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Why Japanese values and morality confound us so

139 Comments

It is said that a Japanese person is born Shinto, marries Christian and dies Buddhist, but really it's an oversimplification.

As a social experiment, find a personals site where Japanese can select their religion from a list. You’ll see that a great deal select “agnostic.”

On top of this – Confucianism, a form of Chinese ethical humanism more so than a religion -- serves as the basis for the rules of the road.

Buddhism and Confucianism don’t really weigh in on the question of God. In fact, Japan is believed to have one of the highest numbers of atheists in the world, according to one study, at least 65%, in comparison to 3-6% in the U.S.

But Japanese atheists are a breed unto their own -- for example, they still observe cultural customs such as "omamori" – clapping their hands at the shrine at New Year's, and paying honor to the dead during "obon." According to an NHK study, about 90% of all Japanese observe the custom of visiting ancestral graves, 75% have either a Buddhist or Shinto altar in their homes and 90% of all Japanese visit shrines on New Year’s Day.

Of note: 1% of all Japanese are Christian and Japan has had seven Christian prime ministers (three Catholic, and four Protestant, among them, Yukio Hatoyama’s grandfather and Taro Aso).

There’s even a small town in the north of Japan where the locals believe that the real Jesus is buried. According to legend, Christ arrived in Japan at the age of 21 and learned Japanese before returning to Judea 12 years later to engage in his mission. His place on the cross was taken by his brother, whereupon he returned to Japan, fell in love with a local girl named Miyuko and lived happily ever after with his family until dying at the age of 106.

Upon learning that many Japanese consider themselves both Buddhist and Shinto, the first question many Westerners ask is, “How is it possible?”

And upon learning that so many are atheists, many ask, “Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?”

The answer lies in two views of human nature.

One can be summed up by the Biblical verse, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

It is the Jew of the Bible who proclaimed, “Here oh Israel, the lord is our God, the Lord is one,” and the 10 commandments which forbade the worship of other Gods. In Judeo-Christian belief, we find the birth of a monopolistic religion where idolatry and the worship of the wrong god is seen as a grave sin.

Further, according to scripture, man was placed in the Garden of Eden but forbidden from partaking of the tree of knowledge. Man sinned in partaking the apple; he was ousted from the garden, blessed with knowledge, but as a result, forever in need of redemption. He who is redeemed, goes to heaven. He who is not or sins is punished. The world is a dichotomy between Sin and Salvation, and Heaven and Hell, the choice of two paths -- these paths being judged at the gates of heaven where some Christians still believe they are greeted by Saint Peter and a choir of white winged angels.

Buddhist and Shinto belief are quite different

Death is a journey which leads to rebirth. Funeral rites are aimed at preparing the individuals for the journey. In Shintoism, there is also the concept of "kami" -- individuals being enshrined as spirits. In the process, one’s ancestors can offer hope and protection in times of need. As for death, given that the person has left one life and begun a new one, there is no need for salvation. For this reason, fear of eternal judgment is not a guiding factor in the behavior of most Japanese.

Then what is?

The answer lies in Confucianism.

Confucianism concerns itself with man’s relationship with the world around him, man’s relationship with others, with family and man’s relationship with nature. Understanding one’s behavior and its effect upon others allows the individual to lead a happy and moral life.

Today, in Japanese schools, according to the Ministry of Education guidelines, students receive about one hour a week of “moral education” over the course of their first nine years of study. Lessons cover 76 topics divided into four categories regarding self, relationship to others, relationship to nature and relationship to group and society, and include lessons covering a wide array of themes such as courtesy, consideration, friendship, modesty, contribution to society, respect for other cultures and more. For the lessons, teachers pick a few related values and integrate them into a wide variety of projects and activities

In recent years, some foreign educators have begun to study the system to look into the ways it might be adapted outside Japan. At the same time, some people argue that the curriculum has failed.

Parents have told me, “The truth is, all schools are interested in is preparing students for tests and exams – that’s all. Everything else is secondary.”

In contrast, I spoke to a manners teacher and observed her teaching adult students more traditional manners such as the proper way to walk, bow and serve tea. I asked her if these are manners that most Japanese learn at home and she said "that it was once stuff they would, but now, parents don’t have time to teach them, and they’re not learning them at school."

And so the question arises. What values do schools need to teach to resolve some of the many social problems facing Japan today, transmit its culture, and allow for modern children who are happy and healthy individuals? And what can we in the West learn from this secular approach to moral education?

