Re-Imagining “Religion”: World Religions and the Non-“Religious” Context

By William Acres.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Tomoko Masuzawa’s “The Invention of World Religions” poses distinct challenges for those who teach that subject matter in North America, and Canada in particular. By taking examples from Buddhism, Shinto and Tao I examine the categories and evidence for calling these traditions, cultural practices, historical and genealogical inheritances as dynamic entities which have been re-defined and re-imagined in an entirely “alien” concept. Here are asked the following questions: how can “religion” translate into the categories of their birth culture and back into the nomenclature of World Religions without losing a sense of the needs of students, instructors, and the integrity of the subject matter. The central point: “religion” has both structural and pedagogical advantages which, if used without explanation, pose serious evidential and knowledge breaks. Using James Legge’s contentious theory of the “Tao” three cases (Shinto, Buddhist, and Tao) may illustrate some problems and solutions about the codification of “Asian” tradition in the current texts. From this I offer some insight gained while editing World Religions materials from the Canadian context.

Keywords: Religion, Asia, Shinto, Buddhism, Tao, Pedagogy, Imagined Communities, Cultural Translations, Interculturalism

Global Studies Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.43-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 657.102KB).

Dr. William Acres

Professor, Centre for International and Comparative Studies, Theology, History, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

Bill Acres and Jonathan Eeuwes have co-edited a volume of essays currently under consideration called “Religion Unbound: Finding faith in a de-secularized Canada”; as well, Acres has published on World Religions theory and pedagogy. He teaches a very large course in World Religions, where Mr Eeuwes was a research assistant, at Huron University College, a denominational liberal arts college in a major medical doctoral “secular” university. Acres did his PhD at Cambridge while a Commonwealth Scholar. He has received teaching and research awards. At present he is Canadian author for the instructor and resource manuals for Oxford University Press’s World Religions imprints for Canada. Mr Eeuwes has recently finished a MA in Theology which examined the twin Iranian narratives of Persia and Iran as put forward in the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolutionary discourse, 1979-89.


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