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RELIGION 435 heeoise des origines anos jours. Le tome premier CLes Presses de I'universite Laval, 268, $7.00), couvre la periode qui va de 1764 a1859. Dans leur avant-propos, les auteurs expliquent que leur nouveau titre delimite les imprimes que la reedition recense. II inclut les journaux et les revues, et exclut les periodiques des associations et des institutions, tels les prospectus de college, les annuaires d'universite et les publications seriees qui n'ont rien de commun avec la presse. Gest plus qu'une bibliographie, car des notes tres detaillees en font un veritable ouvrage historique. (JEAN-CHARLES BONENFANT) RELIGION 'W e all know what religion is; we just can't define it.' This statement, superfiCially plaUSible, disintegrates on critical examination. Is religion indefinable in principle, or have we merely failed so far? In what sense do we 'know' something without haVing defined it? If 'we all know' but don't specify what we know, by what kind of procedure can we establish a consensus? Yet, though the statement indeed seems almost contrived to muddy the limpid waters of analytic discourse about religion, there is a sense in which it describes the religion reviewer's perception of his terms of reference. For whoever uses the classification 'religion' in identifying recent Canadian contributions must presume that we do have a consensus about the core of the subject, even if we are vague about the periphery. Religion is more easily illustrated than defined; consensus about what it is resides more in the choice of examples than in their factual or evaluative characterization. It should be no surprise that we should start from familiar individual instances; we first teach a child the meaning of 'light: for example, not by discussing wavelengths of radiation but by turning on a switch. So, in our culture, people come to conceive of religion in general through the examples of particular traditional religions. As one might expect in a traditionally Christian culture, most of the features of religion chosen for discussion are those of which Christianity proVides instances. Increasingly, though, one detects an encouraging effort on the part of today's students to view religion in more general terms. The world-religions curriculum opportunities made available m Ontario secondary schools since 197 1 are one instance of this. 436 LETTERS IN CANADA Unfortunately, not all the materials produced for the resulting textbook market live up to the vision. A disappointing case is Allan S. Evans, Riley E. Moynes, and Larry Martinello, What Man Believes: A Study of the World's Great Faiths (McGraw-Hill Ryerson, xvi, 423, $3.95). The authors are with the Board of Education in Toronto's Borough of North York. In a manner much more characteristic of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century handbooks than of accepted patterns today, they devote nearly half their space on specific religions to Christianity, leaving fourteen other traditions to share the remainder. Real 'religion' still seems to mean Christianity to the authors, for they describe Hindu and Buddhist images as 'idols,' treat North American Indian and Eskimo religion as outworn, and even with a major section on 'Religion in Canada Today' totally ignore the Canadian Jewish community. The book's big weakness, overshadowing any specific errors of information or generalization, is the problem of overall balance. In another survey text, Solomon A. Nigosian, of the University of Toronto, fares better. His World Religions (Copp Clark 1972, revised 1974,213, $3.95) treats the now more or less canonical list of five religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) at genuinely comparable length and with fairly comparable sympathy. He includes also a shorter chapter on Zoroastrianism, a religion which now commands few adherents but which he holds to be important for its historical influence. The problem of balance in his case is not one of balancing attention or empathy between one religious tradition and another, but rather the question of which elements within a religious tradition are most worthy of mention in a capsule characterization of it. Nigosian follows a timehonored path, discussing the founder figures and major scriptural themes. A page or paragraph on the contemporary community in each case is tacked on almost as an afterthought, usually...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 435-447
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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