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Book review

Transcending Terror by Ian Hackett, (O Books, 2004). In this thoughtful work, Ian Hackett explores the roots of nine faiths – Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and the Bahá'í faith – and seeks to draw out their common values. In each case, he begins by situating the founder within his historical context, and sets out their original vision through illustrative quotes under a number of headings, such as "The Nature of God", and "On God's Purpose and Human Responsibility". He then shows how this message has evolved from that time until the present day, and highlights the danger of distortion by some groups of followers into precepts that bear little or no resemblance to the original – precepts which have, at various points in history, been used to justify the slaughter or mistreatment of non-believers. The relevance to the eruption of violent fundamentalism in the present time is evident. He proposes that, as well as returning to the original values of the nine founders, we must now also take into account the revelations about the nature of the universe that science has given us. Instead of being trapped within the rut of a limited belief system, we can find the common ground between the different faiths, and between spirituality and science. One area where this may be beginning is in the realm of neurotheology – the scientific study of how the brain operates during spiritual experiences. Mr Hackett closes by enjoining us to work towards finding that common ground before our differences lead to divisive conflict that may destroy our civilisation. He feels that if we can identify and live by the core values of the common ground, we can begin to build a Heaven here on Earth.