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Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief by Huston Smith

A new book out by America's leading scholar on world religion makes a passionate case for the life of the spirit in an age of scientism.

By Alan Reder

Perhaps the most admirable quality of Smith's perspective is the way he incorporates scientific fact into his own religious outlook. He is his own best example of an open-minded, inquisitive truthseeker—a sort of Renaissance person of faith. It's a model that both scientific and religious leaders would do well to emulate. But to get there, the hard cases in both camps will have to do more homework. Smith chides his intellectual adversaries for failing to do just that: "Your standard criticisms of religion sound so much like satires of third-grade Sunday school teachings that they make me want to ask when you last read a theological treatise and what its title was."

By the same token, why couldn't more ultra-religious folks embrace science for revealing the magnificence and ingenuity of God's creation? Public television recently promoted its programming with a campaign that urges us to "Stay curious." In effect, that is also the underlying message from Huston Smith—to everyone.

Contributing editor Alan Reder wrote on integrating yoga and religion in the March/April 01 issue and is the coauthor of The Whole Parenting Guide (Broadway Books, 1999).

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