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Book Review: “Religion,” A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer

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Though it’s the second entry in Dutch cartoonist Margreet de Heer’s “Discovery in Comics” series, this book’s American release was set after two other volumes in her edu-comics series (Philosophy and Science.) You can understand publisher NBM’s release strategy in letting the other two  books serve as introduction to de Heer’s personal style: neither Science nor Philosophy is as apt to spark reactionary misreadings as Religion.

De Heer herself is aware of this and regularly acknowledges it throughout her book. Examining the five major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism) with relevant side glances at Atheism and Fundamentalism, as well as the ways each religion stacks up from a feminist perspective, the cartoonist recognizes that her “very personal walk through the religious landscape” won’t be for everybody. “Religion is personal!” her cartoon self says to her husband Yiri. “Closely intermingled with our upbringing, culture and ethics. And that’s why it’s such a delicate subject!”

Thus our big-eyed heroine shows herself regularly standing upon a giant cracking egg as she’s attacked for making a simple historical point. When she describes the history of Christian inquisitions, for instance, a trio of egg-bound Christians asks accusingly, “Why are you attacking Christianity?” Drawing Muhammad in a history of Islam, she gets slammed by both fundamentalist Muslims and timid politicians (though, as she points out, the prophet has been depicted many times over the years by artists in Persia and Iran – and what the Quran forbids is the worshipping of images.)

Margreet perseveres, though, and if the going occasionally gets thick – most typically in her cataloging of the different books associated with each religion – her historical overview proves as playfully thoughtful and respectful as her two previous Discoveries in Comics. As with the earlier volumes, de Heer cartoons in an accessible friendly style that is imminently readable and takes no sides. “To me,” she concludes, “religion means mostly asking questions.” A point of view that the more hard-core followers of any belief system may find squishy – but should make a lot of sense to the more intellectually adventurous.
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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.