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Religions of the World: General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

This is a guide to researching religions of the world: Western and Eastern Christianity, Eastern religions, Islam, Bahai, New Age Movements, Judaism. Last updated 06-26-2023

General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Sort of arranged in order of importance.  With general works first and more specialized and topical works towards the bottom.

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.

Religion and Contemporary Politics, a Global Encyclopedia

Covers how religion affects politics and politics affects religion in countries around the world, addressing trends rather than theory, with an emphasis on the post-2000s. Countries are presented alphabetically within region. Each region has a brief overview of the political-religious dynamics of the area so readers can compare and contrast the dynamics between and among countries in a region. The work also includes an introduction, sidebars, and a bibliography.

Sage Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religion

Investigates the role of religion in society, unpacking and evaluating the significance of religion in and on human history and tracing and outlining the social forces and influences that shape religion. Covers a range of themes from fundamental topics like definitions, secularization,  and dimensions of religiosity to such emerging issues as civil religion and new religious movements. Also addresses contemporary dilemmas such as fundamentalism and extremism and the role of gender in religion.

Encyclopedia of Religion.  Reference BL 31 .E46 2005 v. 1-15
" 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.

Sacred Texts Interpreted, Religious Documents Explained  Main BL 71 .O47 2017 v. 1-2

Alphabetical arrangement of the faiths of the world, with lengthy chapters on each.  These chapters contain bits of primary sources from the sacred texts of each faith and explain the meanings of them.  Covers Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Mormonism, Shinto, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism.  Brief introduction to the religious traditions of each faith and information on sacred text development.  Definition of what is meant by the words "sacred text."  Basic introductory level. 

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
Online ed. is 2010. "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 Map Library Circulating Collection 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      

Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions. Main BL 2462.5 .E53 2001

Routledge. "Focuses exclusively on religion, its place in African and African-American societies, and its impact on society in general." "Primary purpose is to provide an up-to-date and authoritative guide to the religions of African and African-American peoples with special attention given to religious movements in Africa and the religions of the African diaspora in North America, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean." 145 articles by 72 scholars from 13 countries, about half trained in anthropology. Many articles on religions, religious movements, churches, and organizations documenting movements. Signed articles, with bibliographies.

Atlas of Holy Places and Sacred Sites. Oversize collection 3 West 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.

Holidays Around the World Detailing More Than 3,400 Observances from All 50 States and More Than 100 Nations

Describes 3,400 holidays, festivals, commemorations, holy days, feasts and fasts, and other observances held throughout the United States and around the world. Entries cover popular, ethnic, religious, and historic events of international, national, regional, and local significance. Includes a World Calendar of Holidays.Dictionary arrangement. 

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

Covers food preferences, dietary restrictions, and food sharing, feasting, and fasting practices of the major world religions and religious movements.  Arranged alphabetically by topic.  Use the detailed index for best access to contents.  Small selection of primary sources and uncommon secondary sources in v. 2.  Some further reading references with entries.  Longer bibliography at end of v. 2.  More emphasis on North America than other parts of the world. 

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.

Religious Holidays and Calendars: an Encyclopedia Handbook  Reference CE 6 .K45 2004

Authoritative, comprehensive source for info about holidays and calendars of the world's religions.  Concise info on nearly 500 sacred holidays, fasts, feasts, festivals, practices, history, and beliefs of over 20 major religions.

Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals  Main BL 31 .E47 2004

Overall editor is an anthropologist.  130 articles from one to three pages broadly covering the topic.  Most entries are by United States academics.  Entries are international in scope and fall into four categories:  those providing context and understanding of rituals in general, specific types of rituals and their diversity and similarities across cultures, overviews of key rituals of major world religions and cultural regions, and specific rituals (like Christmas).

Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture Across History  Main BL 458 .W5835 2019 v. 1-2

Volume 1. African religions to indigenous religions. Volume 2. Islam to spirituality. Drawing on the expertise of a range of scholars, this reference chronicles the religious experiences of women across time and cultures. The book includes sections on major religions as well as on spirituality, African religions, prehistoric religions, and other broad topics. Each section begins with an introduction, followed by reference entries on specialized subjects along with excerpts from primary source documents. The entries provide numerous suggestions for further reading, and the book closes with a detailed bibliography.

