Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1916-) A Canadian by birth, Smith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded the Chaveau Medal of the Royal Society of Canada in 1974.

A specialist in Islamic studies, Smith is among the most distinguished of those scholars who have sought to establish common ground between apparently diverse religious traditions. According to him, it is a mistake to envisage each "religion"—for example, "Christianity" or "Islam"—as an entity distinct from other "religions." Rather, we should envisage humanity as involved in a single religious history, wherein individuals and social groups relate to the transcendent each in their own terms. He distinguishes between "faith," or personal relation to the transcendent, and "cumulative traditions," consisting of the scriptures, temples, rituals, doctrinal systems, dances, and so on through which such faith has been transmitted and expressed.

Hugo Meynell


W. C. Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion (London: SPCK, 1978)

W. C. Smith, Towards a World Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981).

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