Books. You remember them. Yes, a good number of reference books are still worth owning if you’re serious about religion reporting. This list is minuscule compared with what is available. In evaluating books, look for major publishers or prominent authors. The reference departments of universities, public libraries and seminaries are great places to scan some of the variety of major religion reference works available.
- Scriptures of most major faiths are available online, including different translations.You still may want to own some in book form. Beliefnet posts sacred texts of more than a dozen traditions.This site is useful if you are trying to verify language of a specific verse quoted by a source. Blueletterbible.org allows you to compare 11 translations and versions of the Bible.
- A Bible dictionary and commentary come in handy. Choose one, realizing that different traditions favor different interpretations.
- J. Gordon Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions (Gale Group) profiles nearly every religious group in America, from the largest to the smallest, and groups them in “families” so you can see how their beliefs compare.
- The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press) allows you to look up just about anything related to Christianity and Christian history.
- Keep a good book or dictionary on world religions. Many veteran reporters recommend Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions (HarperSanFrancisco) for readability, but there are plenty of other choices,many of them lushly illustrated.
- Subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly’s free Religion BookLine and Christianity Today’s free online version of Books & Culture to keep on top of what’s being published in religion.
- Most religions and denominations publish annual directories; request a copy of any you contact regularly or get to know theirWeb sites.
These yearbooks and directories are helpful for tracking down sources and statistics:
- The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, published annually by the National Council of the Churches of Christ.
- Handbook of Denominations in the United States by Frank S.Mead, Samuel S. Hill and Craig Atwood (Abingdon Press, 2005) includes information on U.S. denominations within Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
- The Catholic Almanac, published annually by Our Sunday Visitor, includes news, information and history about the Catholic Church. Some content is posted online and is searchable.
- The North American Muslim Resource Guide: Muslim Community Life in the United States and Canada by Mohamed Nimer (Routledge) includes data, lists of organizations and information about how Islam is lived in North America.
- The American Jewish Year Book, published annually by the American Jewish Committee, contains data and information on Jews in the United States and other nations.
- Directory of African American Religious Bodies: A Compendium by the Howard University School of Divinity, edited byWardell J. Payne (Howard University Press), includes contact information and background on African-American religious bodies and organizations.