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Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human…
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Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief

by Huston Smith

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Huston Smith is one of the most recognized experts on religion in the United States, and so I was saddened to find that his writing style annoyed me so much. I grew SO weary of phrases like, "blah blah blah as I demonstrated in chapter three..." or "I will discuss blah blah blah in depth when we get to chapter seven, so I will only mention it in brief now."

I can't really say I "liked" the book, because of this and other stylistic issues I had trouble getting past. However, he gave me much food for thought - most of it digestible. I suppose I agreed with about 70% of his arguments, and disagreed with about 15%. The remaining 15% was made up of discussions on either science or metaphysics which were so technical for their fields that I had no idea what he was even talking about.

I believe very strongly that religion matters. I agree with his overall premise that we make a terrible mistake when we allow "worship" of science to replace worship of God - regardless of one's religion. I just don't think his book expressed this in the best possible way.

Instead, I would recommend chapters 10 and 11 of Abraham Joshua Heschel's "God in Search of Man". These two chapters say in 20 or so pages much of what Smith says in 275 pages, only much more eloquently. ( )
1 vote fingerpost | Apr 26, 2011 |
dates and not a very compelling argument. ( )
  Rosinbow | Aug 7, 2009 |
When you are as far along as I am, with less rather than more of your time line left you do start thinking seriously about the life hereafter. Is this all their is.

This is one of my first attempts to look seriously about the subject.

Amazon.com Review
Why Religion Matters is a passionate, accessible, ambitious manifesto written by one of the very few people qualified to address its titular topic. Huston Smith is the grand old man of religious scholarship. Raised by missionary parents in China, Smith went on to teach at M.I.T. and U.C. Berkeley, among others, and his World's Religions has long been the standard introductory textbook for college religion courses. The subject of Why Religion Matters, Smith writes, "is the importance of the religious dimension of human life--in individuals, in societies, and in civilizations." Smith believes that the religious dimension of human life has been devalued by the rise of modern science: we have now reached a point at which "modern Westerners . . . forsaking clear thinking, have allowed ourselves to become so obsessed with life's material underpinnings that we have written science a blank check ... concerning what constitutes knowledge and justified belief." In candid, direct style, Smith describes the evolution of intellectual history from pre-modern to postmodern times, and the spiritual sensibilities that have been shunted "by our misreading of modern science." In the book's final sections, Smith avoids the folly of predicting the future, instead focusing on "features of the religious landscape that are invariant" and therefore may serve as "a map that can orient us, wherever the future may bring." This book is fresh, insightful, and important. It may prove to be as influential in shifting readers' terms of religious understanding as any of Smith's previous writings. --Paul Power --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly
In this challenging but accessible book, Smith ardently declaims religion's relevance, taking on luminaries, such as Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould, who hold that "only matter exists" and suggest that religion relates only to "subjective experiences." Smith defines such thinking as scientism, an unfortunate worldview distinct from science, which, in and of itself, he celebrates. But scientism, Smith says, contributes to "modernity's tunnel," a metaphorical structure that hides the metaphysical from view. He argues that "scientists who are convinced materialists deny the existence of things other than those they can train their instruments on," but in reality have "discovered nothing in the way of objective facts that counts against traditional metaphysics." Smith's arguments are reminiscent of Philip Johnson's Darwin on Trial; in fact, he nods appreciatively to Johnson's work. However, Smith's stature as a scholar probably affords him more credibility among scientists than evangelicals such as Johnson enjoy. Moreover, Smith's disarming toneDreplete with perfectly placed anecdotes and quipsDtempers the audacity of his theses and the difficulty of his subject matter. While he may be vulnerable to critiques that inevitably arise when non-scientists engage and challenge scientific claims, Smith demonstrates an impressive grasp of physics and biology, and defers to scientists who share his concerns. Most gratifyingly, after spending the book's first half implicating science, philosophy and the media in the marginalization of religion, Smith spends the second half elucidating and affirming metaphysical worldviews and imagining ways for science and religion to partner more equitably in the future. (Jan.) Forecast: Science and religion books are certainly hot right now (see PW's Religion Update, Nov. 20). That popularity, coupled with Smith's sterling reputation (buoyed by his recent five-part PBS series on religion with Bill Moyers) will propel sales. Harper San
  carterchristian1 | Dec 17, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060671025, Paperback)

Why Religion Matters is a passionate, accessible, ambitious manifesto written by one of the very few people qualified to address its titular topic. Huston Smith is the grand old man of religious scholarship. Raised by missionary parents in China, Smith went on to teach at M.I.T. and U.C. Berkeley, among others, and his World's Religions has long been the standard introductory textbook for college religion courses. The subject of Why Religion Matters, Smith writes, "is the importance of the religious dimension of human life--in individuals, in societies, and in civilizations." Smith believes that the religious dimension of human life has been devalued by the rise of modern science: we have now reached a point at which "modern Westerners . . . forsaking clear thinking, have allowed ourselves to become so obsessed with life's material underpinnings that we have written science a blank check ... concerning what constitutes knowledge and justified belief." In candid, direct style, Smith describes the evolution of intellectual history from pre-modern to postmodern times, and the spiritual sensibilities that have been shunted "by our misreading of modern science." In the book's final sections, Smith avoids the folly of predicting the future, instead focusing on "features of the religious landscape that are invariant" and therefore may serve as "a map that can orient us, wherever the future may bring." This book is fresh, insightful, and important. It may prove to be as influential in shifting readers' terms of religious understanding as any of Smith's previous writings. --Paul Power

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:28 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Huston Smith delivers a passionate and timely message: the human spirit is being suffocated by the dominant materialistic worldview of our times. Smith champions a society in which religion is once again treasured and authentically practiced as the vital source of human wisdom.… (more)

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