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Religious studies professor publishes book on Taoism

Dr. Jonathan Herman, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Religious Studies here at Georgia State University, has recently had the honor to publish a major textbook, “Taoism for Dummies.” However, the fact that it’s a major publication and that Taoism is a major subject of interest for Dr. Herman, an affiliate faculty member with the Center for Asian Studies at Georgia State, was not what brought him to the project.   When he was first approached by the publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Dr. Herman was initially hesitant to accept the offer due to the fact that the writing of a textbook may not always be considered to be original scholarship with research institutions like Georgia State. But on the other hand, a sort of sense of responsibility emerged. “I kept thinking about how much misinformation there is out there about Taoism, and about how the accurate scholarship on the subject is usually pitched too high for the average reader to understand and I started to wonder if perhaps I really should seize the opportunity to fill an important need,” Dr. Herman said. “I think what really iced the cake was when I approached my department chair, Kathryn McClymond, about it, and she said something like, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t think of anyone who could do a better job of it.’”   Junior and Applied Linguistics major Ramona Williams agrees that Taoism, and religion in general, is a very important in spreading awareness to fellow students. “People should know about all kinds of religions,” she said. “I think it would be awesome for students to learn more about Taoism. But do I feel that it should be shoved down our throat? No.”   Dr. Herman agrees that the spreading of awareness towards certain religions should be done so with more academic integrity than any sort of fervor. “As a religious studies professor, I’m not teaching about Taoism in order to influence my students’ religious outlook, though I certainly wouldn’t object if that happened either. Mostly, I think I’d like to help my audience understand their Chinese friends and neighbors a little better, let go of certain romantic misconceptions they may have about Chinese philosophy and religion, and perhaps even begin to think more critically and carefully about issues pertaining to the history and practice of religion in general,” he said. “Taoism for Dummies” is now available to purchase in bookstores or online.

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