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The Meaning and End of Religion

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  62 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
In The Meaning & End of Religion, Smith contends that religion is a peculiarly European concept of recent origin. Practitioners of any given faith don't come to regard what they do as 'religion' until they have sprouted that form of collective self-regard which causes them to have absorbed the perspective of the outsider. Religion, in the modern sense of the word, is a ...more
Paperback, 356 pages
Published January 5th 1991 by Augsburg Fortress Publishing (first published January 1st 1959)
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Erik Graff
May 25, 2015 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Howard Burkle, Dennis Haas, Harold Kasimow
Shelves: religion
This is a truly important book, the thesis of which is summarized in its description here. It was assigned to all Religious Studies majors taking the Senior Seminar with Grinnell's faculty which then consisted of the Rev. Dennis Haas, Harold Kasimow, Howard Burkle and two junior faculty on terminal assignment. The three senior faculty listed are to be commended for selecting this text as a required capstone reading.
This classic work is a study of the evolution of "religion" as a reified, essentialist concept in modern intellectual history. Religion, as Cantwell Smith persuasively argues, is--when understood either as designating an absolute "thing" in human experience ("religion in general") or as indicating a particular instantiation of that thing ("the Christian religion" or "the Buddhist religion")--purely a modern intellectualist construct, one that has no parallel in pre-modern Western thought or in t ...more
Andika Pratama
Apr 30, 2014 Andika Pratama rated it it was amazing
This book is very enlightening to me. To all those who have developed some prior judgments just by reading the title, note that this is not about the end of "religion" as you understand it. It is more about the exploration of the term "religion" itself, which is nowhere said in any religious scripture, with the exception of the Qur'an. But even so, according to Smith's analysis, what the Qur'an means by "religion" (din) is not the same at all as the term "religion" that we in modern times seem t ...more
Apr 17, 2015 Avery rated it liked it
This book still has plenty of food for thought, but it is quite dated now. In particular, when one takes into account the critical work that occupies most of the first half, the conclusion seems overly optimistic and kind of leaves the modern reader hanging.
Feb 16, 2013 David rated it really liked it
Far denser in thought and language than I recall its being in the late 80s when I was in seminary, a crucial work in defining what religion does in and for human life.
Harmony Courtney
Dec 09, 2011 Harmony Courtney rated it it was amazing
Very heavy text only for those really strong in their faith.
Aug 23, 2007 John rated it liked it
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Wilfred Cantwell Smith (July 21, 1916 – February 7, 2000) was a Canadian professor of comparative religion who from 1964–1973 was director of Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions. The Harvard Gazette characterized him as one of the field's most influential figures of the past century. In his 1962 work The Meaning and End of Religion he notably and controversially questioned the validi ...more
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“Where only angels tread, he would be a fool to rush in; though perhaps the wise may preserve their dignity if, aware of their presumption, they enter cautiously.” 0 likes
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