Date of Award

12-5-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Lloyd

First Reader

Dr. John Killigrew

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to discuss the progression of Japanese religion from its earliest inception to the present day. In the United States, religion is considered to be a very personal phenomenon, one totally disassociated from any government control. My intention is to demonstrate that this has not always been the situation in Japan, and to explain how and why the state became so influential in the religion of its citizens. I will also attempt to explain why the disassociation of religion and the state coincided with a general wave of religious apathy that spread across the country.

This thesis begins with a history of primitive Shinto, the only indigenous Japanese religion, and the introduction of Buddhism from Korea. The evolution of these religions, and the influence of Confucianism on their development, is also discussed. I then move on to the coming of Christianity, and the religious policies of the Tokugawa shogunate. A brief history of the Meiji Restoration follows, along with a detailed explanation of State Shinto, emperor worship, and the strict religious precepts of the new government, which remained in effect until the end of World War II. Following the separation of state and religion, I move on to the introduction of New Religions, with an emphasis on Soka Gakkai, one of the most popular. The thesis concludes with an analysis of current attitudes toward religion in Japan, with a focus on the opinions of college students.

It is my hope that readers will come away from this thesis with a greater appreciation for the beauty and diversity that comprises the religions of Japan, and a better understanding of how and why these religions developed the way they did.

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