Skip to main content
Michigan State University

Religions of the World: General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Last updated: 03-30-2009

General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Oxford Reference Online
Contains online versions of dictionaries and encyclopedias previously published in paper by Oxford University Press. The database contains works on these topics:  Bible, peoples and places of the Bible, Buddhism, Byzantium, Christian Church, Hinduism, Islam, Jewish religion, the Middle Ages, Popes, the Reformation, Saints, and world religions. Once in the resource, click on the Subject tab at top left.  Then choose Religion.  One can search within these results as a whole in a box near top left by the orange question mark.  Or one can look through the 31 reference resources available here and choose to search within a particular reference work in this discipline.

Religions of the World: a Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices Main BL 80.3 .R45 2002 v. 1-4

Online version is 2010 edition.  Provides comprehensive, global coverage of religion, emphasizing larger religious communities without neglecting the world's smaller religious outposts.  To use the electronic edition, click on the Table of Contents tab once you are in the resource.  It's a dictionary arrangement of people, topics, places, themes, faith names, organizations, etc. so you need to choose the volume you want, alphabetically.  There is a place to do this near the top left once you are in Table of Contents. After you choose your volume number scroll down a bit and click on the gray triangle between which your topic will fall, alphabetically.  This opens up the topics to choose from at that part of the alphabet.

Encyclopedia of Religion.  Reference BL 31 .E46 2005 v. 1-15
"...to introduce educated, non-specialist readers to important ideas, practices and persons in the religious experience of human-kind from the Paleolithic past to our day." "Treats theoretical (doctrines, myths, theologies, ethics), practical (cults, sacraments, meditations), and sociological (religious groups, ecclesiastical forms) aspects of religion; includes extensive coverage of non-Western religions. Signed articles, with bibliographies." Eliade's Guide to World Religions, Main BL 80.2 .E415 1991 has chapters on the world faiths.

Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics

Extensive work explores the changing world of religions, faiths and practices. It discusses a broad range of issues and phenomena that are related to religion, including nature, ethics, secularization, gender and identity. Broadening the context, it studies the interrelation between religion and other fields, including education, business, economics and law. The book presents a vast array of examples to illustrate the changes that have taken place and have led to a new world map of religions.

Religious Diversity Today: Experiencing Religion in the Contemporary World  Main BL 80.3 .R465 2016 v. 1-3

3 volumes.  Vol 1: Suffering and Misfortune.  Vol. 2: Ritual and Pilgrimage. Vol. 3: Religion Transforming Society and Social Lives.  36 ethnographic studies highlight diversity of lived religion, its internal tensions, and its interactions with competing world views.  Written from anthropological perspective.  Considers Christianity, Hinduism, Afro-Caribbean religions, Islam, paganism, and secularism and secularization in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Indexes in each vol. 

Great Events in Religion, an Encyclopedia of Pivotal Events and  Religious History  Main BL 48 .G687 2016 v. 1-3

Arranged chronologically.  Allows for study of what was occurring in the histories of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism simultaneously.  Similar to Faiths Across Time, below, but has longer entries.  Entries on persons, places, religious publications and ideas, and selected political and social topics that have impacted religion or vice versa.  Further reading references. Signed articles.

Faiths Across Time: 5,000 Years of Religious History

Covers religious history from 3500 B.C.E. to 2009 C.E. Arranged by date. Includes all world religions. Entries include the date of the event, continent and country it occurred in, what religion was involved, and a description. Many black-and-white illustrations, but no maps. Signed entries.  Bibliography in v. 4.  Info. from ARBA Online.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices

In 1,800 pages across 3 volumes, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices provides information on current religious practices around the world with an emphasis on how religions impact the daily lives of their followers.  Enter the resource.  Click on Table of Contents or Book Index near top.  Access via Table of Contents is either by name of the faith (such as Buddhism) or name of denomination (such as Presbyterian) or name of country; click on the down arrow next to "Choose a volume."  In Book Index one chooses the letter of the alphabet for one's topic and then scroll down to find it in the index.  Once you find your topic in the index there is a link in red to the volume and page number for the chosen article.

Hidden Religion: the Greatest Mysteries and Symbols of the World's Religious Beliefs Main BL 610 .I87 2014

Intended as a reference guide to facilitate research in the development and use of symbols. "Mysteries" are those practices misunderstood, that lead to misconceptions. Symbolism is the intersection of culture, art, and language. The authors' goal is to provide information, background, and history to help readers of any religion to understand better the world religions' symbols. The authors, neither of which has much theological background, approach religions as nonparticipants. They view the details from what seems to be a scientific perspective. Readers will find longer and sometimes clearer explanations in each religion's specific reference sources.  Info from ARBA Online.

