God is Not One but "Religion" Is

A Critical Reading of Stephen Prothero's God is Not One: the Eight Rival Religions that Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter


  • Tim M. Murphy The University of Alabama




Stephen Prothero, World Religions


This review places Prothero's book in the context of the academic study of Religion. Specifically, I discuss the issues of defining religion, the history of the category "religion," and the relationship between that category and Euro-American colonialism. The central argument offered is that Prothero's implicit theory of religion is poorly defined, uninformed about the history of the term, and naive about issues of cross-cultural study. As such, his picture of religion is ethnocentric in that, for all his discussion of differences, he does not see real difference. Given that he explicitly claims that the book will be useful for American entrepreneurs, diplomats, and soldiers, his work is complicit in the project of the neo-colonialist, neo-imperialist spread of capitalist modes of production throughout the globe.

Author Biography

  • Tim M. Murphy, The University of Alabama

    Tim Murphy specializes in theories of religion and Continental thought. He is Associate Professor of Religious Studies. His most recent book, published by SUNY, is _The Politics of Spirit: Phenomenology, Genealogy, Religion_.


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How to Cite

Murphy, T. (2011). God is Not One but "Religion" Is: A Critical Reading of Stephen Prothero’s God is Not One: the Eight Rival Religions that Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 40(2), 19-25. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v40i2.004