by Antonia Levi
Regardless of whether or not they are actively religious, most young Americans have been strongly influenced by the dominant Judeo-Christian tradition. For them, religion is monotheistic, exclusive, doctrinal, and serious. That makes it difficult for them to understand the Japanese, who are pantheistic, inclusive, syncretic, and often downright playful about beliefs and myths that seem to lie somewhere between allegories and fairy tales. It is not just that the gods are unfamiliar, but that the whole definition of religion is different from anything most Americans have ever known.