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The World's Religions (Plus) Paperback – May 12, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0061660184 ISBN-10: 0061660183 Edition: 50 Anv

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Product Details

  • Series: Plus
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 50 Anv edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061660183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061660184
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Huston Smith's masterpiece explores the essential elements and teachings of the world's predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the native traditions of Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

Emphasizing the inner—rather than the institutional—dimension of these religions, Smith devotes special attention to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and the teachings of Jesus. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.

About the Author

Huston Smith is internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions. He is the focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers and has taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of twelve honorary degrees, Smith's fifteen books include his bestselling The World's Religions, Why Religion Matters, and his autobiography, Tales of Wonder.


More About the Author

Huston Cummings Smith (born May 31, 1919) is among the preeminent religious studies scholars in the United States. His work, The Religions of Man (later revised and retitled The World's Religions), is a classic in the field, with over two million copies sold, and it remains a common introduction to comparative religion.

Smith was born in Soochow, China, to Methodist missionaries and spent his first 17 years there. He taught at the Universities of Colorado and Denver from 1944 to 1947, moved to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, for the next 10 years, and then served as professor of Philosophy at MIT from 1958 to 1973. While at MIT, he participated in some of the experiments with entheogens that professor Timothy Leary conducted at Harvard University. Smith then moved to Syracuse University, where he was Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy until his retirement in 1983 and current emeritus status. He now lives in the Berkeley, California, area where he is Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

During his career, Smith not only studied but also practiced Vedanta Hinduism, Zen Buddhism (under Goto Zuigan), and Sufism for over 10 years each. He is a notable autodidact.

As a young man, of his own volition after suddenly turning to mysticism, Smith set out to meet with then-famous author Gerald Heard. Heard responded to Smith's letter, invited him to Trabuco College (later donated as the Ramakrishna Monastery) in Southern California, and then sent him off to meet the legendary Aldous Huxley. So began Smith's experimentation with meditation and his association with the Vedanta Society in Saint Louis under the auspices of Swami Satprakashananda of the Ramakrishna order.

Via the connection with Heard and Huxley, Smith eventually experimented with Timothy Leary and others at the Center for Personality Research, of which Leary was research professor. The experience and history of that era are captured somewhat in Smith's book Cleansing the Doors of Perception. In this period, Smith joined in on the Harvard Project as well, in an attempt to raise spiritual awareness through entheogenic plants.

He has been a friend of the XIVth Dalai Lama for more than 40 years, and has met and talked to some of the great figures of the century, from Eleanor Roosevelt to Thomas Merton.

Smith developed an interest in the Traditionalist School formulated by Rene Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy. This interest has become a continuing thread in all his writings.

In 1996 Bill Moyers devoted a five-part PBS special to Smith's life and work: The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith. Smith has also produced three series for public television: The Religions of Man, The Search for America, and (with Arthur Compton) Science and Human Responsibility.

His films on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Sufism have all won awards at international film festivals. His latest DVD release is The Roots of Fundamentalism--A Conversation with Huston Smith and Phil Cousineau.

Customer Reviews

Wonderful and very informative book.
Andrew
I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants to expand their understanding of the World's religions.
Gary Canier
This book was just what I needed and had the correct information posted!
T. L. Canary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 90 people found the following review helpful By sonmei46 on November 5, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've ordered many copies of this book over the years; they get rag-eared and I buy a fresh copy. Not too much has changed over the years, though there's a little more in the supplementary sections. Smith does a really nice job of explaining each religion from the perspective of the faithful. This is a wonderful book for anyone who's interested in learning a little more about the most fundamental world views of the world's religions. My only disappointment: the book says nothing about Shinto.....an enormous oversight, given how many adherents there are. I'd have loved Smith's perspective. Nice summaries instead of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity; there's even a little bit on Australian beliefs.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Adam on February 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
I initially read this book in college for an intro to world religions course. That class was one of the most interesting classes I took, partly because of the charismatic Indian man who taught it and partly because of this book. Reading this book was an eye opening experience for me. The book objectively explores the metaphysical foundations and tenets of the major religions, without delving into criticism or commentary on religion's impact on human society.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. For me, reading The World's Religions was a truly "enlightening" experience because I gained insight into the actual teachings behind many religions with which I previously had only a vague familiarity. In fact, I think that almost anyone who reads this book will come away with greater tolerance and appreciation for the various religions and cultures of our world. Even for Atheists or those who oppose religion in general, I still recommend reading this book as an insight into the various belief systems that have played such a major role in the story of humanity.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Samantha E. Blake on January 18, 2010
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This book was required reading for me over 20 years ago when I was in college. Huston Smith does an awesome job in covering the major religions of the world without including any bias towards one or another. I lost my original book so I purchased this new edition and will be reading it again and again and again. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about world religions.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sheila Sirey on February 2, 2010
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This is one of the best books I have ever read. Huston Smith presents the religions from the inside out. Each one is viewed as if he were an adherent of that religion which makes his words ring with the truth of that point of view.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. Reinvald on December 12, 2010
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This is more than just a reference book on world religions. First, it is well written - clear, concise, easy to understand. But, perhaps more importantly, it makes you think. Different chapters deal with the history and basic ideas of Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and the so-called Primal Religions. Of those, the first one, on Hinduism, was probably the most interesting, especially its introductory parts ("What people want", "What people really want"), dealing with the question of why man needs religion at all. These could well serve as an extended introduction to the whole book. And reading those passages could probably make many readers better to understand the roots of their middle age crisis.
But nothing is 100% ideal. The chapter on primal religions was vaguer and less informative that the others. And I skipped Islam and Confucianism - because of a total lack of interest. But as to the other chapters, the general impression was very good.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pellerine on December 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a nice attempt to wrap up the world's religions and if you are interested in a broad overview I can highly recommend this book as a resource. Unfortunately I did not find this a smooth read, but a reference I sometimes poke through it, and get some interesting bits.

It looks at: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and a section called the Primal Religions.

It would have been interesting if there was a section dealing with shamanism, South American Tribal Beliefs, African Tribal Beliefs, it is after all a book on world religions. A few maps and diagrams to help explain the migrations of religions would have also been useful along with images that may support the description of the religions presented.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By K. Cashman on January 27, 2013
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This book was very good, buy it didn't have all the religions I wanted to learn about. I was actually very surprised it had nothing on Mormons.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gus Luparelli on April 23, 2014
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I was rather disappointed in this text. Maybe I was looking for more concrete facts such as who, when, where, how. I found it to be very philosophical and found it hard to follow.
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