A-Z of Spirituality Main BL 624 .N65 2014

"Scholarly review of key topics in spirituality and spiritual care, well suited both to readers who wish to find an entry ponit to these topics and to readers who wish to deepen their understanding.  It is written with an eye toward implications of the healing of individuals and consciousness of broader implications for social justice and welfare."

Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Main BL 31 .O9 1997
"Each religion has a long history of its own, with its attendant people and texts and ideas. The Dictionary was planned, therefore, to help those who have an interest in religions, but find the subject vast.... Purpose is to provide initial bearings on new and unfamiliar ground."  The Concise version of this book is in Oxford Reference Online.

Atlas of the World's Religions. Main and Maps BL 80.2 .A8 1999
Comparative Religions on File. Main BL 80.2 .C5934 2000
Religions on File. Main  BL 82 .R45 1990
Sources useful when a visual perspective is helpful. In what areas of the world is a particular faith practiced and by how many people? What does a funeral pyre look like?

Encyclopedia of Caribbean Religions      

Atlas of Holy Places and Sacred Sites. Oversize collection BL 580 .W55 1996
Encyclopedia of Sacred Places. Main BL 580 .B76 2011 v. 1-2
The former is an illustrated guide to the location, history, and significance of the world's most revered holy sites, with many illustrations. The latter covers the same topic, but in narrative only.

Religious Celebrations, an Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations.  Main BL 590 .R46 2011 v. 1-2

600 signed entries by scholars in various religions.  Arranged by the name of the occasion or holiday.  Index in back of v. 2 by subject.  This index also has entries for holidays happening in each month. Further reading references in entries.

Food, Feasts and Faith, an Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions  Main BL 65 .F65 F54 2017 v. 1-2

By a nutritionist who has made a lifelong study of food, culture, and religion. Dictionary arrangement of topics, foods, and faiths around the world.  Articles are 2-3 pages with further reading references. 

Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Main BL 458 .E52 2006 v. 1-3
A large number of the entries are biographical. Is not organized alphabetically by topic/person/event as are traditional encyclopedias. Contains ca. 150 long essays, with lengthy bibliographies, on institutions, movements, and ideas which are more analytical and interpretative. The first comprehensive history of the interaction of women and religion in North America. Volume one contains articles on various approaches to the history of women and religion, women in Native American and African traditions, Catholicism, Protestantism (Colonial period, Denominational traditions, Evangelical, Hispanic, and Asian Protestantism.) Volume two covers women in Orthodoxy, Islam, and Asian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese and Japanese religions), newer religious movements, Missionary movement, women’s societies, religious education, ordination, and music and the arts. Volume three contains articles on religion and social reform, women-centered theology, and contemporary women’s issues.

Women and World Religion. Main BL 458 .E53 1999
"The last twenty years have seen a magnificent flowering of scholarship on women and world religion that has permanently altered the way we look at religion. Much of this work, however, is not readily accessible to scholars and students working in disparate traditions and disciplines.... represents this burgeoning field by serving as a cultural and historically comprehensive reference work that reflects contemporary approaches to women's history and experience in world religion from the beginning of time to the present."

Creation Myths of the World: an Encyclopedia.  Main BL 325 .C7 L44 2010 v. 1-2

Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend. Main BL 303 .M45 2004 v. 1-2
Short, unsigned entries. Covers myths, legends, folktales, and fables. Includes characters, motifs, and references to other forms. Thirty page, annotated bibliography at the end organized in sections by nationality and religion (for example: Finnish mythology and folklore, Hindu mythology and folklore). Both general index and “cultural and ethnic index.” The latter allows access to the articles by people group or faith name (i.e. Aztecs, Buddhist, Italian, etc). Alphabetical arrangement. Entries are numbered; numbers referred to in the indexes refer to the entry numbers.

Man, Myth and Magic, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology, Religion and the Unknown. Oversize collection BF 1411 .M25 1995 v. 1-21
Mythology, a Visual Encyclopedia.  Main BL 311 .F67 2001
Goddesses in World Mythology.  Main BL 473.5 .A66 1993
Guide to the Gods. Main BL 473 .L43 1992
Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. Main BL 782 .C67 2000
Dictionary of Celtic Mythology.  Main BL 900 .M445 1998
Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend. Main BL 930 .D58 1998

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology

A collection of alphabetically arranged entries on fairies, places, countries, from world folklore and mythology, with descriptions. Short entries, with further reading references. 

Companion to Roman Religion Main BL 803 .C66 2007
These are just a few of our reference sources in the area of ancient deities, myths, and legends.  Also consult pp. 924-933 of Guide to Reference [Books] Main Z 1035 .G8 ed. 11, which describes many more sources in these subjects.