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139 Comments
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I need lessons in how to walk, bow and serve tea. Without them my life would be devoid of meaning.

-13 ( +10 / -20 )

The answer for Japanese culture is this: C.R.E.A.M Cash Rules Everything Around Me.

There is no culture, no religion. This society is ruled by money. Someone once asked me how can a expat live in Japan so long and not learn Japanese? I said: Japan has a second official language. English? No, MONEY!!!!

-11 ( +12 / -20 )

And upon learning that so many are atheists, many ask, “Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?”

Because religion has nothing to do with ethics and doing right by your fellow human.

31 ( +31 / -1 )

Agree borscht. Whenever someone says, "I'm Christian!", I'm pretty darned sure that their next words will be something hateful, illegal or otherwise unsavory. This phenomenon isn't restricted to Christians, I've had similar experiences with Muslims, Hindus, etc. Religion has become a "get out of being a decent person free" card.

Ironically enough religion was the first type of law, only less honest and focusing on scaring people with monsters and gods than just saying, "Hey, do these things so that everyone is reasonably safe and happy.". Jesus was actually pretty honest about this, wiping out all other commandments (something that almost every religious scholar in the world seems to miss) and replacing them with the simple, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." super-commandment. Informed self-interest. You don't lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc, because you don't want other people to do these things to you.

The Japanese seem to understand this. Look at kuuki o yomu (reading the air), a cultural practice where you're encouraged to consider the feelings of others before saying/doing anything. It's simply informed self-interest. You don't upset other people, and they don't upset you. Simple ne? No need for religion once you've mastered the super-commandment, which I like to paraphrase as, "Don't be a dick.".

15 ( +19 / -4 )

I feel like I've read this article about 1000 times before. Japan is good because nobody really cares about religion . The end.

7 ( +11 / -5 )

Religion definitely uses fear, shame and guilt tripping to control people. With religious people there also seems to be competition to see who is more "moral", and thus closer to god, giving rise to tiers or layers or classes etc that only piss people off subconsciously. This, over time, drives people..well..insane, or at the very least they lose their way when it comes to morality since no one can be perfect.

Teaching people how to live with nature and with other people without trying to manipulate them with fear etc, will usually get you a better quality person in the end.

-1 ( +7 / -9 )

The religious environment where you grew up shaped your morals. Whether you consider yourself religious or not. Agnosticism has to be separated into many different categories, which presumably did not happen on these personal sites. Or which requires at least that the reader is interested.

In the Japanese perception, "agnostic" or "gnostic" is associated with "western style faith". Based on this viewpoint, they are agnostic. They do not even perceive Shinto as a religion in everyday speech: SHINTO is not SHUKYO, since the latter is associated only with imported (or foreign) religions. In contrary to what Eddie writes, gnosticism is on a rise in Japan. Just take a look at all the "power spot" advertisements in Japan.

Eddie compares a strict, old-fashioned Christian perspective with the typical materialistic viewpoint of young Japanese. This is utterly wrong. Modern people are used to shades of grey, even with a Christian (fundamentalists excluded) upbringing. A meaningful comparison can be done only with the same background in both groups.

Lastly, western moral rules do not originate in religion. They originate in the goal of a stable society and philosophy. All youths in the world should study Immanuel Kant, whose categorical imperative is the greatest achievement in moral and ethics:

"Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Just would like remind of one thing again.

Atheist denies the existence of a god, devil, etc outright, and atheism is a recognised religion now in a few countries. Agnostics say the existence of God/Devil(they come as a pair) cannot be proven or dis-proven so their existence/non-existence don't influence us.

In Buddhism there is NO God, Budha was a living person and simply devised a way to reach enlightment even in the current life. Buddha never had any powers performed miracles, etc people that say otherwise are distorting his teachings.

In Shintoism, there is an Origin theory and the spirits/kami are more animalistic(maybe comparable to the north-american indians where everything has a spirit).

Most japanese do practice Buddhist and Shinto rituals and there is no conflict. Suprised Xonfucionsm was mentioned but not Taoism, etc.

Herr Weber pointed it out well.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In Japan, being Japanese is in itself an religion: the more one adheres to the status quo, the more one is accepted. This can compete with any religious dogma anywhere.

