Saturday, 23 July 2011

“Huston Smith, the man who took religion seriously” by Dana Sawyer

In 1958, Huston Smith first reached national attention by literally writing-the-book on the world’s religions, publishing The Religions of Man (currently titled The World’s Religions), which went on to become the most assigned textbook ever written on the subject, now having sold nearly four million copies. In that book Huston did something entirely new, describing the religions in ways that their adherents would not only find accurate but validating. 

Prior to Huston Smith, the modern mind's view of religion was that it was a waste of time or worse. Freud had said that religion is a delusion we create to comfort ourselves in an uncertain world. We, based on an "infantile model," project a cosmic father or mother onto an indifferent universe so that we can have someone to plead to for help when matters get beyond our control. Marx, to cite another modernist disparager of religion, argued even earlier that "religion is the opiate of the masses," a drug fed to us by our oppressors to keep us in check, distracting us from launching the revolutions that would bring social equality and justice, by feeding us pretty lies that placate us in our misery. In short, by the 1950s, the job of most professors of religion, in most colleges, was largely to explain religion away, as something quaint and outdated, something we'd be better off without. It was the fifties after all, and high time we outgrew our non-scientific ways of making sense of the world. 

But Huston changed all that................................................



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