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"The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions" by Huston Smith

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The World’s Religions”, written by Huston Smith, the mastermind of theology and modern religious sciences, is a profound implement of the analysis and comprehension of the major beliefs worldwide. In his book, the author attempts to explore the fundamental issues of diverse religions, starting from Hinduism and ending with the Primal religions of the various nations. The concept of faith is investigated from the different angles, and the entire text seems to be a prolific example of a masterly research. Therefore, Huston Smith with his “The World’s Religions” vividly represents the key concepts and principal aspects of the various spiritual beliefs and their influence on the overall human civilization.

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Huston Smith is considered to be one of the most significant authors that managed to contribute to the apprehension of the principal issues and features of the global religions. His theological researches are connected with the philosophical, psychological, social, and other aspects in order to fully represent a particular religion as the important part of the contemporary world. Apart from “The World’s Religions”, Smith is famous for numerous other works as “Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions”, “Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief”, or “Cleansing the Doors of Perception”, for instance, that investigate the peculiar features of the global religions of these days, and reflect some of the writer’s personal attitudes towards the theological questions. In addition, Huston Smith is not only a prolific author, but he is also a professor of Philosophy and Religion. Besides, some of the researches, such as the discovery of Tibetan chanting, or filming the documentaries on the various religious issues, are highly appreciated and awarded by the international society. Hence, the author is a prolific contributor to the exploration of the world’s religions and their specialties.

As for “The World’s Religions”, the work is deemed to be a fundamental book of the contemporary theology. It was published in 1958 under the title “The Religions of Men”, and the text is stil regarded as one of the most notable and interesting researches of the theological concepts. The overall book is a guide to the traditions and characteristic features of such religions like Taoism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and some Primal religions. The author tries to determine the national specialties, customs, principles, and other elements of a certain religion in order to determine their importance and impact on the human civilization. Concerning the structure, “The World’s Religions” consists of ten chapters. Nine of them investigate the significance of the widespread beliefs. At the same time, the last chapter compares the key aspects of the religions stated in the book and determines their relations between each other. The overall book is a useful source of the vital information for the reader about the most widespread and well-known religions in the world nowadays.

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Huston Smith begins his work with Hinduism, a religion originating from India and other Asian territories, as one of the most remarkable. He determines it’s motto as “You can have what you want”. Besides, there are two principal elements of this vision: the Path of Desire and the Path of Renunciation. These notions are connected with the attitudes of a human towards the community he lives in, a choice between fulfilling one’s impulses and living the entire life wisely, and the fact that success or duty is never the humanity’s ultimate goal. In addition, the writer investigates the level of the real wishes of a particular person. This notion includes the desire of existence, knowledge, and joy. The problem of identifying the core of a human, the purposes, experiences, and other characteristics of an individual becomes the principal aspect of the Hindi religious approach. Such centers of human life as Atman and Brahman are stated by the author to be the considerable standpoints of Hinduism. The entire purpose of the religion is claimed to be “passing beyond imperfection altogether”. Thus, Hinduism with all its questions and views is one of the fundamental issues throughout the book.

As for the Islamic aspects, Smith determines that this religion remains to be the most ambiguous among the multiple religions worldwide (p.221). Monotheism is considered to be a contribution to the overall religious entity. The spiritual beliefs of Muslims do not reject the scientific approaches. Furthermore, the essential implements of Islam are “creedal confession, prayer, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage” (p.243). Besides, the religion does not deny other religions; yet, it claims to be superior. In comparison with Buddhism, force as an instrument of converting the infidels and maintaining order in the society is a necessary element of the overall religion. Thus, Islam through the perspective of Smith’s book is rather an equivocal religion.

Christianity, in the light of Smith’s narration, tends to be one of the most interesting religions. It encompasses the exorcist, mysterious, and miraculous events that happen before both Old and New Testaments. The moral ideals and ethical attitudes towards one’s relatives or just unknown people, forgiving love, prayers to God for mercy, and repentance for the first fall from grace are the characteristic elements of this widespread religious approach. What’s more, the notion of life in Heaven or sufferings in Hell after one’s death reflects the Biblical dogmas to live a righteous life. To put it another way, not mortal, but the otherworldly existence becomes more important. Thus, Christianity is one of the most curious and enigmatic spiritual beliefs.

The overall book by Huston Smith is a vivid representation of the well-known and most widespread religions throughout the world. “The World’s Religions” reflects the characteristic features and some peculiar details of one or another theological approach. Besides, the author compares and even contrasts the religions through the perspective of faith, adherents, core principles, vital dogmas, etc. The text is well-structured, including clear idea statements and partitions of information. Nonetheless, the data is rather confusing, and it demands the preliminary familiarization with the key concepts. Besides, the writer tends to apply his personal experiences and attitudes towards these religions. As a result, the work is to be determined as slightly autobiographical. Therefore, “The World’s Religions” is a significant contribution to the understanding of the concept of faith in the whole world. I would recommend it for people seeking to explore the classic depiction of religions by a prominent author.

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