5 ( +6 / -2 )

It"S ME

I feel like we're going to get into a long debate here, but anyway.... Despite what 'other countries' may define it as, Atheism is not a religion - as you say, it denies the existence of a God, and religion in general. People defining it as a religion are totally missing the point - if I support Miami Heat, and you say you don't like basketball and don't support any team, are you a basketball fan? No, you're not. Same thing with religion and atheism.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This isn't unique to Japan. In trying to organise cover in Europe for the year end holiday period I asked for volunteers to step up. Everyone said 'but it is Christmas'. Following up, no one is or was a Christian.

People follow customs blindly, not necessariy adopting religions for need.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Wow Mods, you cut the first five or so messages complaining about the quality of the article. Why??

Moderator: Because they were ill-mannered toward the author. And not one (including you) was able to state in a mature adult manner in what way they disagreed with the writer. That's what the discussion board is for.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I don't know where you got your statistics, but I think a lot of Westerners that come to do "studies" on the Japanese miss the point entirely.

Ask any Japanese person around you if they believe in reincarnation, and the vast majority will say "yes". Which would indicate a belief in some kind of higher power that's pulling the levers to make that possible... so, by definition, very few Japanese are aetheists.

Also, ask a Japanese person if they are "shinto". A large number of them will look at you quizzically, because they don't even know what Shintoism is. When I first came here, I found it hard to believe that apparently "90% of Japanese are Buddhist", but I've gradually come to accept this. A lot of them are non-practicing, yes, but the large majority are in fact Buddhist, and do believe in some higher deity.

Anyway, I find Japanese values and morality pretty much exactly in line with Western values and morality. They just express themselves differently.

1 ( +5 / -5 )

Well stated, Gyouza

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The article is I dont know, rather LARGE for the space given I guess, anyway thankfully most Japanese are neither this, that or that over there religion etc, its a good thing.

Me I obstain from religion is how I put it if ever asked, I have no interest in being involved in it. Nothing against it either unless someone starts getting in yr face about it, then its gets annoying.

Try it folks, obstaining from religion, its go for ya haha

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is the Jew of the Bible who proclaimed, “Here oh Israel, the lord is our God, the Lord is one,” and the 10 commandments which forbade the worship of other Gods. In Judeo-Christian belief, we find the birth of a monopolistic religion where idolatry and the worship of the wrong god is seen as a grave sin.

Christianity thinks it is Monotheistic, but in actuality it is not. Judaism is. The Christians, and especially the Catholics pray to statues of Jesus and Mary. That is absurd and wrong. Might as well pray to the quarry where they got the rocks to make the statues.

Confucianism concerns itself with man’s relationship with the world around him, man’s relationship with others, with family and man’s relationship with nature. Understanding one’s behavior and its effect upon others allows the individual to lead a happy and moral life.

I like his thoughts on this because ... that is why there is no bullying or pounding down the nail that sticks up here in J-Lando.

Shalom

-10 ( +3 / -12 )

Japangal.

Like any religion christianity has many sub-groups/sects(so do speak). Big different between roman catholics, lutherian/calvinistic protestants and the orthodox churches and so on.

Christianity also removed/killed a few sects(later crusades within europe) that it considered too radical.

So the practices and beliefs vary between those groups. Hence the catholic/protestant wars and why at one time there even existed 2-3 Popes within europe.

Looking at history I wouldn't call christianity a "Religion of Peace" nor one willing to "Turn the other Cheek".

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Confucianism concerns itself with man’s relationship with the world around him, man’s relationship with others, with family and man’s relationship with nature. Understanding one’s behavior and its effect upon others allows the individual to lead a happy and moral life.

This was the bit that got me too JapanGal - if Confucius did indeed spout this, and Japan has adopted confucianist principles, then something has gone badly wrong somewhere...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Thankfully Japanese are not into Judaism, i wouldn't behere if it was common. Japanese don't need the crutch of religion they have a belief in being Japanese and most believe it is the greatest place in the world to reside.

I guess most religions are for the insecure and those that need to feel part of a group, Japanese already feel part of a group just by being Japanese and this provides security.Japanese are not repressed by fairy tale stories of old and are less frustrated than many abroad who have strong religous beliefs and feel they need to live their life accordingly.

-11 ( +5 / -13 )

AFAIK, very few people still practice Confucianism(IIRC, Mao banned it).

Again, not a religion but a philosophy(big difference there).

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ask any Japanese person around you if they believe in reincarnation, and the vast majority will say "yes". Which would indicate a belief in some kind of higher power that's pulling the levers to make that possible... so, by definition, very few Japanese are aetheists.

