Report: Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” Session 1

30 April, 2008 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

On April 28th, the first session of the Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” was held.

This seminar is part of the UTCP education program and we aim to build common ground of the discussion on the subject. According to Prof. Haneda, the program director, many terms are used to explain “secularization”, “religion” and “state” (ex. laïcité; spirituality; nation, country). In present studies, each term is used as to interests of researchers. It is important for us to define precisely the meanings of these terms. In this seminar, we shall read basic studies in Japanese about religion which cover different areas, and aim to build the common understanding on the subject.

In the first session, we read Yoshiko ASHIWA, “Modernity and Creation of the Religion,” the Iwanami Series about Religion, vol.1 (Japan: Iwanami-Shoten, 2003) and Yoshihito SHIMADA, “Ceremony and Ethos: Reconsideration about Secularism,” the Iwanami Series about Religion, vol.2 (Japan: Iwanami-Shoten, 2004). The former focuses on the issue of the modernization and religion in China, especially during 19th-20th centuries and the present day. She defined the term “religious space” as “religious activities and networks built by themselves; arrangement of the religion in the institution of the state and the legal system; space which is expanded by the religious ideology and cosmological imagination; and physical, institutional space concerned by religion, including economy, education and the conservation of nature.” In her argument, she took up the issue of Buddhism in China as a case of contradiction connoted by the modernity, which means contradiction between public welfare and religious liberty. In China, Buddhism expanded its religious space and attained the economic growth under the control of the Chinese government. By this issue, she presents a model of the relation between religion and state which is not the alternative of nationalism or faith.

To this argument, attendants of the seminar raised a question about the definitions of the word “decline” and “revival” of Buddhism. A question about the correctness of the generalization of Nanputuo-Temple to Buddhism in China was also raised. Moreover, the relation between the Chinese government and other religions, especially Confucianism, Worship of Mazu and Islam, was discussed. Prof. Haneda indicated that the control of the religion in China gives a good example of laïcité and it would be better for us to understand the meaning of the laïcité as “the control of the religion by the state” rather than “separation of religion and politics.”

In the latter, SHIMADA defined the secularism as “denial of the religious authority and value.” He also explained “the Clash of Civilizations,” quoting from the book written by Samuel Phillips Huntington, as the conflict between secularism of the western modern civilization and religious civilization of Islam, not between Christianity and Islam. He concluded that there was an idea of the Protestantism which emphasized the importance of the internal faith behind the secularism of western modern ideas. He also insisted that the idea of the Protestantism led to the conflict between the secularism and Catholic which regarded the rite and Christian doctrines as most important. In spite of the suggestiveness of his argument, which was attained from the research on the cultural anthropology, there was a lack of understanding about the fundamental principle, especially about western modern ideas and Islam. Attendants raised objection to his understandings about theories of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and discussion concentrated on the prerequisite conditions of his argument. His definition of secularism was also criticized in the discussion, yet the discussion was useful to define the term clearly.

Reported by Keiko OTA

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