Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui


General books of interest

Syndetics book coverIn search of wisdom : a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist on what matters most, by Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre, Alexandre Jollien ; translated by Sherab Chadzin Kohn.
Join these three luminaries as they share their views on how we uncover our deepest aspirations in life, the nature of the ego, living with the full range of human emotion, the art of listening, the temple of the body, the origin of suffering, the joy of altruism, true freedom, and much more. "We don't pretend to be experts on the subject matter or models in accomplishing the work or overcoming the obstacles involved in it," they write. "We are only travelers in search of wisdom, aware that the path is long and arduous, and that we have so much still to discover, to clarify, and to assimilate through practice..." (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLiving with the gods : on beliefs and peoples, by Neil MacGregor.
"Acclaimed art historian McGregor explores the relationship between faith and society. It examines mankind's beliefs not from the perspective of institutional religions but according to how shared narratives have shaped societies--and what happens when different narratives run up against each other." (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLearning to live well together : case studies in interfaith diversity, by Tom Wilson and Riaz Ravat.
"From celebrating cultural events, to considering how the police should interact with members of the public from different faith communities, this book highlights the ways in which all members of society can engage constructively with diversity. This is an excellent resource for anyone wishing to understand the issues of religion and belief that may arise at local and national levels, and develop appropriate attitudes and actions for peaceful resolution." (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe book of joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams.
How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering? Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships - or, as they would say, because of them - they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. Here they share personal stories and spiritual practices revealing how to live joyfully.

Syndetics book coverGod's generals : the military lives of Moses, Buddha, and Muhammad, by Richard A. Gabriel. One of the more startling facts of religious history is that the founders of three of the four "greats" were also accomplished military generals with considerable battle experience. Muhammad, fought eight battles and was wounded twice, while Siddhartha Gautama (later, the Buddha), suffered from post-battle collapse, and Moses led his people to new lands, defeating the occupants. Where did the influence of militarism and religion end and begin in their lives?

Syndetics book coverA little history of religion, by Richard Holloway.
Richard Holloway begins at the dawn of religious belief and retells, quite succinctly, the history of religion to the twenty-first century. Suitable for those with faith and those without, he accentuates tolerance, mystery, and calmly restores a sense of the value of faith. The discussion covers all of the major religions, and is simple without being simplistic. Evil done in the name of religion is not overlooked. This is an important snapshot to aid understanding different beliefs.

Syndetics book coverLife's too short to pretend you're not religious, by David Dark. Religion is often a forbidden topic in conversation. Some prefer the word "spirituality" which doesn't have quite the same association with ritual, self-righteousness, or hypocrisy. But religion includes the stories that make up a person's values and beliefs. Dark illuminates how thoughts are handed down to us, what we judge to be essential, and argues a convincing case for religion's place in modern society.

Syndetics book coverFlourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World, by Miroslav Volf. In this perceptive and thoughtful book, a leading theologian discusses how world religions and globalization have interacted across the centuries, but what ought their relationship to be? How do we judge globalization - how well it enables us to live out our authentic humanity? Despite their flaws, religions remain one of our most powerful sources of moral motivation and renewal. The ongoing process of reform in religions needs to shape globalization to encourage people to flourish at every level.

Syndetics book coverPasswords to paradise : how languages have re-invented world religions, by Nicholas Oster. "Ostler (The Last Lingua Franca) roams across several millennia of world history and delves into precise linguistic shifts looking for clues to how the "missionary religions" of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam have been affected by the new language communities they entered. [He demonstrates how] they may have been altered not only by the imperfect art of translation but by their social, political, and military contexts. ... For those fascinated by linguistic transitions, this impressive study is a feast. (drawn from Publisher's Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverBeliefs that changed the world : the history and ideas of the great religions, by John Bowker.
"How did Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism come to be the world's dominant religions? Who were the key figures of Judaism? And how are religious beliefs shaping today's world conflicts? This book will answer the key questions about the great religions, from Bahai to Unitarianism, via Jainism, Mormonism, Shinto, and the major branches of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Not only will this book explain what the disciples of each faith believe, but it will provide the reader with a greater understanding of the wider themes of religious and world history." (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhy can't they get along? : a conversation between a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian, by Dawoud El-Alami, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, George D. Chryssides.
The 21st century is no stranger to conflicts over religious conflict. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all can trace roots back to Abraham so what are the differences? Three men discuss what their faiths teach on the big issues of life, and what can be done to form closer partnerships? How can they get along?

Syndetics book coverSpirituality : a guide for the perplexed, by Philip Sheldrake.
What exactly is spirituality? Is it different from religion? This book is a guide to different spiritualities as areas of study, religiously, historically, philosophically and in the social sciences. It explores the tools used to study spirituality or interpret spiritual classics from different times and cultures. Mostly, themes associated with five major world religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism - are represented, but especially Christian Spirituality from its early days. A useful overview.

