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Why Religion Matters


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About the Author

Huston Smith is the bestselling author of THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS and an internationally renowned figure in the comparative philosophy of religion.


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 Francisco plans a 50,000-copy first print run and a $35,000 promotional budget. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

. . . truly a book of wisdom to accompany readers . . . into the light of a new millennium.--Library Journal
An intellectually exciting book, as accessible to the layman as to the scholar.--The Los Angeles Times
"One of our foremost scholars and interpreters of the world's religions...What he has learned, he has applied to life."--Bill Moyers

Smith, the respected author of the classic best seller The World's Religions and former professor of religion and psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy, now adds a brilliant and accessible title that challenges the religious dimensions of human life. In the first part, he considers the accomplishments and deficiencies of each of three historical periodsDtraditional, modern, and postmodernDcritiquing how each era has contributed to our contemporary spiritual malaise. Not satisfied with simply judging the past, Smith focuses the second part on the future, offering hopeful alternatives to build renewed spiritual vigor. Passionate and inspiring, Smith employs personal stories and experiences with leading religious, philosophical, and scientific thinkers. This is truly a book of wisdom to accompany readers through the metaphorical tunnel into the light of a new millennium. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DJohn-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin, Platteville Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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