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Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief Paperback – June 27, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
This book, Professor Huston's most recent, has a somewhat more ambitious goal than simply explaining and describing religious teaching. He tries to explain, in the words of his title, "why religion matters" and why it is of the highest importance to many people.
Although much of the book is eloquent and convincing, I found much of it unduly polemical and unconvincing. In particular, the first half of the book is taken up with a discussion and refutation of "scientism" which is the view that science is the only guide to the truth and out only source of knowledge. There is a wide-ranging attack on scientism, which broadens into a critique of the secular American university and of certain court decisions, which is intended to show not so much that scientism is wrong or incorrect but that it hasn't been proven. This is a worthy goal but the specifics misfire. In particular, Professor Smith spends too much time in criticising Darwinism and the theory of evolution, a criticism which I find markedly unsuccessful and probably unnecessary if I understand his broader claims correctly. He spends far too much time, I think, discussing a straw man, Hollywood's version of the Scopes trial, "Inherit the Wind.Read more ›
It doesn't matter whether or not you've read any of Smith's other books (which I have); it doesn't matter if you never saw his 5-part special with Bill Moyers (or watched it four times, as I have); it doesn't matter if you go to church every Sunday or avoid it religiously (as I do); what matters is that you get this book, for there are glittering gems on almost every page no matter what your churchly or secular orientation may be.
"Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief" is highly recommended for all who seek to know more tomorrow than they do today. And if Huston Smith should read these words, I would say, "You have no idea how important and appreciated you are by tens of thousands of anonymous readers."
Smith is also no Bible-thumper, i.e. promoting a parochial religious view of the American variety. Instead he distills the important lessons of all the established and folk world religions, and recognizes their limitations in describing the physical world and dated societal mores.
I found the book a little choppy, meandering and digressing through metaphors. However, the book is without parallel in presenting the essence of the religious point of view. It is the seminal reference whether you are for or against the role of religion in modern society.
Furthermore, I recommend attending a lecture by Prof. Smith should the occasion ever occur on one of his book tours or at a religious studies conference. Prof. Smith is a very clear and spell-binding speaker. I had the priviledge of taking one of courses decades ago, one of the best in my life.
Raised by missionary parents in China and a professor at M.I.T., Syracuse University and U.C. Berkeley, among others, and his World's Religions serves as the standard introductory textbook for college religion courses Smith is in a unique position to pass judgment. Human beings, he posits, have allowed themselves to become so obsessed with the answer to life's fundamental questions that they have written science a blank check for what constitutes knowledge and justified belief. As a result the world is experiencing a spiritual crisis.
The culprit is not science. We have constructed a worldview tunneled by scientism, higher education, the media and law. As Smith looks to the future, he sees "the light at the end of the tunnel" - a time when science and religion peacefully co-exist. While acknowledging the science's importance, human beings ultimately flourish, he argues, when they seek the answers to life's ultimate questions -- What is the meaning of life? Why do pain and death exist? What is reality?
Religion recognizes the gulf between these questions and their answers. Humans being never waiver in their conviction that these questions have answers, religion motivates them to continually seek the answers.
I liked the book. The author states his case in a simple, direct manner. Style questions, such as whether Smith quotes from other authors are too long or not, are not important to me. Smith makes his case in a witty, personable and, in my opinion, persuasive manner.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Smith displays a total lack of knowledge about the ongoing dialog between religion and science. His arguments start from false premises, and make no sense. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Rhoda Barr
Huston Smith has been a mentor (in writing) for me since 1966. He didn't disappoint then and continues to inspire now.Published 4 months ago by Kent T. Hoffman
Huston Smith seems to have had some good ideas for this book when he wrote it, but I had a hard time tracking it throughout most of his writing. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Bob Dole
This is not an eloquent book. The writing is clumsy and so is the development. The most irritating aspect of Smith's style is his constant reference to the book itself, his... Read morePublished 15 months ago by David
I always learn so much from Huston Smith.. his clarity, and ability to get to the heart of every issue,plus his personal touch .. Read morePublished 15 months ago by bojo
Houston Smith has done his homework and provides a brilliant exploration of the path that leads to the Divine.Published 16 months ago by Amy O. Davis
I have read only about 10% of the book. The academic approach is exactly what I was hoping for.Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer