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Sharf subjects the rhetoric of experience to severe criticism. In keeping with the new materialist perspective, he directs our attention away from the nature of any supposed experiences and asks us to consider instead the ideological functions of an appeal to a universal, experiential religion. For scholars in the West, such an appeal allows them to grant legitimacy to non-Christian religions without sacrificing the truthfulness of Chris- tianity. In the Asian context, the rhetoric of experience supported twen- tieth-century Japanese imperial ambitions against China and the West by portraying Japanese culture as a unique expression of an experiential version of Zen. 8
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