I don't think that necessarily follows. Reincarnation could just be 'the way things are'; like it's natural for a ball-bearing to roll downhill without a 'higher power' willing it to, it's possible to believe/surmise that the death of the physical body isn't necessarily the end of life; it's just the next natural step, with no Big G needed to make things happen.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Thankfully Japanese are not into Judaism, i wouldn't behere if it was common.

Steve, could you clarify what you mean here, por favor.

All religions will disappear (thank god) only when man has evolved to the point of no longer fearing death.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The answer is that most tenets of religions are based on common sense, but have been twisted in some cases to suit the particular beliefs of that religions. For example, "Thou shalt not kill" is a pretty common sense concept in my mind.

Anyway, while I know for a fact that most Japanese 'Buddhists' (born into it) don't practice and are agnostics, I think that the culture as a whole conduct a certain amount of customs or daily behaviour derived from Buddhist/Shinto learnings, whether they know it or not (and even Confuscious). There are of course exceptions. As for following rituals like observing Obon or going to the Shrine for New Year's, it's just a custom for most, same as my family celebrating Christmas despite the fact that I'm a Buddhist and the rest of my family are athiests.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese have no less or no more contradictions, than any other nation I have experienced. Since I have been a Buddhist of some 40+ years I have found it a more suitable country than my own, which is Britain. I enjoy living in a non Christian society.

I think the strong sense of "the group" and the principle of "tatemae and honne" are more significant than whether people are Shinto, Buddhist, Atheist or even Confucianist. Most are a cocktail with some part of all those.

A strong sense of remembering their ancestors and a strong believe in ghosts.

Shinto is the bridge to the past while Buddhism is the bridge to ensure the future. Confucianism is for the present.

Unlike many other evolving nations, the Japanese never dropped anything. In pre Christian Britain the land was ruled by the Celts ( which I am one) the Druids (which I am also one) and the religions of nature. Eventually, Christianity came with the Roman invasions and the Druids and religions of nature driven out. The bagage was dropped.

The Japanese kept their historical bagage but just adapted each new one to fit in with the previous ones. A sort of Wabi Sabi.

I think there's a conflict for westerner's or at least their thinkers because they see themselves has individuals who are the center of the universe and are looking in to themselves, while the opposite is true for Japanese. They see the larger universe and consider the individual less important in the whole, so they are looking outward.

Although I don't follow any religion or believe in any kind of God, I do have a sense of the Laws of the Universe and a force or energy which is even greater than the sum parts of us all. An importance to be in sync with those Universal Laws and Buddhism can help provide the realisations to overcome the basic four sufferings of life. Birth, sickness, old age and death.

On days like the New Year, I enjoy to visit the shrines or temples, snort the incense, eat some food, offer a prayer and I think enjoy the sense of belonging to the common group, which is what is true for Japanese people too.

6 ( +7 / -2 )

Steve,

Thankfully Japanese are not into Judaism,

But they are. There are synagogues and Jewish people. There's a synagogue here in Kobe. Some of the Jewish people are Japanese.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

zichi; I agree with most of what yous ay but i think you wioudl be hard pressed to find moe cened folk han most young Japanese these days, many immersed in themselves and their own preceived self importance to the world. Just check at the large amount of ridiculous bloggers.

Being able to look at this non critically as i am neither Japan hater or Japanophile helps a lot.

-11 ( +2 / -11 )

Steve,

In a square mile of Kobe there's a synagogue, a mosque, a Catholic church, a Jain temple and a shinto temple. The mosque was the first one built in Japan and was opened in 1939. Even survived the fire bombing.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

zic. Japanese ae "NOT" into Judaism. A very small amount are, many times less than the whole of North London. There is a Catholic churrch near where i live with a congregation of 5, that doesn't mean Japanese are into the Catholic religion.

-11 ( +3 / -11 )

zichi; Your personal experineces and where you live is irrelevent. Kobe is well known as an Internatioal City , a port city of course. If you want an example from where i live, teh only religous place with 10 sq miles is a Jehovas Witness and Cathlolic Church. I mean socities where those religion have an influnece on society and preceived values. Those ridiculous faiths have no part in my life in Japan, whether is daily life or in media.

-10 ( +3 / -10 )

In my childhood, I was told so many times by my parents, grandparents, teachers, and neighbors "Bachi ga ataru=You'll be punished/something bad will happen to you if you do this (anything immoral) " Westerners might ask "punished by who?" By who is not important or no one cares by who. Still every time when I'm about to do something bad or immoral, "bachi ga ataru thing always comes to my mind, and I believe many Japaneses feel the same way.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Ms Shiratori; Similar things are said all around the world.There is the bogey man and many others that are used to scare kids.

