Report: Seminar “Secularization, Religion, State” Session 17

12 February, 2009 HANEDA Masashi, Secularization, Religion, State

The 17th session of the Seminar “Secularization, Religion, and State” was held on 26th January, 2009.

   This session was the last opportunity we meet in the academic year 2008-2009. In this session, Noriko KANAHARA (graduate student, the University of Tokyo) took up the two articles from the Perspective on the Religious History (edited by Yoshimasa IKEGAMI et. al., Iwanami-shoten, 2004, in Japanese).

   The former is “Introduction: the Perspective of the Religious History” written by Susumu SHIMAZONO. Firstly, he criticized both the theory of religious evolution which regards “world religions” (such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism) as superior to natural religion and the traditional historiography of religion which was strongly affected by it. His critical stance toward the traditional historiography of religion, however, does not mean he refutes the significance of attempts to write the history of religion in itself. Rather, he argues that it still could be valuable for the purpose of inquiring the role of religion in human history after its emergence. In the case, he highlights the specific historiography for the sake of understanding better the diversity of religions in human history. On the other hand, he doesn’t think much of the universal historiography which leads us to holistic understanding of religion.

   The latter is “On the Meanings of ‘Shinto’ in Social Context in Pre-Modern and Modern Japan” written by Jun ENDO. He indicates that there is a difference on the meanings of “Shinto” between pre-Meiji and Meiji era in Japan. In pre-Meiji era, “Shinto” as a term had the plural meanings (several social groups, doctrines). After Meiji era, “Shinto” was used as the term to indicate a specific order like Buddhism and Christianity under the influence of the governmental policy which promoted the formation of the order in order to use “Shinto” as the state religion. On ENDO’s article, KANAHARA emphasized the need to inquire about “Shinto” as belief and experience for ordinary people.

   After her presentation, we mainly discussed two perspectives on the historiography of religion; a specific one or a universal one. To which greater importance should be attached? Prof. HANEDA commented that we need a new world history adapted to the situation of contemporary world, although he fully recognized the significance of the individual and specific histories. After his comment, we entered productive discussion about this focal topic for our program.

Reported by Satoshi KATSUNUMA

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