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Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism) Paperback – May 15, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0226763606 ISBN-10: 0226763609 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism
  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (May 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226763609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226763606
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jonathan Z. Smith is the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities at the University of Chicago where he is also a member of the Committee on the History of Culture. Among his numerous books are To Take Place, Drudgery Divine, and Map Is Note Territory, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Christopher I. Lehrich on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Z. Smith is the enfant terrible of the History of Religions discipline, although he's no longer young. From his first essays (collected in Map Is Not Territory) to his more recent musings in To Take Place and Drudgery Divine, he has outraged, stimulated, challenged, and restructured the study of religion in the modern academy.
Each essay here is a little gem, and should be read and savored by any serious student.
Right at the start, in "Fences and Neighbors", Smith shows his true colors: he talks about the taxonomy of walnuts, and uses this as a startlingly perfect demonstration of the strengths and weaknesses of various ways of defining and categorizing religion, religions, and religious groups. "In Comparison a Magic Dwells" points out that most comparison falls into Frazer's homeopathic/contagious magic division, and demonstrates the various pitfalls of the comparative endeavor. I could go on, right through the devastating and terrifying analysis of the Jonestown White Nights mass suicide, in which Smith argues that to study religion seriously, we have a duty to recognize that it is not always "nice," not always about love and peace, and that sometimes awful things are done because of religious feeling, but that nevertheless we are required to try to make sense of it -- a lesson that has renewed force in the wake of 9/11.

Smith does have one real flaw, though, which is that he assumes that everyone is as intelligent and careful as he is. He thinks that every reader will read all the endnotes, for example, and think about their implications for his arguments. And he assumes that every reader will hang onto a certain common-sense perspective on human nature, and interpret his arguments in that light.

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roya Rostamian on July 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book has several interesting articles. This is a collection of several articles, a few of them in particular are very intersting.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Charles E. Beatty on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are less than 5 pages of clear useful thoughts, in this whole book.

Smith is pretentious, name dropping, I diligently read the first 1/4 of the book, until I gave up.

At best this is scholarly entertainment, at worst it's drunken weak insignificant comments for the most part, with a few rare understandable sentences for a layman.

NOT a layman's book, more an academic's entertainment book, and I doubt there is much Smith says in this book that others haven't already said elsewhere.

Skip it! Especially if you are a layman.
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