Analysis Of. Smith 's ' The Illustrated World 's Religions

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The book that I read for this paper was Huston Smith’s The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions. To very broadly summarize the point of this book, Smith’s (1994) book is an overview of several major world religions including their ideals, practices, major figures, cultural results and their sub-sects (Smith, 1994). Due to the sheer breadth of this book, I will be focusing my analysis on the cultural results of some of the religions presented. While reading this book, I found that some religions mentioned shared an interesting commonality when it came to cultural results. That is that, whether or not a religion focused on a corporal deity, they tended to also become associated with or even established societal…show more content…
Hinduism and the caste system are not the only example of a religion being associated with social change, however. Next, Buddhism also had an impact on the society it was born into. To start out defining what Buddhism is, this particular religion focuses more on humans including finding ways to overcome human suffering (Smith, 1994). Parts of this religion include the four noble truths, including that life can go awry and that suffering is born from that, that the reason why people suffer from life is because they have selfish desires, that those desires can be overcome, and, finally, that the Eight Fold Path is the way out of suffering (Smith, 1994). To define it, the Eight Fold Path are edicts on how to live a right life and it includes ideas such as having an occupation that does not go against Buddha’s ideas and also the idea of not speaking ill about others (Smith, 1994). To get into how this particular religion shaped society, it is important to first note that Buddhism ended up existing with Hinduism in India at a certain point in time. However, now although there are Buddhists around the world, they are generally not in India (Smith, 1994). This is because Hinduism ended up absorbing some parts Buddhist ethos into their own religious structure, and some of their practices as well. To be more specific, this included changes such as decreasing the importance of the traditional caste structure as well as adding in segments of
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