World religions scholar Huston Smith, 86, gestures during an interview in New York. September 2005. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Photo: Tina Fineberg/AP

Huston Smith

Religious Thinker

Huston Smith, a foremost authority on the world’s great religions, was born to missionary parents in Suzhou, China. His lifelong spiritual journey has taken him to some of the world’s holiest places, where he has sought wisdom from inside the religious experience.

Smith holds 12 honorary degrees, and has written 14 books, including Why Religion Matters and The World’s Great Religions (originally titled The Religions of Man), still one of the most widely used college textbooks on comparative religion. His most recent book is his autobiography, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine.

In addition to Western religions, Smith has studied Zen at the most challenging monastery in Japan and was the first to study multiphonic chanting by monks in Tibet, in addition to other spiritual pilgrimages across the globe.

For fifteen years, Huston Smith served as Professor of Philosophy at M.I.T., and having formerly taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Most recently, he served as Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, while remaining Emeritus at Syracuse University where he was the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Philosophy until his retirement.