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The World's Religions (Plus) [Paperback]

Huston Smith
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 12, 2009 0061660183 978-0061660184 50 Anv

The World’s Religions, by beloved author and pioneering professor Huston Smith (Tales of Wonder), is the definitive classic for introducing the essential elements and teachings of the world's predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as regional native traditions.

This revised and updated edition provides sympathetic descriptions of the various traditions, explaining how they work “from the inside,” which is a big reason why this cherished classic has sold more than two million copies since it first appeared in 1958.


Frequently Bought Together

The World's Religions (Plus) + The World's Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World's Religions + The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions
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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.


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: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great overview 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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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about world religions January 18, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE Introduction to The World's Religions February 8, 2010
By Adam
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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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars religion February 2, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than expected December 12, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eight-ish Religions of the World 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good January 27, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars World's Religions April 23, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
When I got this book, I was expecting a comprehensive covering of every major world religion. Maybe some of the minor ones too. This is not that book. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Glen A. Vickers
5.0 out of 5 stars Religions around the world are different??!!
I found this book a little slow in starting but once it got going it was an enjoyable read. It covers the major religions in the world and highlights their important parts. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Reviewinator
1.0 out of 5 stars Mundane blabbering
I had to read this book for a college course, and while I like to read, this book is very mundane. It's akin to someone blabbering away to hear themselves speak, with no substance... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Leona
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
This book was a required purchase for my Introduction to World Religions course. It is a great book for the curious mind, searching for understanding of other cultures and... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steven
5.0 out of 5 stars Save for summer reading
I gave this a 5 star because it arrived on schedule and was in great condition. I haven't read it yet but will do so before the summer is over. I'm expecting it to be great!
Published 1 month ago by Linda M. Hughes Freeth
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing in depth study of religions
If you are truly interested in the how and why of the world's religions than Huston Smith's book is the one to read.
Published 1 month ago by M. Kearns
5.0 out of 5 stars Still savoring
I have read many scholarly works on religion, and this is one of the best. Huston Smith gets to the heart of the matter, and it feels more like an investigation, an unfolding,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Timo
5.0 out of 5 stars A great update of a classic
I read the original book by Huston Smith many years ago, and appreciated the updating and additional work of this book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ann N
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Overview
the best collection of religion overviews that I have seen. Just enough info, but missing many religions that are popular
Published 1 month ago by PaperMoon
4.0 out of 5 stars Arrived as expected
I needed this book for my philosophy class this summer and didnt want to pay alot for it, this was the most reasonably priced one i could find. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ashley
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