-10 ( +2 / -10 )

Check out the JCC in Tokyo. Lots of Japanese Jews there. I do not go though, as I am not into religion at all. I do love the holidays for the foods, just like I love going to Shinto Festivals. They are so much fun. Best religion in the world. Everything has and is a god, so let's party hardy!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

JapanGal; While in summer you were surfing and celebrating Jewish food with good ole Granma and Grandpa in Florida, or so you claimed.

If people cannot understand what i am saying then they are very sad. It is like saying foreigners have little influence in Japanese life and someone posting "in my block in Tokyo there are 12 foreign families". Religions like Muslims, Judaism and Christianity do not affect or interfere with our lives in Japan, tehy ahve no influenece on societya nd how it behaves.

-11 ( +2 / -12 )

Steve,

I forgot to mention, in that same square mile, there's a Free Mason's Lodge, which is on the grounds of the Kobe Foreigners Club.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Steve, Do you have something against the Jewish people or something? I am Japanese Jewish of the Hata clan.

3 ( +6 / -4 )

Readers, please do not provide personal information about yourselves.

zichi; I think what you are showing is that the little bit of religous claptrap i hate is in small areas with a much larger than average foreign populace. It does not effect most peoples life, does not intrude and that is how i like it.

-9 ( +2 / -9 )

TRex, i am opposed to all religions, esepcially the leaders and also the devout followers. Of course i would be against a group who think they are "chosen" by God and better than me. Thankfully the majority of Japanese reject thsi codswallop and don't try to effect the laws of the land with their eccentric outdated beliefs.

-9 ( +3 / -10 )

Readers, please do not insult or mock people's faith. It reflects badly on yourselves. You can discuss the contents of the article without posting such inflammatory remarks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Bachi ga ataru=You'll be punished/something bad will happen to you if you do this (anything immoral) " Westerners might ask "punished by who?"

I think you might be talking about karma? I am a big believer in do unto others etc etc - karma has bitten me in the bum many times!

I found Steves comment on the Japanese sense of belonging to a group really interesting actually. Perhaps that is why "religion" in terms of believing in a certain set of agreed principles and having faith in those beliefs is not as important to Japan as it is to other places. As individuals in the west, maybe that need to "belong" drives that need to find God in some people. I am sure I have seen studies done on people who join cults and/or are radicalised into Islam and the general thread is that they feel like outsiders in their own communities.

I would never be so arrogant as to say I think one religion is better or worse than another. I just try to live my life as a Nicky-ist. We are a small group (only one member actually!) but we try to live as happily as possible whilst not at the expense of anyone else. We try to always respect ourselves, other people, our environment and our place in the universe. We believe in heaven, only because champagne, sex and chocolate had to have come from somewhere! Conversely of course "hell" for us is when these things dry up! Here endeth the lesson. Amen!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

hahahaha jesus and miyuko?! never heard that story lol

"Everything has and is a god" that's a form of satanism ^o^v

let's party hardy! for sure! i love japan's culture >o<

3 ( +2 / -0 )

Shalom TRex. Obviously he does.

I want to read about the Hata Jewish Japanese Clan. Any on line links?

Nicky, you sound happy. I loved the line about Champagne, Sex, and Chocolate. Frozen Dark Chocolate. Yummy and would keep all people happy.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Just read up on it TRex. Hata clan was very influential. We must be related. They brought a lot of financial know how and art here to Japan.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

LOL. NetNinja got 8 "thumbs down", but it is obvious, aside from his own admission, that he has been in Japan long enough, like me, to know that there is truth in what he says.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Nothing wrong with thumbs down Kevin. Happens to me all the time even if I just say hello.

American money has God written on it. The anthem says under god. I never say that part, and draw happy faces on my paper cash.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

Nicky, you sound happy. I loved the line about Champagne, Sex, and Chocolate. Frozen Dark Chocolate. Yummy and would keep all people happy.

Well, in a world full of hatred and war, I like to spread a little peace, love and sugar!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I agree with Netninja and Kevin. Plain and simple.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I saw it Kevin. My religion got put down here, but I did not take offense. I am not religious anyway. This is an article about religion though, so lots of varied opinions should be posted and haggled over. Shalom

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@JapanGal

Your religion is yours and mine is mine.

