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Religion: Shape and Shadow

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This paper gives the verbatim text of an inaugural lecture given at Lancaster University in May 1992. The first part distinguishes between the "shape" of religion as reflective observers seek to discern it and the shadow cast upon it by the assumptions of the various religions themselves. The second part offers a new view of the "shape" of contemporary Japanese religion, in order briefly to illustrate what is meant by discernment of the shape of religion. The third part sets out a view of Religious Studies for universities which takes account both of the plurality of religions and, without adopting any particular religious stance, of the complexity of questions which arise. A reliable characterization of the phenomena and a steady discernment of the shape of religion are seen as necessary prerequisites for the wider range of explanation, analysis and comment which also have their place. Any threat of control by religions themselves should however be averted.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies Lancaster University GB-Lancaster LA1 4YG

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