The Essence Of Religion with Huston Smith, Ph.D.

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Who are we? Why are we here? How should we spend our few precious years on Earth? Throughout history, we've looked to religion for answers to our deepest, abiding questions. One of the foremost scholars of religion of our time, Huston Smith discusses the contemporary role of religion, the value religion continues to provide for those who choose to listen, the difference between religion and spirituality, and the commonalities of various religions. Filled with gratitude for a life spent studying the religions of the world, Smith says, "I could never exhaust the profundity of one tradition, let alone all of them, in just one lifetime." (hosted by Mark Walstrom)


Former professor at Washington University, M.I.T., and U.C. Berkeley, Smith was also the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion, Emeritus, at Syracuse University. His compelling classic, The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, has been the preeminent text for introducing the world of religious wisdom to millions, and its subject and author were the focus of a highly acclaimed 1996 series of interviews with Bill Moyers on PBS.

He is the author of many books, including:

To learn more about the work of Huston Smith go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What we hope to find in religion
  • The difference between religion and spirituality
  • Smith's definition of God
  • Common ground among the religions of the world
  • How Smith helped the Native American Church regain its religious freedom
  • Qualities of Native American religious beliefs
  • The function of dogma and doctrine in religions
  • Where organized religion may be headed
  • The greatest threat to peace
  • Dead religion vs. live religion

Host: Mark Walstrom      Interview Date: 7/31/1996      Program Number: 2656