The important thing is, apparently us just HAVING a religion and posting it here irritates Steve. So I guess we are on the same team then... ;-)

*Religion is flawed because man is flawed.

2 ( +4 / -3 )

When some one tells you that you will go to hell Steve, just tell them you do not believe in it. Then ask them where you might go if you cannot go there. Problem solved.

Plus would not the so called devil be an anti-god, but never the less a god? And if so would those people not be monotheistic as they claim?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Got ya Kevin. So post more! :-)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Well, in a world full of hatred and war, I like to spread a little peace, love and sugar!

LOL! I wondered what started all this hate and war in the first place? Hmmmmm.....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Why Japanese values and morality confound us so"

it's simple: they are different. but don't forget, they are just as human, but different. after you learn a bit about their culture and morality and values, you can imagine how weird the western world is to them.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

We are all born free and innocent. there is no such thing as 'shinto chiild, christian child, muslim child' etc etc. Sadly, the children usually get brainwashed by their parents into thinking they belong to some special group. Sad and pathetic.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Agnostic for the win! Please Japan never embrace religion and stay the way you are :D

5 ( +5 / -0 )

tokyokawasaki; Exactly, it is all a big cult which demands obedience, makes a few rich and powerfull while many followers even commit murder in the name of religion. Dark ages stuff which is absent from my life in Japan, thankfully.

-6 ( +2 / -6 )

If the Japanese are one of the lost tribes, then they are the chosen ones also. Pretty neat in my book.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Read up on the Hata-clan and you can very well find out good information as to why the Japanese might be considered one of the lost tribes, and part of the Jewish people. Found some fantastic information out there and will send it to the author of this article.

So many things from the imperial throne and the rituals match Orthodox rituals. Amazing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Mr Brooke; Having been avictim of orgainised religion as has another family member i ahve aright to find it offensive. I don't cry BTW.

Religion has had no positives in my life or society in my lifetime, all i see is biogtry, persecution and deaths. Not my cup of tea. I don't harm anybody with my lifestyle and i have been called countless things by religous people on this site, icnludong going to hell and i am evil etc... What kind of positive is there in being land feeling like that? I'm not an atheist, i don't believe in labels.

-7 ( +1 / -6 )

Steve, my feelings are that if religion was treated like cigarettes and alcohol (only available to those with a mental capacity to think critically and for themselves) i.e lets say above 18 years old. I am sure that within a generation or two the population that continues to believe in religious myths would only be somewhere around 5%.

A child's mind is delicate and precious, and I hate seeing it being manipulated by their parents (of any religion). Children should be left alone to discover the wonders of life, nature and the universe independently. Let them experience the journey of discovery and science whilst they see TRUE facts with their own eyes about how life works and evolution. Then when they are mentally mature (18) show them the bible and all of it's 'handed down' stories (and ZERO FACTS) and just watch the mature child look at you as if you are insane.

2 ( +6 / -5 )

Excellent post tokyokawasaki

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@Steve

Sorry for the pain you have endured.

2 ( +1 / -0 )

Found some fantastic information out there and will send it to the author of this article.

JapanGal, as a fellow Tribesman myself, I'd be interested in reading some of your findings, so perhaps you could post some links herein. Thanks in advance.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I can't imagine a world without faith. I certainly hope that there is something after death.

And can any of those readers above who mock people of faith, such as myself, honestly say that the world wouldn't be better off if we followed the ten commandments or applied some of the teachings of Christ in our daily lives (the Good Samaritan, etc)?

0 ( +4 / -3 )

@smartacus

Exactly.

Nothing more to say.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

smartacus.

Not knocking you nor any religious person.

But the Ten commandments and Christ teachings are reflected in all religions many which predate the Judae-christian faith.

What people are upset with is that some religions claim to be better than people that don't belief in said religion.

