Exactly 50 years ago this week I was reading one of the very best books I
have ever read.
It was Huston Smith's The Religions of Man. I
enjoyed this book so much that I made it the textbook for the course
"Religions of the World" at Glassboro State College. The students
After several revisions and additions it is now being sold as The
World's Religions. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of my
first reading, I purchased the eBook version from Amazon. I just
finished it a few minutes ago. Wow!!
Buy the Book.
The chapter on Islam is worth the price of the book!
liked most about the book was that Professor Smith treated each of the
religions with total respect and appreciation. He emphasizes the
contribution that each religion made to its land of origin an to the
world. In each chapter you learn things that make you happy to have
expanded your knowledge and understanding.
As usual, as I read I selected passages that I thought you would like to
ponder. These are isolated selections that are meant to be read and
pondered individually. Don't read these like a novel! Come on,
give it a try! It sure beats television!
To read the chapter on Islam,
Click Here .
To choose some other chapter,
Click Here .
If you are at all interested in religion or the study of religion,
you should be especially interested in
Professor Huston Smith.
Huston Smith Website
Professor Smith was born on May 31, 1919, in China to Methodist
and spent his first 17 years there.
(He was already six years old when I was born. That's why he's older
than I am.)
He taught at the University of Denver from 1944 to 1947; then at
Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for the next ten years. He
was then appointed professor and chair of the philosophy department at MIT
from 1958 to 1973. While there, he participated in experiments with
psychedelics that professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram
Dass) conducted at Harvard University. He then moved to Syracuse
University, where he was Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and
Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy until his retirement in 1983
and current emeritus status. At University of California, Berkeley he was
visiting professor of religious studies.
As a young man, he suddenly turned from traditional Methodist Christianity
to mysticism, influenced by the writings of Gerald Heard and Aldous
Huxley. Smith recounts in the
2010 documentary "Huxley on Huxley" meeting the great visionary at his
During his career, Smith not only studied, but practiced
under Swami Satprakashananda, founder of the St. Louis Vedanta Center),
Zen Buddhism (studying under Goto Zuigan),
and Sufi Islam
for more than
ten years each.
During his tenure at Syracuse University, he was informed by leaders of
the Onondaga Tribe about the Native American religious traditions and
practices, which resulted in an additional chapter in his book on the
In 1990 the Supreme Court ruled that the use of Peyote as a religious
sacrament by Native Americans was not protected under the US Constitution.
Smith took up the cause, as a noted religion scholar and, with his help in
1994, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendment,
basically overturning the Supreme Court's decision.
His book (originally titled
The Religions of Man)
has sold over two million copies
and remains a
popular introduction to comparative religion.