E-Reviews | World Religions: ­Belief, Culture, and Controversy

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Content World Religions: Belief, Culture, and Controversy (WRBCC) combines a variety of research content on a diverse set of beliefs from around the world, ranging from agnosticism to Shinto. The file provides more than 50 religion overviews, reference entries, regularly updated feature stories examining the role of religion in current events, peer-reviewed religious perspectives and debates, statistics, and primary sources (documents, images, and video). It is updated daily. This review is based on the academic version of the database; a school edition is also available.

Usability The homepage hosts an attractive combination of images, links, and text that will successfully draw users into the resource. A title bar at the top displays ABC-CLIO’s brand, the title of the file superimposed over an image of a person in prayer or contemplation, and a section with Help and Logout links. Below that is a toolbar with buttons to Switch Databases and to link to Religions, Idea Exchange, CLIOView, and Advanced Search, followed by a Quick Search box.

An Explore a Religion slideshow fills a large portion of the screen. It rotates among the religions showcased in the file and has a link to See More Religions, which allows users to pick a specific one. To the right is a column highlighting items in the Idea Exchange, such as, Can a person be spiritual but not religious? and Can there be more than one true religion? Beneath the Explore a Religion section is a link to a Feature Story, e.g., Diwali: Hinduism’s Festival of Lights.

A Quick Search for Rastafarian resulted in 20 hits‚ an image of Rastafarian priests and articles about Rastafarians, Bob Marley, Haile Selassie, the term messiah , and a number of countries whose profiles mention that religion. In a column at screen left are filter buttons to display only groups and organizations, ideas and movements, individuals, or places (for the articles) or to show only images (media, maps, flags, and other visuals). The 600-word, signed article on Rastafarians includes a pertinent four-item further-reading list, as well as formatted citations for the article in APA, Chicago, and MLA styles. To the left of this are links to Related Entries for Individuals, Places, and Images (these link to some of the other items in the results list). At the top of the article are links to Add to Research List and Print, E-Mail, or Cite the Document.

A Quick Search for waco texas returned two results: an image of a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter buzzing past the Mount Carmel Branch Davidian compound on March 27, 1993, near Waco, Texas, and a 900-word article by William L. Pitts Jr. on the Branch Davidians, the religious group raided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1993 in Waco. This article was also followed by a short but solid further- reading list and formatted citations. The unbiased delivery of the information is impressive: it conveys plenty of facts but injects no bias or prejudice, a valuable trait, especially when dealing with religious subjects.

At this point I clicked on the Religions section link at screen top, and a page with 12 subsections appeared: Buddhism, Christianity, Chinese Religions, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, New Religions, Shinto, Traditional Religions, Western Esotericism, Unbelief, and Other Faiths and Beliefs. Each subsection includes an Overview article with a clear, succinct introduction to the faiths, along with links (at screen left) to Articles; Media, Visuals, Maps, and Flags; a Time Line; and Glossary Terms. I particularly appreciate the Glossary‚ terms in it provide context as well as common links among religions (for example, the entry for dharma begins, Dharma is a central concept in the major philosophies and religions of India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism).

Next I clicked on the Idea Exchange, which poses the questions: Does the Bible condemn homosexuality? Is God male? Was the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton a monotheist? Is the theory of evolution compatible with religion? Can there be more than one true religion? Do all religions ultimately share the same values? Has the common person been better served by science or religion? Can a person be spiritual but not religious? WRBCC explores these questions in a number of interrelated ways, with an overview taking a point/counterpoint approach. There are extensive links to related entries, and multiple response essays from experts in the field offer thoughtful answers from a variety of viewpoints.

The CLIOview link on the home page leads to an especially useful feature: the capability to easily compare multiple religions or countries on a variety of points (e.g., number of adherents, percentage of population) within the database. In advanced-search mode, students can do a text search and limit it by category (articles, media, etc.), religions (the 12 subsections), countries, and time periods.

PRICING Pricing varies according to the number of users, the number of a library’s ABC-CLIO subscriptions, and the number of library patrons (for public and academic libraries) or the number of buildings (for a school district). The cost ranges from $1.25 per student per year to $2500 per year for an unlimited-access site license.bottom line WRBCC is heartily recommended to public libraries as well as academic libraries serving religious studies courses. The superb scholarship is combined with the uninflected voice of the signed articles, ease of comparing and contrasting aspects of different religions, and attractive and practical design. An unqualified ten, this is one for the ages.

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Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

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