Brian C. Ventura

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Post Religious Age: source for Philosophical guide to the Japanese Society (Part I)

Posted by Brian C. Ventura on December 28, 2010

I have always been looking for conceptual tools to help understand some fascinating aspect of the Japanese society. For some reasons, what popular media provides does not really scratch beyond the surface, and I need to go deeper than that. Religious and cultural explanations are also interesting, but following these line of explanation risks falling into some sort of relativism that may not be sufficient still.

Fortunately, I found this website about life studies. It focuses on a field of study founded by a Japanese philosopher Masahiro Morioka from Osaka University who wanted to explain what is happening in his society using concepts beyond what the obvious cultural relativist understanding can offer.

My personal favorite, from among many of his works, with some excerpts posted in the cite, is How to live in a Post-religious Age (1996). In this work, published as his personal reaction to Aum Shinrikyo cult’s 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo’s subway system, Morioka outlined how both religion and science provide no sufficient answer to how we should live our lives. He proposed that the meaning of life and death should be pursued without using religious languages, that we need to philosophize in order to understand why we live the way we live and what can we do about it. This proposal is also the guiding principle of his focus on life studies.

Question of religiosity and post-religiousity occupy a special place in Japanese society. The western concept of religion do not really capture the principles of Zen Buddhism because it is a way of life. Japan’s defeat in World War II and the public spectacle that the surrender of the Emperor has created exposed the mortality of an entity that Shintoism consider to be divine. Perhaps Morioka’s post-religious focus, strictly speaking, is not really post religious in a sense that there is really no “religious” age in the Japanese society that is parallel to the experiences of other societies.

Morioka’s concern about how the purported enlightenment purveyed by religion, which may really make us stagnate than move forward in a society is not unique to the Japanese society. In fact, all societies should be encouraged to engage in a discourse, a sort of scenario building, about  the need for a post religious age and how we all have a role to play in that stage. I see it as somewhat Nietzsche-an. Now that region is gone, that God is dead how are we to shape the way we live our life. Contrary to an apocalyptic scenario, this is an opportunity for mankind to establish new rules to propel society, to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the dead.

Side Stories No. 6

Brian C. Ventura

Leon, Iloilo



One Response to “Post Religious Age: source for Philosophical guide to the Japanese Society (Part I)”

  1. […] by Brian C. Ventura on January 18, 2011 In my earlier post (Part I) about trying to find some philosophical concepts in understanding the Japanese society, I […]

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