I think people like Jim Taylor who are steeped in "formal religious education" will have trouble understanding what the Buddha was trying to teach in the first place. The Buddha tried to get beyond the formal religious traditions and access the root of problems and their solutions, directly. I think Jim has missed all this and attacks many of the leaves of the tree without understanding where they came from. The whole point is to "oobaykah" (Thai) or let go of what you try to hang on to and be free to discover reality. Free the Buddha from a formal religion, please! I don't agree with every outward opinion of this book either. But the point of every good Buddhist teacher was to use anything at his/her disoposal to help the student see for themselves. If you can get beyond your own formal hang-ups maybe your eyes will open. Maybe the title of the book will help :)
The West is swamped with Mahayana Buddhist writings, so normally it would be good to see a Theravada step up to the podium. In this case, however, an engaging presentation of Theravada beliefs is marred by a vendetta against both Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity. Ruhe's attitude and treatment of these religions are a betrayal of both the Buddha's compassion and call to penetrating intellectual insight. This is unfortunate; since the first half of the book is a well done presentation of Theravada doctrine peppered with practical information on meditation and good illustrations. Ignoring the errors, I benefited from reading this and Ruhe should be commended for presenting Buddhism in such a relevant and entertaining manner. All of this changes, however, in the second half, which is a collection of essays on various topics. Anyone with formal education in religious studies will have seen this coming from comments in the book's first part. It is obvious, despite Ruhe's denial, that he has a personal problem with Mahayanists and Christians, and it is biasing his presentation. Later he seems to have forgotten his denial and reveals both family and career problems that are the likely roots of the vitriol. When not on the attack, he tries to convince you that the Nazi Nuremberg rallies are a good visualization exercise for harnessing energy, that UFO's are spirit beings called devas, that his poorly written concept for a Buddhist comic book is a good idea, that channeling devas should be a core Buddhist practice, that the prophecies of Nostradamus should be taken seriously, and that the military and government should hire psychics and shamans as advisors.
Where he is most self admittedly proud, though, is where he thinks he's defending Theravada from Mahayana and Christian beliefs. He says that Mahayana Buddhism is based on fraud and continues to deceive its modern day adherents. While I have seen some of his points raised by other more competent writers, I have no reason to believe the rest of what he says, due to the amount of distortion in his handling of Christianity. This is especially so as the vast majority of his claims throughout the entire book are not documented. He merely asserts most of his wilder claims and proclaims them true. Even where he raises points worthy of debate, he does so in such a condescending manner your gut reaction is to take the Mahayana side anyway! Since Ruhe can't even deal fairly with a group from within his own tradition, it's no surprise to see the flood of false information, distorted presentation, and the parade of straw man arguments when it comes to Christianity. Read the chapter on Mahayana first, noting the nine points by which he claims they have used deception to misrepresent Theravada. Now read the chapter on Christianity. Apparently, Ruhe thinks that what is false for Mahayanists to do to Theravadans is perfectly fine for a Theravadan to do to Christianity. He is so uninformed in regards to the later faith, however, that I can't honestly say he did this deliberately. He seems totally unaware that the scholars he sites in support of his position are only a small part of a much wider community, many of whom clearly disagree with his favorites. The first group uses against the later similar tactics to what Ruhe claims the Mahayana use against Theravada. He may have thus merely absorbed this distortion from his narrow selection of sources. Either way, most of what he says on the topic is so shallow and factually inaccurate it is unworthy of refutation.
Someone interested in studying Buddhism should be aware of the Theravada position, but you can do it without having to continually duck the bad karma shooting off the pages of this work. Try the books of Walpola Rahula or Richard Gombrich, for example. Ruhe's book represents more the birth of an aggressive Buddhist fundamentalism that is none the less utterly sure of itself, than it does The Future of Buddhism he thinks he is creating in the West.
It should be noted, however, that there is a new edition of this book being published overseas. A year after the original post of this review, the author has informed me that most of the critical points raised, by myself and others, about the third edition are being addressed in the fourth. The details indicate that the result will be a stronger and more balanced work.