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Is There a Universal Grammar of Religion cover

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ISBN 0-8126-9644-1
ISBN-13 978-0-8126-9644-8


128 pages

(Spring 08)

Is There a Universal Grammar of Religion?

Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Huston Smith

“Is the human capacity for religious and mystical experience hard-wired in us, by analogy with Chomsky’s universal grammar? If so, does this have any strong ontological implications for our conception of the universe? What are the relationships among 'natural piety', spiritual disciplines, and moral behavior? Is religion evolutionarily adaptive and is this question really significant for understanding the existence and role of religion in human life? These are cutting-edge topics explored in lucid prose by two prominent philosophers of religion. Whether or not one agrees with their positions, they invariably make one think, and, most importantly, they illuminate.”

—Sumner Twiss, Distinguished Professor of Human Rights, Ethics, and Religion, Florida State University

“A splendid 'Dialogue Concerning World Religions' between two eminent scholars and outstanding authors! Unlike the often rather ‘fundamentalist’ debates between fervent believers and uncompromising ‘rationalists’ here we find a refreshingly profound, respectful, and truly sympathetic exchange between a secular and a sacred view of life and the world around us. Instead of simply dismissing each other’s positions, Huston Smith and Henry Rosemont, Jr., set a new standard for exploring together the perennial question of why, or why not, to believe in a God ‘above us.’”

—Hans-Georg Moeller, author of The Philosophy of the Daodejing (2006) and Luhmann Explained (2006) and translator of the Daodejing (2007).

"Deep care for humanity illuminates these conversations between two eminent scholars who convey personal experiences of a lifetime in a mere hundred pages. Huston Smith's universal grammar of religion or as Rosemont calls it, 'intimations of the infinite', is not just an attempt to find unity in wildly inconsistent theologies and cosmologies by connecting underlying similarities through the image of a pyramid. It also constitutes a much-needed exercise in wisdom to wrestle religion from the paws of political schemes, fanaticism, economic gain, and secular impositions. . . . Reading these discussions reminds us of the reality that while we are in the state of mortality, we can only transcend the bottom of the pyramid by practicing the virtue that shines throughout this writing: humility vis- vis the awesome mystery called life."

—Nelly van Doorn-Harder, Patheja Chair for World Religions and Ethics, Valparaiso University

Henry Rosemont was George B. and Willma Reeves Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Liberal Arts at St. Mary's College of Maryland and has been a visiting professor at Brown University and Trinity University. He is the author of A Chinese Mirror (1991) and Rationality and Religious Experience (2001) and translator of The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation (1999).

Huston Smith is one of the preeminent religious scholars in the US today. He has taught religion and philosophy at the University of Colorado, Washington University in St. Louis, MIT, and Syracuse University. He is the author of The World's Religions (1991), Why Religion Matters (2001), and The Soul of Christianity (2005). Smith has been the subject of a five-part Bill Moyers documentary on PBS and his many films have won international awards.

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