Dr. Martin Kraatz Speaks on Religions Today

On March 25 Tenri University sponsored a meeting that featured a lecture by Dr. Martin Kraatz, the former director of the Museum of Religions at Philipps University of Marburg. His lecture was titled “The Role of Religions Today: From the Perspective of a Historian of Religions.”

Dr. Kraatz, a historian of religions and Indologist, first pointed out that there exist among people different types of attitudes to religion, including indifference to religion, scientific and historical criticism of religions, critics within religions, and the faith and practice of individual followers . He said that, in order for a religion to play its role in a way effective even to those indifferent to religion in general, it must define not only the role which it wants to play, but also the role which “those uninterested people want to play and, actually, play in their ambience.”

Referring to religions’ reaction to academic critiques from a historical or scientific perspective, he maintained that, instead of trying to make their message compatible with science and history, “religions should make clear to their believers as well as to their academic critics that religions are compatible with life.” He said that religions are able to offer an answer to those questions that science is not, such as “Where do we come from? Where will we go to? Why do we live?”

Dr. Kraatz particularly argued the importance of individual followers of a religion. He said, “For playing a role in the world today, a religion can have no better representatives than individuals who know they are responsible for their faith and its realization.” He contended that individual followers’ assurance of faith gives their religion its credibility, which is convincingly demonstrated when they not only proclaim their faith but live it. And he concluded his lecture as follows: “Each follower of a religion should realize her or his faith, and challenge those living around, at that place where she or he lives. . . . All these innumerable places of everyday life are the stages where religions today should play their role—not globally, but in a spirit of worldwide individual realization of faith .”

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