WORLDVIEWS: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs by Ninian Smart
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WORLDVIEWS: Crosscultural Explorations of Human Beliefs

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An excellent short introduction to the study of religion. Smart (U. of California, Santa Barbara & U. of Lancaster, England) has written a whole shelf full of books on comparative religion, but none more compact or tightly organized than this one. He begins with an inventory of ""worldviews"" (a term encompassing both religion in the traditional sense and ideology), dividing the world up into six ""main blocs of belief"": the partly Judeo-Christian, partly pluralistic West; the various ""Marxisms"" of Eastern Europe and Asia; the ""Islamic Crescent,"" stretching from North Africa to Indonesia; the Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, etc. of ""Old Asia""; the rapidly evolving Third World Catholicism of Central and South America; and the many faiths of Black Africa and the Pacific. Smart then examines these blocks under six headings: doctrinal, mythic, ethical, ritual, experiential, and social. After summarizing the major secularist critiques of religion (Feuerbach, Marx, Durkheim, Freud, the logical positivists), he speculates on its future--predicting that, given the failure of atheistic humanism to lessen alienation and create usable patterns of meaning, religion will flourish. Smart's presentations are consistently broad-minded, clear, and to the point. He deftly explains, for example, such divergent items as the classic arguments (ontological, cosmological, teleological) for God's existence and the Islamic view of women, together with modern objections to both. He gives beginners a solid grasp on basic notions like shamanism, mysticism, myth and demythologizing, sacrifice, karma, nirvana, etc. Worldviews, he concludes, are ""experiments in living,"" and in the emerging era of international cultural ""federalism"" a sympathetic acquaintance with them, regardless of one's ultimate commitment, is essential. A first-rate popularization, especially recommended for adult education groups.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1983
ISBN: 0130209805
Publisher: Scribners