Where State Meets Spirituality: Reflecting on HON 104 with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto

Author:  Liz Bazzoli

I’ve never had a religious background, nor do I come from a very religious family, so religion has never been a major component of my life. At the same time, I have always been eager to explore spirituality. When I decided to attend DePaul, one of my goals was to learn more about religion and find some sense of internal faith, however that might manifest. Naturally, when I saw that the honors program provided a class that analyzed religion’s role in politics, I was immediately interested. Politics were a passion of mine, and I wanted to learn more about religion, so I thought perhaps combining the topics would give me a better appreciation of each. I am happy to report that HON 104: “Intersection of Religion and Politics” with Dr. Yuki Miyamoto did exactly that. 

This class has introduced me to a wide array of concepts and ideas I had never anticipated exploring. I never expected the class to be philosophical, but I have found myself questioning my thought process and worldview throughout this class. We have read about the myth of neutrality and the politics of labelling certain belief systems as “religious” and others as “secular” – a process that ultimately prioritizes Western thought and perpetuates imperialism. We analyze global perceptions of religious groups and how these perceptions might be misinformed and can possibly result in political violence. We even debate whether church and state should act as separate entities. I went into the class hoping to learn more about how religion interacts with politics, but now this class has me questioning if there is any distinction between the two at all!

Because of the philosophical topics we explore in class, the readings are often verbose and difficult to understand. Despite this, Dr. Miyamoto does an excellent job reviewing the material and helping lead class discussions on the readings. She does this not only through live Zoom lectures but also through online materials where she helps breakdown the week’s reading assignments. Dr. Miyamoto utilizes digital resources like D2L and VoiceThread well, and she has done an excellent job adapting this class for an online environment. Even though we’re all isolated, she still makes the extra effort to chat with us at the beginning of every class and encourages us to engage and discuss with each other outside of class. Dr. Miyamoto is clearly thoughtful and welcoming, and she makes the class all the more understandable and enjoyable. Overall, I appreciate that this class has made me more mindful in my perception of the world. Maybe it is a sign of naivete, but I never gave much thought into the politics of classification. There is a wide array of man-made constructs I take for granted as just parts of life. Now I find myself asking, but who originally constructed it, and what function does that construct serve?  This class might not have been the education on religion or politics that I initially expected, but I do feel as though it has made me more analytical of society and the impact different ideologies have on society. For anyone who wants to view religion, politics, or just the world as a whole in a new light, I highly recommend taking Professor Yuki Miyamoto’s HON 104: “Intersection of Religion and Politics”. Serious, contemplative inquiry is bound to ensue.

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