Cover image for Atlas of the world's religions
Atlas of the world's religions
Smart, Ninian, 1927-2001.
First published 1999.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
1 atlas (240 pages) : color illustrations, color maps ; 33 cm
General Note:
Relief shown by shading on some maps.

Includes glossary, index, and col. ill.
Subject Term:
Added Corporate Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G1046.E4 A8 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

On Order



This superbly illustrated and organized reference source is the first comprehensive visual guide to the world's religious traditions. With text by leading experts, and lavishly illustrated with photographs, thematic maps, site reconstructions, and tables and charts, many in full color, theAtlas charts the origin, growth, and spread of all major faiths. A survey of contemporary religious life, its historical background, and a glossary, index, and list of resources enhance the research value of the book.

Author Notes

Ninian Smart, Founded British First Department of Religious Studies at University of Lancaster; and J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religions, University of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In his introduction, editor Smart correctly points out that the religions of the world "are not just products of spirituality but also of geography." Natural terrain, political climate, and the migration of peoples have all shaped the development of the world's religious traditions. Here, text, images, and maps are blended in an attempt to present the history of religions from the time of early humans to the present day. Content elements are grouped by religious tradition (e.g., Buddhism, Islam), though in some cases a geographic arrangement is used (e.g., the Pacific, Africa). Text, images, and a historical time line introduce these major groupings, which are then subdivided into more specific topics. For example, the section on Islam has focused treatment of the history of the Shi'a as well as the rise and spread of Sufism. Two pages are given to the introductions to the major groupings and to each of the focused topics. Almost all of the maps and images are in color. The atlas includes a glossary of terms, alphabetically listed but grouped together by the aforementioned tradition or geographic region. Concluding the volume are a bibliography and a detailed index. The index is important because there are no cross-references to tell the reader that there is information on the spread of Sufism in the chapter on Africa as well as the chapter on Islam, to take one example. Some maps are more successful than others in showing the influence of geography on the spread of religion. The map showing "the Spread of Buddhism into Southeast Asia" displays how that development paralleled existing trade routes. "The Spread of Sufism," on the other hand, indicates the general directions taken by the Sufi orders as they moved away from their place of founding but shows no trade routes or lines of communication that might help explain the spread. Neither is the text helpful. It claims that the influence of the Sufi orders traveled along main trade routes but neglects to say where the routes were. Some maps, such as those labeled "Schools of Christian Mysticism" and "Christianity and Rationalism," provide lists of names and dates but aren't very helpful in showing connections. For readers seeking more in-depth treatment, there are a number of atlases for specific religious traditions as well as periods within a particular tradition. Two examples are Atlas of the Bible and Christianity (Baker, 1997) and An Historical Atlas of Islam (Brill, 1981). Because of the inadequacy of some of the maps and the small amount of coverage given to each topic, the Oxford atlas does not really stand on its own. Libraries with few atlases or maps that treat religious traditions might use it as an adjunct to standard reference titles such as Macmillan's Encyclopedia of Religion [RBB O 1 96].

Library Journal Review

In this timely update to Smart's seminal 1999 edition, Denny (An Introduction to Islam) and other noted academics and religion scholars from around the world have expanded existing content and introduced new material on Christian renewalism, the growth of Mormonism, indigenous religions, religious diasporas, cults, the relationship between religion and language, religion and globalization, and religion and ecology. Beginning with a geographic examination of Palaeolithic religions, the text and maps chart the growth and development of religions throughout history, including the rise and fall of secular alternatives such as New Age belief systems and Marxism. Most of the ten sections are organized by major religion, i.e., the Hindu world, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions, while the remainder is given to regional treatments of religion. Preceding each section is an introductory essay that provides context and enhances accessibility. Lucid and concise historical overviews accompany the full-color maps, offering a dispassionately informative and balanced examination of religion as both a unifying and a divisive force. In addition to the maps, the atlas is lavishly illustrated with numerous photographs, charts, and time lines. A detailed glossary, an index, and a bibliography round out the work. BOTTOM LINE Updated from the first edition with an additional 30 pages of new material and considerably more comprehensive than The Atlas of Religion (Univ. of California Pr., 2007), this is an attractive, informative, and practical reference tool that emphasizes the role geography plays in shaping culture and religion. Affordable-and recommended-for all but the smallest libraries. [Available in print only.]-Daniel Sifton, Cariboo Regional Dist. Lib., Williams Lake, B.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Like its well-received predecessor (1999) with the same title, this second edition is arranged around 12 chapters that deal with the current religious scene and the historical geography of religion, and ten units that treat various religions and regions. It includes more than 300 full-color maps, extensive essays, many color photographic illustrations, time lines that begin each chapter, and useful tables, along with the usual scholarly accoutrements. This edition features considerably more text, ten new double-page spreads, and some changed illustrations. New maps on current themes include diasporic religions, new religions, modern pilgrimages, and ecological concerns. Other new maps deal with religion and language, and three cover more recent phenomena--the spread of Mormons and LDS activity, Christian movements in South America, and Pentecostal and charismatic expansion. The glossary is arranged alphabetically, rather than by topic, and includes some 200 new entries. The bibliography is nearly one third greater in size. Although some might question whether eight years is too soon for a revision, academic libraries, especially those that lack the first edition, will find this volume useful in reinforcing the relevance of religious impulses in history and the present. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. D. G. Davis Jr. emeritus, University of Texas at Austin