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Selections from The World's Religions by Huston Smith, Copyright 1991 by Huston Smith. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine."

Huston Smith, The World's Religions, Part Two

What a strange fellowship this is, the God-seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does is sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead, or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full-throated chorus?

We cannot know. All we can do is try to listen carefully and with full attention to each voice in turn as it addresses the divine.

Such listening defines the purpose of this book. It may be wondered if the purpose is not too broad. The religions we propose to consider belt the world. Their histories stretch back thousands of years, and they are motivating more people today than ever before. Is it possible to listen seriously to them within the compass of a single book?

The answer is that it is, because we shall be listening for well-defined themes. These must be listed at the outset or the pictures that emerge from these pages will be distorted.

1. This is not a textbook in the history of religions. This explains the scarcity of names, dates, and social influences in what follows. There are useful books that focus on such material. This one too could have been swollen with their facts and figures, but it is not its intent to do their job in addition to its own. Historical facts are limited here to the minimum that is needed to locate in space and time the ideas the book focuses on. Every attempt has been made to keep scholarship out of sight in foundations that must be sturdy, but not as scaffolding that would obscure the structures being examined.

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