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

Huston Smith

HarperCollins Publishers, (paperback edition), 290 pages, 2001

Item# B069
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Huston Smith is the grand old man of religious scholarship. Raised by missionary parents in China, Smith went on to teach at M.I.T. and U.C. Berkeley, among others, and his World's Religions has long been the standard introductory textbook for college religion courses, and was the primary focus of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers.

Finding the right title for a new book is often a difficult task. As Smith wrote the text of his new book his working title was "The Human Spirit in the New Millennium: Light at the End of the Tunnel" because he wanted to argue that if the human spirit is to fare better than it recently has, it must shake off the tunnel vision of modernity. Another appropriate title for this book might have been "Why Science Does Not Have All The Answers." One journalist even observed that Smith seemed to be angry at science. "No" he responded, "I am angry at us-modern Westerners who, forsaking clear thinking, have allowed ourselves to become so obsessed with life's material underpinnings that we have written science a blank check.

So in this new book Smith sets out to explain the limits of science, and the worldview of naturalism that usually accompanies it. He opens up a new dialogue about the appropriate place of religion in human experience and modern society. If you enjoy reading books by Phillip Johnson, then you will also enjoy this new work by Huston Smith.� In many ways it reads like a more popular version of Johnson's books and may serve as a good entry point into the problem of scientism and philosophical naturalism for the non-scientist.

Table of Contents:



Part One: Modernity's Tunnel

Chapter 1 - Who's Right About Reality: Traditionalists, Modernists, or the Postmoderns?

  • Modernity's Cosmological Achievement
  • Postmodernism's Fairness Revolution
  • The Traditional Worldview

Chapter 2 - The Great Outdoors and the Tunnel Within It

  • Worldviews: The Big Picture
  • The Decisive Alternative
  • Weighing the Alternatives
  • Sweetening the Sour Apple
  • How Much Is at Stake
  • Conclusion

Chapter 3 - The Tunnel as Such

  • The Flagship Book
  • The Tunnel in Question
  • A Disqualified Universe
  • Conclusion

Chapter 4 - The Tunnel's Floor: Scientism

  • The Flagship Book
  • Tracking Scientism
  • Spinosa's Conatus
  • Of Rocks and Pebbles
  • From Warfare to Dialogue
  • Colonizing Theology
  • The Tilt of the Negotiating Table

Chapter 5 - The Tunnel's Left Wall: Higher Education

  • The Flagship Book
  • What Happened
  • The Pull of Science on the Other Disciplines
  • From Nonbelief to Disbelief
  • The Ineffectiveness of the Theological Response
  • The New Professionalism
  • Conclusion

�Chapter 6 - The Tunnel's Roof: The Media

  • The Flagship Book
  • Kansas Update
  • The General Picture
  • Who Pays the Piper?
  • Conclusion

Chapter 7 - The Tunnel's Right Wall: The Law

  • The Flagship Book
  • Employment Division v. Smith
  • The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
  • Marginalizing Religion
  • Handling Creationism
  • Conclusion

Part Two: The Light at the Tunnel's End

Chapter 8 - Light

  • The Physics of Light
  • Light Subjectively Experienced
  • Conclusion

Chapter 9 - Is Light Increasing: Two Scenarios

  • God is Dead
  • The Eyes of Faith
  • Clearing the Ground

Chapter 10 - Discerning the Signs of the Times

  • Straws in the Wind
  • Counterculture and the New Age Movement
  • Four Modern Giants Revisited

Chapter 11 - Three Sciences and the Road Ahead

  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Cognitive Psychology

Chapter 12 - Terms for the Detente

  • A Glimpse of David Bohm
  • Science Rightly Defined
  • The Limits of Science
  • Division of Labor
  • The Cow That Stands on Three Legs

Chapter 13 - This Ambiguous World

  • Life's Cosmic Inkblot
  • A Sidewise Glance at the Social Scene

Chapter 14 - The Big Picture

  • The Great Divide
  • Subdivisions
  • A Hierarchical Reality
  • Topdown Causation and the Multiple Degrees of Reality
  • Return to the Inkblot

�Chapter 15 - Spiritual Personality Types

  • Characterology
  • Ubiquity
  • The Atheist: There is No God
  • The Polytheist: There Are Many Gods
  • The Principle of One-Way Mirrors
  • The Monotheist: There Is One God
  • The Mystic: There Is Only God

Chapter 16 - Spirit

  • The Self/Wolrd Divide
  • Tacit Knowing
  • Spirit and Its Outworkings
  • Consciousness and Light
  • Happy Ending

Epilogue - We Could Be Siblings Yet


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