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Taming the Gods, by Ian Buruma

Author Interview by Lisa Webster

Few writers could to pick a theme like the global interplay of democracy and religion and hope to utter the final word on the subject. In his latest book, Ian Buruma, a journalist and historian with over a dozen seminal books to his credit, does something better. The three essays in Taming the Gods each work to unsettle assumptions about the divide between religion and the secular, and to set a new kind of conversation in motion.

When we met last month in San Francisco, I began our conversation by commenting on the scope of the book. Buruma, best known for his expertise on Japan, told me he’d written partly to contest the idea that religion doesn’t matter in the political life of East Asia. “It’s a different kind of religion,” he explained, “the idea of spiritual authority still plays a big role.” And, while it operates more subtly than the dogmas and conventions of monotheistic religion, this spiritual authority is still a factor in what Buruma calls “the political excesses of religion.”

Buruma’s careful way of making distinctions among things that appear to be similar—or drawing attention to ways in which near cousins are actually worlds apart—seemed to me, after our short meeting, to be a hallmark of his singularly patient mode of intellectual work.

Read the original article at: Religion Dispatches

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