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Video

Interview Date

2-16-1999

Abstract

Why should people be interested in studying religion?

Dr. Ninian Smart discusses why people should be interested in religion. He states that the study of religion is important to almost all aspects of human existence. Dr. Smart notes that when he began studying religion, many academics did not understand that the field of religious studies attempts to look at religion from an objective point of view. The study of religion helps us understand the world and the human beings in it. He remarks that political leaders often dismiss the importance of religion and, for example, did not anticipate the Islamic revolution in Iran.

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Playing Time: 3:10

About the Interviewee:

Dr. Ninian Smart was educated at Glasgow University and at Queen’s College, Oxford. He held teaching appointments at Yale University, London University, Banaras Hindu University and Birmingham University. He became the founding Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster University in 1967 and in 1976 he came to the University of California at Santa Barbara as the first J.F. Rowny Professor in the Comparative Study of Religions and spent part of each year at that institution and at Lancaster University until his retirement from Lancaster in 1982.

A prolific author/lecturer, his book The World’s Religions (1989) reached a considerable popular readership. He pioneered the defense of religious studies as a secular discipline which helped the formation of departments in many public universities, especially in the United States. During his life-time of scholarship, he held the presidencies of major learned societies in the study of religions, notably the American Academy of Religion, the largest professional society for Religious Studies in the Americas. Dr. Smart died in his native England in 2001.

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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