Allan Menzies' wide-ranging and detailed history of all the world's major religions and spiritual traditions is a superb introduction to beliefs which greatly influence humanity to this day.
Rich with explanations and analysis, Menzies book strives to introduce every major worth religion in a manner which is comprehensive, entertaining and easily digested by the reader. Logically ordered by subject, Menzies' book is an all-embracing account of the divine and spiritual beliefs mankind has held since the dawn of time.
The initial chapters of the book examine the earliest development of human beliefs. Mystical practices, ancestor worship and ceremonial burial are shown to have been precursors to the various spiritual and religious belief systems, while the ascription of objects and idols as sacred gave early mankind their earliest deity figures. The development of writing is shown to have accelerated religion's spread and acceptance, with fixed customs passed down between generations with greater consistency.
Menzies terms the religions of China, Assyria. Babylon and Egypt as 'isolated', in the sense that they developed with relative independence of outside influence. The qualities of each of these religions, such as the polytheistic beliefs of Egypt which emphasized the afterlife and burial customs, or the philosophical and social underpinnings of the traditional Confucian and Daoist thought of China, are detailed.
Islam and Judaism are termed the 'Semitic religions', given that both share their geographic origins and have much in common in terms of ancient manuscripts and texts. The Rabbinic traditions and Jewish festivals are discussed, while the Islamic faith's emphasis upon the Qu'ran and the life of the prophet Mohammed is also examined.
The major polytheistic religions of Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece and India are termed the 'Aryan religions'. Discussing the various faiths in turn, we are given a vivid portrait of how the ancient pantheon of Gods developed and was refined in the Greco-Roman culture, and the various belief systems - Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism - which emerged to prominence in the Indian subcontinent.
Finally, Menzies discusses Christianity - which he terms a 'universal' religion. The life of Jesus Christ, the development of the church and the emergence of the saints is thoroughly detailed, as are the nature of the beliefs and virtues emphasized in the Christian Bible and doctrines.