Syndetics book coverThe secret language of sacred spaces : decoding churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship around the world, by Jon Cannon.
How are sacred ideals expressed in architecture? From the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, to the Angkor Wat, Cambodia, to the Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China, the key strength of this book is the fantastic photos which illustrate how various religious traditions used design elements to express differing ideas about worship and beliefs, and how those changed over time (or in different locations) within the same faith tradition. Another recent arrival focusing more on design than architecture is Gateway to the heavens : how geometric shapes, patterns and symbols form our reality, by Karen L. French.

Syndetics book coverReligion 101 : from Allah to Zen Buddhism : an exploration of the key people, practices, and beliefs that have shaped the religions of the world, by Peter Archer, MA, MLitt.
"Written in easy-to-understand language, Religion 101 offers a fascinating - and memorable - glimpse at the sacred stories, traditions, and doctrines that have influenced today's most popular religions. From Jesus and the Four Noble Truths to the Buddhist Wheel of Existence, this book provides you with thought-provoking insight into the customs and beliefs of common faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. ... So whether you're looking to unravel the mysteries of existence and meaning, or just want to find out what Kabbalah is all about, Religion 101 has all the answers - even the ones you didn't know you were looking for."--Page 4 of cover.

Syndetics book coverBig gods : how religion transformed cooperation and conflict, by Ara Norenzayan.
Using quantitative studies, cross-cultural examples, and by examining the practices of followers, Norenzayan argues that religions with Big Gods succeed because they expect tangible commitment rites which encourage cooperation and trust, and by default this weeds out the half-hearted. He also considers cooperative societies without God, such as modern Scandinavia, with a majority of atheists where similar cooperative functions are provided by secular institutions.


Yes! we have downloadable ebooks. Overdrive Ebooks is a free service.

Under the label "Browse Ebook Nonfiction" choose the Religion and spirituality heading to find books.
Recent titles include :
The Talmud : a biography, by Harry Freedman.
The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls : Their Significance For Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity, by James VanderKam.
God or Godless? One Atheist. One Christian : Twenty Controversial Questions, by John W. Loftus.

Useful Dewey numbers

Subject: Dewey number:
African religions 299.6
Anglican church 283
Atheism 211
Bahai faith 297.93
Bible 220 - 229
Black Muslim movement 305.896073
Buddhism 294.3
Catholic church 282
Classical (Greek & Roman) religion 292
Hinduisim 294.5
Islam 297
Judaism 296
Methodist church 287
Moonies 289.9
Mormon church 289.3
Native American religions 299.7
New Age religions 299.93
Presbyterian church 285
Quakers 289.6
Shinto 299.56
Sikhism 294.6
Sociology of religion 306.6
Sufism 297.4
Taoism 299.514
Wicca 299.94
Zen Buddhism 294.3927

Useful websites

This is a starting list of general religion-based internet websites of interest. For websites on specific religions, please see the religion specific pages.

  • Adherents.com
    Holds statistics on world religious affiliation, including famous adherents, religious references in fiction, films, etc.
  • BBC: Religion & Ethics
    Contains a number of general interest sections relating to various world religions and ethics. Listen to broadcasts of the BBC's many programs devoted to exploring various religions, such as Missionaries. Equally compelling are the fractious message boards. The site is rounded out by an interactive multi faith calendar, which shows the religious festivals and celebrations of eight world faiths.
  • Beliefnet
    Contains a wide variety of discussion on spiritual matters, including quizzes, social and poltical issues, and reviews.
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation
    Maintains the protection of the constitutional principle of separation of state from church.
  • Holidays and Observances
    Contains information about major religious holidays around the world.
  • Index of faiths and practices
  • New Zealand Religious History Bibliography
    Compiled by Peter Lineham. (Also contains chapters of his publications)
  • Religion Online
    Holds full texts by recognized religious scholars - more than 1,800 articles and chapters. Topics include Old and New Testament, Theology, Ethics, History and Sociology of Religions, Comparative Religion, Religious Communication, Pastoral Care, Counselling, Homiletics, Worship, Missions and Religious Education
  • Sacred Text Archive
    Includes texts of nearly a thousand of the core texts of religion, mythology, and folklore.
  • The Revealer
    It can be difficult to sift and winnow through the myriad of material offered on the web. Jointly sponsored by the New York University Department of Journalism and New York University's Center for Religion and Media.
  • Symbols
    The use of symbolism in the world's major religions.
  • Virtual religion index
    Designed to advance research in matters of religion
  • World's Major Religions and Belief Systems
    Short introductions to the world's religions.

Contact Us:

first names of people who maintain pageInterested in finding out more about what the library holds on beliefs? Found a topical online resource you'd like to share? Contact us at enquiries@wcl.govt.nz. We'd love to hear from you!

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