Encyclopedia of Psychology and  Religion

Offers a rich contribution to the development of human self-understanding. Provides a definitive and intellectually rigorous collection of psychological interpretations of the stories, rituals, motifs, symbols, doctrines, dogmas, and experiences of the world's religious and mythological traditions. A broad range of psychological approaches are used in order to help readers understand the form and content of religious experience as well as to offer insights into the meanings of religious symbols and themes. Provides a technical and phenomenological vocabulary to aid collaboration and dialogue among researchers in both fields.

Science, Religion, and Society, an Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Controversy Main BL 240.3 .S37 2007 v. 1-3

Chapters by various specialists covering: general overviews; historical perspectives; creation/cosmos/origins of the universe; ecology/evolution/the natural world; consciousness/mind/the brain; healers/healing; dying/death; genetics/religion.

Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. Main BL 240.3 .E53 2003 v. 1-2
Signed entries with bibliographical references. “Comprehensive list of entries focuses on the principal sciences and the major scientific discoveries of our time and on all the challenging and controversial topics that have emerged and affected the world religions in different ways.” Includes biographical entries. Examples of topics: abortion, big bang theory, biotechnology, cloning, chaos theory, creationism, ecotheology, eugenics, evolution, genetically modified organisms, medical ethics, postmodern science, robotics, several articles on aspects of science and religion, stem cell research.

Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature Main BL 65 .N35 2008 v. 1-2

Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions.  Main BL 626.4 .E53 2008 v. 1-2
Offers "a comprehensive, multidisciplinary investigation into the subject of love in the classic and contemporary literature of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and in other world religions, cultures, and philosophies." Over 300 articles by 190 scholars from religious studies, theology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, gender studies, literary criticism, and history. First 26 pages are articles reflecting on love by contemporary spiritual leaders by the Pope and the Dalai Lama and others, and perspectives from sociology and philosophy. The remainder is a subject dictionary of entries on such topics as adultery, body, beauty, death, filial love, homosexuality, incest, marriage, motherhood, sexuality, romantic love, all in various faiths, as well as many other related topics.

Religion and Violence, an Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict from Antiquity to the Present Main BL 65 .V55 R45555 2011 v. 1-3

"With reference to a full panoply of faiths... conflict is endemic to all notes of superiority, perfection, and divine revelation. This encyclopedia does not settle matters, but it rather raises 21st-century issues of relativism and absolutism, positivism, and mysticism.... the issue of religion involves a struggle--sometimes brutal and activist--between visions of the good versus other goods. Editor from University of Baltimore, with large international body of academics and independent scholars authoring the entries.   Biographical entries (Osama Bin Laden, Joan of Arc), topical entries (The Rapture, Roman Catholicism, Sacrifice, self-immolation), events (September 11, World Trade Center Bombing), etc.  Most entries are a couple of pages or more and have further reading references.

Religion, War, and Ethics, a Sourcebook of Textual Traditions  Main incoming gift book

Chapters on each major world religion contain primary sources, copies of scriptural, theological, ethical, and legal texts, from many historical periods that are/have been used to justify going to war.  Scholars provide commentary and discussion on these texts also.

Pilgrimage from the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia.  Main BL 619 .P5 D38 2001 v. 1-2 

Handbook of Contemporary Paganism  Main BP 605 .N46 H36 2009

Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife: Eternity in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam Main BL 535 .H43 2013 v. 1-3

V. 1 Judaism. v. 2 Christianity. v. 3 Islam   V. 3 also covers Buddhism and indigenous cultures in Australia and Africa.

Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience is online only HQ 108 .E544 2009

Encyclopedia of Religion and Film Reference PN 1995.9 .R4 E53 2011

Signed entries. Further reading references.  Overall editor is a professor of religious and Judaic studies.  Contains entries on people in the world of film: directors, producers, actors, actresses; general topics related to religion and film; countries; film genres; religious characters, concepts and symbols; religious traditions; film titles.  Goal is to give the readers some tools needed to evaluate visual products for themselves and to enable people to create their own list of films that have religious content. 

Encyclopedia of Religious Controversies in the United States. Main BR 515 .E53 1997 and 2nd ed. 2013 v. 1-2

400 entries on topics from the Colonial era to the present day.   Most entries relate to  Christianity.  Some illustrations.  Review says it is a bit focussed on Baptist controversies, which is the area of expertise of one of the editors, but it provides a good overview of religious controversies in the U.S.  A few primary source documents included.

Voodoo Encyclopedia: Magic, Ritual, and Religion

Entries on a range of topics, such as: spiritualism, mojo, occult, hoodoo supplies, snake veneration, African tribal beliefs, by 34 authorities.  Bibliography on archaeology, medicine, magic and religion, culture, folklore, conjury, psychology.  Weak on music and dance as integral parts of ritual and liturgy. Useful for religion and folk arts topics.  A few primary documents.

 

 

 

 

Michigan State University