Internet Use Among Religious Followers: Religious Postmodernism in Japanese Buddhism

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Abstract

Strong sect organizations are a feature of traditional Buddhist denominations in Japan. Having long benefited from the protection of Japan’s feudal society, these once strong organizations have been buttressed by factors of social change in the modern and post-modern eras, including modernization and the evolution of the media. The Internet is a rich source of information about innovations of religions adapting to social change. To examine these changes, I undertook a survey from 2002 to 2004 of 2,007 followers and religious specialists. The results highlight a critical attitude among followers: Sending and receiving messages in the interaction between a religious group and its followers results in followers expanding the scope of allowable subjects of criticism, and they have begun to entertain doubts regarding their faith systems. We may infer that in postmodern faith, horizontal interaction among religious followers will take on an increasingly important role in comparison with the vertical (top-down) structure of traditional doctrines.

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