“Religion for the World of Tomorrow” (1964) by Imaoka Shin’ichirō


Imaoka Shin’ichirō, President, Japan Free Religious Association


Religion of tomorrow is not necessarily a new religion. Almost all established religions will survive as a religion of tomorrow if they only follow the footsteps of Jesus who was himself a man of religion of tomorrow in his own days. Jesus had no idea of withdrawing from Judaism and remained a faithful Jew for life. He said:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

Jesus was not, however, satisfied with Judaism as it was. He reformed and even revolutionized Judaism in many respects and that was the reason why he was not understood by his contemporaries and was forced to look forward to finding his true friends or disciples after his death.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you: He that believes on me, the work that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

It is interesting to note that Gautama Buddha also taught a religion of tomorrow. He had no intention of founding a new religion, Buddhism. He kept advising his disciples not to follow him blindly and not to worship him as a kind of god in particular, always emphasizing the teaching that Dharma (Eternal Truth) is the only object of worship and devotion. Gautama was fully convinced that Dharma can be grasped by self-realization only.

Gautama’s religion was autonomous, self-creative and dynamic accordingly. The following quotation from Hekiganroku (a Zen classic) will clarify the point most adequately:

“If the wisdom of the disciple is the same as the master’s, the virtue of the master diminishes by half. The disciple repays his master only by transcending him.”

Buddhism is, therefore, qualified to be a religion of tomorrow if it only keeps to the original intention of Gautama and makes efforts to wash off the dirt attached to it in the course of its history.

The same inference can be applied to Hinduism, Judaism and Islam. My conclusion is, therefore, that all those five world religions will outlive as religions of tomorrow although their historical forms, ie. creeds, dogmas, rituals etc., may and should change. I have no intention to ignore the role of dogmas, creeds and rituals in religion, but we must not forget the fact that religion is always

“Something More” than creeds, dogmas and rituals and that “Something More” is Something autonomous, creative, dynamic and is the very essence of religion.

And that very essence of religion is just what we call Liberal Religion. To sum up, therefore, Religion of Tomorrow is Liberal Religion. Liberal Religion is, however, not an institution and should be realized by particular religions, i.e., liberal Hinduism, liberal Judaism, liberal Buddhism, liberal Christianity and liberal Islam and perhaps some other liberal religions. And it is my earnest expectation that all those liberal religions will understand and co-operate with each other and organize United Religions as the spiritual foundation of United Nations eventually.

There are some people who are ashamed to imitate statesmen in organizing United Religions. I believe, however, religion should not be monopolized by professional religionists. There is no doubt about the secular character of the United Nations, but, the United Nations as the most advanced and most practical world-peace movement can also be called religious in its broadest and truest sense of the word. Liberal Religion or Religion of Tomorrow should draw truths from any source, not only from the professional religious sphere, but also from secular circles in order that it may grow fully. According to the Liberal Religious standpoint of view, all truths not only religious, but social, cultural and scientific truths are also sacred and integral.

Tokyo, April 10, 1964