I have researched and studied quiet a bit about various religions and the influences between religions, etc are interesting.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

just as we should respect religious people, i wish for reciprocity, and i do not care for religious propaganda.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@smartacus

I understand that religion and being part of a community brings comfort to many people. I also know that most religious people are decent people (the same applies to atheists and agnostics). However, just because something makes you feel good and gives you a sense of order, doesn't make it true. But if people choose to live that way, it's fine by me. Just keep it quiet and to yourself. What really, really, really annoys me is when religious people preach as if what they are saying is all true. AND when laws are enacted based on ONE religions beliefs. And these laws are forced on people who do not need comfort from a heavily modified book of stories. I also hate the endless avoidance answers religious people offer when challenged by someone like myself. If religion had just one piece of solid factual evidence it would help, but they don't. That is the biggest problem religion faces, trying to get free and critical thinkers to accept the totally unbelievable stories in their book. (so they target gullible children). As i said above, in my humble opinion the biggest tragedy is how religion manipulates the minds of the easy targets - yes children. Why can't religion leave innocent children alone to develop on their own? I see kids on the news in the middle east throwing stones and rocks at other people in the name of religion. But where did this hatred for other people come from? Their parents beliefs in religion. VERY VERY SAD. Just leave children alone. Atheists and agnostics have good morals based on common sense, without any special book to guide them. So please leave children alone to develop independently PLEASE.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Your Parent's morals shape your morales.

Most Religions originating from the Middle East seem to just shape your guilt or self-righteousness.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Morals are not religion. You can have excellent morals based on common sense, empathy & compassion without religion. You do not need a book to teach the difference between right and wrong. The argument that morals do not exist without religion is incredibly self-centered and hindering on being narcissistic.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I certainly hope that there is something after death

Hoping something is true does not make it true.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I certainly hope that there is something after death

Me too - I have mostly been a good girl against incredible odds and some of the - ahem - temptations - I have resisted in the name of "doing the right thing" have been very very painful - I want some PAYBACK !!!

Well, in a world full of hatred and war, I like to spread a little peace, love and sugar!

LOL! I wondered what started all this hate and war in the first place? Hmmmmm.....

Gurukun - you have a point there. The great thing about being Nicky-ist is you can change your opinion like you change your lippy (liptsick boys, lipstick!). So - from now on we will shovel on the peace and love and lay off the sugar a little! (she lies, blatently! Hey - maybe I would make a good spiritual leader??!)

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I honestly have no problem with anyones religion and I respect and sometimes envy them their faith. I have a friend who has just moved into our building who is a missionary (BIG excitement in the area! It was like the movie Zulu when the sentry reports to Michael Caine "Missionaries to the south west. Fausands of `em!") But they are the nicest people, and we have great discussions about all things religious. They havent tried to convert me any more than I have tried to convert them to Nicky-ism (man, that could be scary!) and I have the highest respect for the gentle side of faith and belief. It is when people try to start forcibly converting other people that I get all antsy and nervous.

I have to admit though when I had my first child and my deeply religious Dads side of the family sent me a book for the baby entitled "My First Book of Prayers" I had serious misgivings. But I read it myself first, and my favourite one was "Dear God, thank you for my new baby brother but actually, what I really wanted was a puppy"! I liked that it wasnt too serious.

I agree with TokyoKawasaki that a childs mind is precious and should be taught to figure out things for itself. I remember being raised catholic and collecting money for the "Bishops Fun" (my mistake - it was meant to be the "bishops fund"!) to support missionaries in Africa so that "all the different people, in every foreign place, can understand his kingdom, and come into his grace". Then I grew a little bit older and thought "why the bloody hell should they??!" I was made to feel constantly guilty for - well - pretty much everything! I dont know if that is necessarily a catholic thing, or a Mother and Grandmother thing, but I opted out, at around aged 14, and endured the wrath of my Mother for years until she finally admitted she had wished she had the balls to do the same thing and was still trying to please her parents at age 39!

Being in a mixed marriage makes it more complicated, but I have said all along my job as a Mother is not to push my beliefs onto my children but to give them the self-confidence and brains to figure out things for themselves. My husband agrees so that is the approach we are taking by gently and slowly making them aware of different beliefs around the world. I never push chocolate on them if they dont want it!

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@Ben

I just typed in that tribe and boom. Tons. Then looked at other sites about Japanese Jews.

<>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HF2FkRE-PU

Also start by watching this YouTUbe video

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Ben and others interested, this series is pretty good, and you will find that it touches on this article.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhlkuGwEecY&feature=related

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I lived in japan for 3 years. My experience and observations says that Japan has NO RELIGION.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I'm GLAD the Japanese aren't religious fanatics like back home. Living in Japan means not having religious zealots accost me on a daily basis like back in the US.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The 758.... they do at train stations sometimes. American Mormons with Blond Hair

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@JapanGal

You are feeding the fire with false fuel. I am NOT a Mormon, but I have to stand up for them on this point: they to NOT like religious zealots and do NOT accost people. They may stop you and simply ask you questions if you allow. Far from accosting a person.

