As a respected religious expert from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Huston Smith delved deep into the religious dimensions of human life in his book entitled Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (2001). In this book, Smith posited the iniquities of modernity had disparaged religion. For example, both the higher education system in his view operated without a soul and the current legal system he contended is amoral.
This is primarily why he pushed that religion really matters because using it; the human heart could seek its own answers to questions left unexplained by science and the modern worldview. At present, every social institution—media, government, education and science– has its own worldviews. Institutions are called as such because there are lots of people involved and definitely it’s not easy for them to get along well. Also, wisdom is limited. The ideals of the United States are wonderful but there are many flaws in our national life. Does anyone think it doesn’t make mistakes and does bad things at times?
It’s the same with regard to religion. For example, according to Smith (2001), the definitions of science and religion are inextricably bound to any position one encounters concerning the relationship between science and religion. There is no such thing as some neutral point of beginning from which we may compare alternative arguments, as these arguments necessarily concern not only the relationship between science and religion, but their essential identity as well. Undeniably, modern society has placed unfaltering trust in science and pushed religion to the periphery of life or excluded it.
Definitely, it cannot meet the deepest needs of its members. That is why religion matters; Smith (2001) insisted that it can meet those needs. He likened modern society to be slithering within a tunnel of its own making, with scientism (the mistaken view that science has all the answers) as its floor, American higher education (locked onto scientism) as its left wall, the media (which do not take religion seriously) its ceiling, and law (which forces religion out of the public sector) as its right wall. Smith (2001) deemed in his book that people should allow science and religion their proper roles.
And so to eclipse or overshadow or outrank the religious worldview with the scientific worldview, Smith suggested, leaves us without orientation as to how to live our lives. Evaluation Huston Smith (2001) had produced an academic, yet readable and almost short of being preachy style of exposition of what he perceived to be as the root of our spiritual crisis: the traditional, spiritual view of humanity and the cosmos has suffered a loss of plausibility under the assaults of modernity (with its scientific cosmology) and a loss of moral authority under the assault of postmodernity’s “fairness revolution.
” modernity and postmodernity have their own problems—they are incapable of satisfying the hunger for meaning that is the strength of the traditional view, nor can they accommodate the spiritual experiences that people will always insist on having. Moreover, Smith (2001) deemed that our modern/postmodern societ has transformed into a tunnel-like fashion, with scientism as its floor, higher education and the law as its walls, and the media as its roof.
He found signs of light at the end of the tunnel, though, in science (which is beginning to sense its limits), in the optimism of the New Age movement (despite its sometimes indiscriminate enthusiasms), and in an increasing skepticism about such icons of modernity as Freud, Marx, Darwin, and Nietzsche. Finally, he explored ways of looking at reality that locate the world explored by science within the spiritual world of tradition—wider than science’s cosmos, and far richer in meaning.
Smith’s stature as a scholar might have given him more credibility than scientists and evangelicals, who often discuss the controversial topics that Smith (2001) tackled in his book. Smith (2001) employs a disarming tone replete with amusing anecdotes and quips. Also, he even toned down the audacity of his claims and simplified the difficulty of his subject matter. Admittedly, Smith (2001) did not deny that his thoughts might get the ire of critics that inevitably arise when non-scientists engage and challenge scientific claims.
Despite that, Smith demonstrated an impressive grasp of physics and biology, and often referred to scientists who share his concerns. In fact, after browsing through the book’s first half that correlated science, philosophy and the media in the marginalization of religion, Smith advanced in the second half elucidating and affirming metaphysical worldviews and imagining ways for science and religion to partner more equitably in the future. However, the book often falls to be grasping on sweeping statements without veritable proof.
One example of this is when Smith (2001) believed that every person is like himself: There is within us–in even the blithest, most lighthearted among us–a fundamental disease. It acts like an unquenchable fire that renders the vast majority of us incapable in this life of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies in the marrow of our bones and the deep regions of our souls (p. 28). Although readers could definitely pick something up from reading the expositions of Smith, what he formed as a view about science is superficial and his social analysis is quite subjective.
Often riddled with worldviews from famous thinkers, Smith (2001) succeeded in connecting the essence of religion with the sciences and to modern society but he failed to convene these thoughts in an appropriate manner where the reader could apply it to his or her life. In the end, reader might be a bit confused as Smith (2001) concludes without a concrete answer to the question he posed in his title. What could be suggested is that Smith’s book (2001) should have featured the perspectives of a diverse group of religions.
Smith (2001) should have forwarded to the fundamental ideas and emphasized the often neglected point of departure that both science and religion are, in important respects, inextricably human endeavors. By discussing the implications for scientific knowledge, religious meaning, and the relationship between the two, Smith (2001) could have achieved a different flavor of a scholarly yet personal reflection on the paradox of how science and religion are enmeshed in the human experience.