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State Shintō as a Heretical Secularism

State Shintō as a Heretical Secularism

Chapter:
(p.141) 5 State Shintō as a Heretical Secularism
Source:
Faking Liberties
Author(s):
Jolyon Baraka Thomas
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226618968.003.0006

When the United States Department of State abruptly announced that Shintō would be disestablished as a state religion about a month into the Occupation, it placed the occupiers in an awkward position. Presurrender orders had said that they were to proclaim religious freedom for all, but their new mandate demanded that they target a particular religion for eradication. Their task was complicated not only because it was hard to guarantee universal religious freedom while simultaneously abolishing a particular religion, but also because Japan technically had no state religion in law. In fact, the constitution of 1889 had included a clear, if circumscribed, guarantee of religious freedom. Turning to religious studies experts for guidance in how to solve this dilemma, Civil Information & Education Section official William K. Bunce settled on using the previously obscure academic concept of "State Shintō" to create a vision of “bad secularism” against which the occupiers’ concept of religious freedom (“good secularism”) could be juxtaposed. This endeavor initiated a years-long collaborative process that enrolled both Japanese thought leaders and American officials in redefining religious freedom as a universal human right.

Keywords:   religious freedom, State Shintō, religious studies, William Bunce, Shintō Directive, human rights, D.C. Holtom, Katō Genchi, Anesaki Masaharu, B.H. Chamberlain

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