Renowned scholar in comparative religion to speak

Referred to as “the world’s ambassador to religions everywhere, a man of passionate intellect and immense heart” by theologian Thomas Moore, Huston Smith, a nationally renowned scholar in comparative religious studies, will discuss Religion’s Role in an Acutely Troubling Era at 7 p.m. Monday, March 18, in Chase Hall Lounge, 56 Campus Ave. The public is invited to attend this annual Bertha May Bell Andrews Memorial Lecture in Ethics and Education free of charge.

“America’s religious landscape is changing before our eyes, and no one has done more to prepare us for the new religious reality than Huston Smith,” said television journalist Bill Moyers, who hosted the 1996 five-part PBS special, The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith.

“The greatest threat to peace in the 19th century was nationalism,” says Smith. “In the 20th century it was ideology as nations lined up on the two sides of the Iron Curtain. In the 21st century, the great threat to peace will be ethnic conflict. As religion is a component of ethnicity, we are left with the question of whether in this century it can actualize its dream of being an agent of peace or must it succumb to being co-opted by politicians and used to manipulate their subjects. Since September 2001, few doubt that religion matters. The question is, for good or evil?”

Smith is the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Syracuse University. A professor of religion at Washington University in St. Louis for a decade, followed by 15 years on the faculty at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he also served as visiting professor of religious studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Smith has written 12 books, including The World’s Religions (Harper San Francisco, 1992), a two and a half million bestseller first published as The Religions of Man in 1952. His most recent book is entitled Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (Harper San Francisco, 2001). The Journal of Ethnomusicology lauded his discovery of Tibetan multiphonic chanting as “an important landmark in the study of music,” and his film documentaries on Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Sufism have all won international awards.

A signature talk at Bates since 1975, the Andrews Lecture is a memorial to Bertha May Bell Andrews, who served on the Bates faculty from 1913 to 1917 and established the women’s physical education program at the college. Her son, Dr. Carl B. Andrews of the Bates class of 1940, established the lectureship.

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