Throwing stones is a slippery slope.

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Sorry, meant to type, "they do not act like religious zealots"...

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Religion is the opium of the people according to Karl Marx and in a sense it is true. You will find many corrupt countries plagued with all kinds of social problems like kidnapping, murder, rape, prostitution, lawlessness and the like and yet they profess a very strong sense of religion or belief in their god. Care to look at countries occupied by Spain? The spaniards brought with their conquest the religion of Catholicism and use it to enslave people and pillage them at the same time preaching about God. Of course, we can see the great and mighty USA claiming to be a dominant Christian country doing the same thing preaching the gospel of salvation at the same time busy in supporting dictators and corrupt government just to get hold of precious oil and other precious materials around the world. The Islam faith while preaching the gospel of peace are so busy killing each other and of course the infidels...

So what can we conclude? the morality and values of the people actually do not reflect the religion they profess. I do read a passage from the Christian Bible that said, be witnesses by living your life according to your faith and people around you will see God in your life. And while most Japanese don't read the Bible nor have an idea who is God is, I do not see them inferior to other countries shouting religion and righteousness.

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And upon learning that so many are atheists, many ask, “Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?”

Wow, this is some serious stuff there. As an atheist myself, I find this shockingly stupid to say that. Also, atheist rate in the US varies from one source to another. We are all born atheist, and many of us are made into religious slaves.

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If only 1% of Japanese people are Christian, why have I been subjected to JW's coming to my door about once a month on average? I always politely but firmly decline their offers. It's rather annoying as they only come when I happen to be busy with something or on my way out. Actually, I have a feeling they come more often when I'm NOT at home as well.

No other religious group tries to contact me, just that group. Annoying group they are.

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jic.

Disagree we are born agnostic/neutral and made into atheists or believers by our surroundings(Family, school, etc) or some also decide to remain/return to agnostic.

Myself was christened as a Lutherian Protestant(mothers side, father is a roman catholic, we also got people of the jewish faith etc in our family) yet I am agnostic.

The JW are a local pain here too(got a chapter HQ closeby), they don't seem to talk among each other who they contacted. Keep telling them I am Soka Gakkai, etc they soon apologise and leave. Just a nuisance or simply don't answer the door, I do at times.

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It's an interesting bit about the Japanese that we never really adopted Christianity. Studies show that Christian Japanese on the average have higher incomes than non Christians. I think this is due to the mindset that comes with growing up in a Christian household. On the other hand, not having Christianity has allowed us to develop a society where the vast majority of people learn to be sheep that we can use for the betterment of industry, empire and the enrichment of the upper classes. So it's a double edged sword I guess.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Upon learning that many Japanese consider themselves both Buddhist and Shinto, the first question many Westerners ask is, “How is it possible?”

Chinese people may consider themselves both Buddhist, Confucian and Taoists. The monsoon climate of Asia is perhaps congenial to polytheism and syncretism. Japan is part of such a cultural climate.

And upon learning that so many are atheists, many ask, “Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?”

Japanese are not so much atheists as secular people. And the reason why Japanese are comparatively well-mannered and crime rate here is low has not so much to do with Shintoism, Buddhism or Confucianism as with secularity. South Korea is a thoroughgoing Confucian society with Christian population also incomparably higher than in Japan and yet you can find a gap in crime rates between the two neighboring countries. For any misfortune or circumstances beyond your control, Japanese don't blame on anyone particularly but rather tend to feel resigned and laugh it though perplexed and if anything blame it on the winds blowing from over the mountains. Secularity and nature in place of divinity and its law serve as a kind of mental hygiene.

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Another big difference is the view of heaven/hell or reward/punishment.

Many buddhists/asians know that hell is within the heard and soul, and if you feel heaven or hell depends on your emotional, etc state. The demons, etc they talk about are your own failings that track you into hell.

Simple and quick explanation. Heaven and Hell are not places you go to after you died but the realm you live in currently and hell is of our own makings and failings. The demons(influences really) we battle are all mostly within ourselves.

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My religion has been put down in numerous postings along this thread. While all are entitled to their opinion, keep it respectful.

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I've never been religious as such. My family are Catholics but only one member followed it to the law. My own parents didn't really believe in religion, especially my father. For my mother, it was just a case of births, deaths and marriage.

I was sent to a state school and because I was technically a catholic I was excused from both morning assembly and religious teaching classes. