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Faking LibertiesReligious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan$
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Jolyon Baraka Thomas

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226618791

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226618968.001.0001

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Out of the Spiritual Vacuum

Out of the Spiritual Vacuum

(p.223) 8 Out of the Spiritual Vacuum
Faking Liberties

Jolyon Baraka Thomas

University of Chicago Press

Scholars of religion eagerly took up the Occupation mandate to foster "a desire for religious freedom" in the Japanese populace. These efforts can be seen in three postwar concepts that have deeply structured the postwar academic study of Japanese religions, but that have also had global reach. The concept of "new religions" was born out of Occupation-era collaborations between representatives of marginal religious movements, military government officials, and scholars of religion as a way of protecting the rights of some minority religions by avoiding pejorative terms such as “superstition” (meishin), “lascivious heresies” (inshi jakyō), and “upstart religions” (shinkō shūkyō). In translation, the concept of “new religions” went on to become a broadly accepted category in the global religious studies academy. Similarly, the postwar notion of "Buddhist war responsibility" helped to structure the widespread expectation that Buddhism, more than other religions, is inherently politically progressive and indisputably pacifist. Finally, the concept of "State Shintō" served as an early example of a "perversion of faith," a problematic framing device that dominates "countering violent extremism" initiatives to this day.

Keywords:   religious freedom, State Shintō, Buddhist war responsibility, new religions, spiritual vacuum, religious studies, Kishimoto Hideo, William P. Woodard

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