Flames of Faith: A Thumbnail Guide
to World Religions
By John Cunyus, Ph.D

Two events inspired longtime minister and author John
Cunyus to write
Flames of Faith: A Thumbnail Guide to
World Religions.  The first took place when his
daughter began playing violin with her school’s Suzuki
group in first grade.  “I went with the group to a
Christmas concert they were playing at a senior citizen
center in Houston.  She and her friends were having
fun beforehand, like all children do.  There were kids
from several different ethnic groups and religions,
playing on the floor like they didn’t notice the
differences.  I grew up in segregated schools, so I
watched that with genuine wonder.  It was something I
never experienced in my childhood.  My children live
in a world that is diverse beyond anything I ever knew.  
I wanted to help folks understand that diversity more

The second event, Cunyus says, was the terrorist
assault of September 11, 2001.  As the opening of
Flames of Faith puts it, “The horrific events of
September 11, 2001 forever shattered the illusion that
the only religion which matters is our own.  When the
hijacked airliners flew into the World Trade Center, the
Pentagon, and a lonely Pennsylvania hillside that
morning, the world realized with chilling clarity that the
religious imaginations of people in far away lands now
mattered to all.

Cunyus, then serving as Senior Minister of First
Christian Church in Lake Jackson, Texas, sat down to
write a book that would introduce his congregation to
the world’s major faith traditions.  “There was so much
misunderstanding in those days, especially of Islam.  It
struck me that most folks didn’t even know what their
own religion taught, much less what any of the others

It was a gap he was determined to help bridge.  Cunyus
says, “I tried to make the book as non-partisan as
possible.  I didn’t want to write another ‘We’re right and
you’re wrong’ piece.  I just wanted to briefly describe
what several different faiths believe, set them side by
side, and let people study them without passing

Flames of Faith probably would have stayed locked
away in Cunyus’s computer had he not published his
first novel,
Flames in the Jungle, in 2006.  When the
novel was released, Cunyus’s publisher decided to
update his book on world religions.  Cunyus comes by
his interest in the subject through long experience.  A
native of Dallas, he earned degrees from
Rice and TCU,
before earning a doctorate in Religion at Pacific
Western University.  Along the way, he spent twenty
years as an ordained minister in the
Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ), serving congregations in Pilot
Point, Weatherford, Houston (twice), Lake Jackson, and
Dallas, all in Texas.  He has seen religion from a variety
of perspectives, inside and outside the church.

“It’s important to define ‘religion,’” he says.  “The word
comes in part from the Latin word religare, which
means ‘to bind.’  Religion is our most basic orientation
to the world.  It binds us to particular ways of seeing
ourselves, our neighbors, and our world.  It provides
us with our basic values.  It tells us what our purpose
in life is.”

Cunyus hastens to add that all human beings are
religious, by definition.  “A lot of times, though, the
religion we claim to practice has very little to do with
the religion we actually practice,” he says.  

Flames of Faith, Cunyus describes seven religious
perspectives: Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese Religions,
Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Consumerism.  Each
brief chapter begins with a quote from each
perspective’s holy books and includes descriptions of
basic doctrines and history.

“Of course there’s not enough room to do any of them
justice,” he says.  “I barely scratch the surface.”

What does he hope for in writing it?  Cunyus says, “I
hope to help people understand themselves and the
world they live in just a little better,  If I inspire some
folks to study in more detail, that will be wonderful.”

Flames of Faith: A Thumbnail Guide to World Religions,
ISBN #0-595-41767-1, published by iUniverse, is
available for $9.95 through booksellers, and online at
Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and other
retailers.  John Cunyus is freelance writer working in
North Texas.  His work may be viewed online at


Words, Images, and Layout ©2006, John G. Cunyus
All Rights Reserved

John Cunyus is freelance writer working in North
Texas.  His work may be viewed online at