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Becoming-Religion:Re-/thinking Religion with A. N. Whitehead and Keiji Nishitani
For Whitehead and Nishitani, a rethinking of religion necessitates a rethinking of the metaphysics that underlie one’s concept of religion. The dynamism of religion is unveiled only within the metaphysical grounding of an ontology that accommodates the philosophical preference of “becoming” as an ultimate category of reality. The novelty of Whitehead’s theory of religion lies in the process metaphysics that it presupposes. For him, religion, like the whole of reality, is inherently developing and evolving. What Nishitani offers is a rethinking of Western understanding of religion by way of an Asian speculative approach grounded in Zen Buddhism. He argues that Western religion, particularly Christianity and Judaism, has succumbed to the modern predicament of nihilism, or relative nothingness. He radicalizes this same nihility towards absolute nothingness (śūnyatā). For both Whitehead and Nishitani, despite the distortion of religion by religious fundamentalists, genuine religion consolidates and points a society towards its real destiny. However, the realization of religion’s role necessitates reflexivity on its own inherent dynamism.