Huston Smith, the most eloquent and respected world authority on religion, offers a timely manifesto on the urgent need to restore the role of religion as the primary humanizing force for individuals and society. Weaving together insights from comparative religions, theology, philosophy, science, and history, along with examples drawn from current events and his own extraordinary personal experience, Smith gives both a convincing historical and social critique and a profound expression of hope for the spiritual condition of humanity.
Despite the widespread belief that these are halcyon days for religion and spiritual awareness, Smith shows how our everyday worldview is instead dominated by a narrow scientism, materialism, and consumerism that push issues of morality, meaning, and truth to the outer margins of society and our lives. In fact, he finds that too much of what passes as religion these days is actually a privatized and ungrounded debasement of true religion.
In the first part of the book, Smith traces the three great periods in human history: the traditional, the modern, and the postmodern; highlighting the achievements and deficiencies of each. Smith makes a compelling case to recover the spiritual and ethical riches of traditional religious wisdom and practices, while at the same time upholding the advances of the modern era in equal rights, democratic and personal freedoms, ecological awareness, and scientific and technological gains. In the final part of the book, Smith imagines a time when human beings move beyond the present materialistic and relativistic understanding of existence and recognize that consciousness, not matter, is the ultimate foundation of theuniverse.
Smith's historical knowledge and spiritual depth combine here with his understanding of science and the spheres of higher education, government, and law to produce a brilliant, comprehensive look at the embattled state of authentic religion in the world today. With the informed eye of a world traveler who is personally familiar with the best the world's religions have to offer, Smith challenges the dominance of the current technological worldview that so limits the full and true expression of the human spirit.
Why Religion Matters will open a new dialogue about the appropriate place of religion in human experience and society. The passionate and balanced perspective advanced here will help restore a respectful understanding of the undeniable primacy of religion, as well as give a fresh appreciation of the curative effects of correcting its marginal cultural status.
Smith's love of spirited debate makes this an intellectually exciting book, as accessible to the layman as to the scholar. His familiarity with a vast range of sources of scientific, philosophical and religious writing allows him to engage the best of human minds, sometimes in disagreement, sometimes gently scolding, always with a genuine delight in the quality of thought and argument. Those who have enjoyed his lively appearances on public television shows will find that spirit of passionate intellectual curiosity present in this book.