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Video

Interview Date

11-21-1999

Abstract

How do you respond to the idea that all religions the same?

Dr. Jonathan Z. Smith discusses the question whether all religions are the same. He explains that there is truth and untruth to this question and prefers to think that religions are language systems. When you study languages in some sense they are all the same. He concludes that he does not think there are any natural similarities inherent in different religions.

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Playing Time: 3:00 minutes

About the Interviewee:

Dr. Jonathan Z. Smith is the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities at the University of Chicago and Associate Faculty in the Divinity School. Dr. Smith is an historian of religion whose research has focused on such wide-ranging subjects as ritual theory, Hellenistic religions, nineteenth-century Maori cults, and the notorious events of Jonestown, Guyana. He is known for his strong commitment to undergraduate teaching and the place of the liberal arts curriculum in the modern university. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Smith earned his B.A. from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and went on to earn his Ph.D. from what was then Yale's newly established Department of Religion. Known as primarily concerned with methodology and the development of comparative studies, Smith has fascinated scholars with his ability to reach new understandings by drawing information from seemingly unrelated sources. He is especially known for his two books: Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1988), and Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion (2004).

About the Interviewer:

Dr. Alfred Benney is a professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University. He has a Ph.D in Theology from the Hartford Seminary Foundation and teaches courses in Non-Traditional American Religions and Christian Religious Thought. His research interests include "how people learn"; "the appropriate use of technology in teaching/learning" and "myth as explanatory narrative". He has published work on teaching with technology.

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