extermination of either witches or evil
sorceresses. (That is important because many Wiccans and other Neopagans call
| 1 Corinthians as condemning either homosexuals or abusive
pedophiles to Hell after death.|
As a result, a number of different translations are needed in order to match
the needs of visitors. We suggest:
|King James Version (KJV). This is widely used among all Protestant denominations, particularly among the
Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic
Read reviews of order this Bible safely from Amazon.com online book store.|
|New International Version (NIV). This is probably the most popular Bible among Evangelicals.
|New American Bible (NAB) is popular among Roman Catholics. It includes the Apocrypha.
|New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is widely used by liberal and mainline Protestants. It includes the Apocrypha,
and uses inclusive language. Amazon link|
|Good News Translation (GNT) has a limited vocabulary and is popular among persons for whom English is a second language.
|The Book of Mormon: Another testament of Jesus Christ is considered sacred scripture by members of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints and other denominations in the Mormon movement. Amazon link|
|Science and health with key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy is by the founder of
Christian Science. It promotes spiritual healing and is
extensively used by Christian Scientists. Amazon link|
|No religious affiliation: (27, 784) These are individuals who are
not affiliated with any organized religion. Many consider themselves
Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.|
|Torah: These are the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
|Tanach: This is the Torah and the Nevi'im (the major and minor prophets) and Kethuvim (the other writings
from the Hebrew Scriptures).
|Talmud: This is a commentary on the Tanach. Amazon link
to an introduction to the Talmud|
|The Qur'an is the holy text of Islam -- believed to be the final revelation from God to humanity.
A preferred copy of the Qur'an contains both the original Arabic and an English translation.
|The Hadith are the collected sayings of Muhammad. A book containing a sampling of the most important Hadiths in both Arabic and English is available.
|The Tripitaka are the sole canonical text in Theravada Buddhism. A condensation of the Tripitaka is available.
|The Sutras are an addition to the Tipitaka, revered by Mahayana Buddhism.
A book containing the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra is available.
|Agnosticism: (1, Unknown) Agnostics are undecided whether one or many Gods or Goddesses exist. Agnosticism is not a full religion with clergy, dogma,
rituals, etc. It has no holy book. However some of the following books explain Agnosticism:|
|Clarence Darrow, "Why I am an Agnostic."
|Leslie Weatherhead, "The Christian Agnostic." Amazon link|
|Atheism: (1, Unknown) In the popular meaning of the term, Atheists are convinced that no Gods or Goddesses exist. Like Agnosticism, Atheism is not a full
religion with a holy book. Some of the following books cover Atheism:|
|Michael Martin et al., Eds., "The impossibility of God"
|Gordon Stein, "An anthology of Atheism and Rationalism"
|The Bhagavad-Gita has been described as "the most famous and revered of
all Hindu Scriptures."
|The Upanishads has been described as "the font of Indian spirituality.
Each Upanishad is a lyrical statement about the deeper truths of mysticism..."
|The Rig Veda is a collection of over 1,000 Sanskrit hymns of great beauty. A selection of 108 hymns is available.
|Unitarian Universalism: (0.6, Unknown) This is a religion that is free of dogma and
required beliefs. It welcomes Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Christians,
Hindus, Humanists, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, etc. It has no Bible. Some books
about "UUs" are:|
|John Buehrens: "A chosen faith: An introduction to Unitarian Universalism."
|David Bumbaugh, "Unitarian Universalism: A narrative history."
|Wicca and other
Neopagan traditions: (0.3, Unknown) These are Earth centered faiths
which are reconstructions of ancient Celtic Pagan religion.
Some books on Wicca are:|
|Scott Cunningham, "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner."
|Raymond Buckland, "Buckland's Complete Book Of Witchcraft."
|Spiritualism: (0.1, Unknown) This is an often neglected belief system involving communication with the dead. Their foundational book is Allan
Kardec's "THE Spirits Book: The principles of Spiritist Doctrine.
Amazon link It is available online at: http://www.sgny.org/
|Native American: (0.1, Unknown) This is a religion transmitted by an oral tradition without a sacred written text.|
|Baha'i Faith: (0.08, 7.5) The Alkitab Alaqdas (a.k.a. Most Holy Book, Kitab-i-Aqdas) by Baha'u'llah,
founder of the Baha'i Faith.
|New Age: (0.07, Unknown) This is more a collection of practices and beliefs that it
is a religion. It is so diverse that it seems quite impossible to recommend one
or two comprehensive books on the topic.|
|Sikhism: (0.06,24) Guru Granth Sahib (a.k.a. Adi Granth, First Book) is the most sacred book of the Sikh religion.
This is an expensive book, but is often available at a reduced cost through
|The Church of Scientology:
(0.06, Unknown) This religion is based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard which include:|
|What is Scientology.
|The Scientology Handbook. This is a large and expensive book, but is often available at a discount through Amazon Marketplace.
|Scientology: The fundamentals of thought.
|Humanism: (0.05, Unknown): This is "a philosophy that emphasizes the value of human
life in all its creative potential within a secular context."
|Jim Herrick, "Humanism: an introduction."
|Lewis Vaughn & Austin Dacey, "The case for Humanism: Introduction."
|Secularism: (0.05, Unknown) These are individuals who live their
lives independent of religion. Many are Agnostics, Atheists, and Humanists.|
|Taoism: (0.04,2.7) TheTao-te-Ching was written by Lao Tsu, the founder of Taoism in the sixth century BCE. An English
translation with black and white photographs interspersed is available.
Notes and references used:
American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) data
for 2001 is at:
http://www.gc.cuny.edu/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
Dave Armstrong, "The 'Apocrypha': Why it's part of the
Bible," (1996), at:
From Amazon.com's review of Jim Herrick's book "Humanism: an
Copyright © 2005 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-DEC-11
Latest update: 2005-DEC-13
Author: B.A. Robinson