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It is difficult to know what precisely Jim Makin is getting at in his Aug. 15 letter, “Common Western fetishism.”

After speaking out against “Westerners who advocate Buddhism and other Asian religions,” he goes on to direct his remarks against Christian Westerners in general, as when he asserts that “philosophy is not taught much in Western schools,” which he attributes to “the influence of religion.”

I would maintain it as an incontrovertible fact that, wherever the Christian religion has prevailed in the West, a prominent place has been given both to philosophy and to the humanities — notably, I might add, in the schools of Jesuits, who once had the reputation of being the “educators of Europe.”

Makin also implies that the acceptance of Christianity in the West is a choice of “superstition over humanism.” But there is no need of such a choice, since from its very origins, Western humanism has been deeply Christian as represented by such notable English humanists as John Colet and Thomas More.

True, there is a modern variety of humanism that is anti-Christian, but there is also a strong presence of Christian humanism as represented by such notable French philosophers as Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson.

Makin may well express his agreement “with the Epicurean view,” and he is welcome to state his opinion. But others are no less free to follow other opinions, and who is he, as a professional humanist, to gainsay them?

peter milwardsophia university
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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