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.

Encyclopedia of 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."

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 Native American Religions Main E 98 .R3 H73 2000

Information on a wide variety of people, ceremonies, and issues related to Native American religions.

Dictionary of Native American Mythology Main E 98 .R3 G46 1994

Encyclopedia of Native American Healing Main E 98 .M4 L96 1996

Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism Remote Storage E 98 .M4 L98 1998

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.

Religious Violence Today, Faith and Conflict in the Modern World Main BL 65 .V55 R568 2020 v. 1-2

v. 1 African religion to Islam.  v. 2 Jainism to state violence.  Broad topical entries for the names of the major faiths arranged alphabetically.  Within the broad topics, many more specific ones, with articles ranging in length from one to several pages.  Signed entries, with further reading references provided.  Timeline covers 1983-2018, so "Today" in the title means really recent.  Extensive concluding bibliography.  Overall editor is religious studies professor at Youngstown State University and author of other books on this topic.  The contributor authors are academics from around the world.

War and Religion, an Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict Main BL 85 .W37 2017 v. 1-3

War and Religion explores violence and pacifism in major religious traditions. Entries include key individuals (Gandhi, Luther), source documents (The Song of Roland), non-state groups (Nigeria's Boko Haram), and wars or religiously motivated violence up through the present century. The final volume has nearly 50 primary source documents, beginning with an account of the First Crusade (1098) and ending with a UN conference report on coexistence of Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem (2015). Signed entries conclude with see also references and recommended readings. The set includes a chronology, thematic index, and detailed subject index.

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 BL 65 .W2 R385 2014

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

End of Days, an Encyclopedia of the Apocalypse in World Religions Main BL 503 .E524 2017

Provides information on the theological doctrine of eschatology (the last things) and apocalyptic literature, the literary narrative of that doctrine.  Signed entries by international scholars describe the role of apocalyptic literature in the world's major religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.  Also has entries on related historical subjects.  Has entries related to apocalypticism in literature, film, and the arts.  Biographical entries.

Afterlife in Popular Culture: Heaven, Hell and the Underworld in the American Imagination  Main BL 535 .O54 2022

What happens to us when we die? The book seeks to explore how that question has been answered in American popular culture. It begins with five framing essays that provide historical and intellectual background on ideas about the afterlife in Western culture. These essays are followed by 100 entries, each focusing on specific cultural products or authors that feature the afterlife front and center. Entries topics include novels, film, television shows, plays, works of nonfiction, graphic novels, and more, all of which address some aspect of what may await us after our passing.This book is unique in marrying a historical overview of the afterlife with detailed analyses of particular cultural products, such as films and novels.

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.

Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression

This four-volume work provides a multicultural survey of established as well as "new" American religions and investigates the interactions between religion and ethnicity, gender, politics, regionalism, ethics, and popular culture.

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.

Etiquette and Taboos Around the World, a Geographical Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Customs

2017 publication.  This book includes topics such as greeting and meeting, appearance and dress, table manners, body language, social situations and hospitality, verbal communications, business etiquette, religious etiquette, gift-giving, and even “netiquette” regarding social media. Alphabetical arrangement with bibliography and index at the end.  Entries for names of people groups, countries, and regions.  Entries are signed and have further reading references.

Encyclopedia of Taboos Main GN 471.4 .H65 2000

Taboos a crucial part of society, determining how people must and must not behave.  A preliminary guide to taboos, examining some aspects of their meaning, use, and importance in religion, economics, politics and society.  Draws on a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, folklore, psychology, art, literature, music, natural sciences.  Time frame ranges from origins of human culture to 20th c.  Alphabetical arrangement of entries.  Further reading references and cross references provided.  All entries by Lynn Holden, a post-doctoral fellow at School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh.

Atheism and Agnosticism Exploring the Issues 

This guide provides an overview essay and approximately 50 alphabetically arranged reference entries that explores the background and significance of atheism and agnosticism in modern society. Has entries on both topics and famous atheists.

Religion in 50 Words, a Critical Vccabulary Main BL 31 .H84 2022

Religion in 50 More Words, a Redescriptive Vocabulary Main BL 31 .H8435 2022