Last September I put the final touches on my Greek Mythology book and headed to Europe on a vacation with my wife. I returned in October to an email from my editor. "I'm hoping you have had a good experience working with [us]. If you have the time and inclination, I have another project I hope you'll be interested in: a comparative look at the 12 most major religions."
Having written extensively about evangelical Christian apocalypticism, the Catholic saints, and the various afterlife teachings of a variety of world religions, it's not a stretch to say that religion has long been my "beat" as a writer of nonfiction. I've been fascinated by it since I began reading outside my own Southern Baptist faith tradition in my late high school years. One of my favorite college-level classes was a world religions survey course—a humanities elective, I think—led by a Catholic priest friend of mine.
So, yeah. My editor was right in thinking I would be interested in the project. By the end of that October, we were discussing an outline and had put together a very condensed writing schedule. During my kids' Christmas break, I began writing and researching in earnest. My deadline for the manuscript was in April.
That gave me about 16 weeks to write chapters about Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, and the teachings and beliefs of a dozen world religions in what would become an accessible, intensively fact-checked and well-sourced reference book.
It. Was. HARD.
I've written a lot of books on tight deadlines, but this was definitely the most challenging project I've ever done. But I am thrilled with the result. My author's copies arrived last week, and every time I page through the physical book, I'm surprised by the diversity of information in there. While this book lacks the snarky "voice" I've adopted in previous books—for better or worse, depending on whom you ask—it has become THE book I'll put at the top of my resume.
From the current election in the US to terrorism and other events on the world stage, religion runs the show. It drives decisions. It influences behavior. It colors our perspective of almost everything that happens on our planet, from scientific advancements to the arrival of new technologies.
We need to understand religion better—our own faiths, and those belonging to others.
12 Major World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths releases a week from today, on August 30. I'm proud of this book and hope you'll pre-order a copy.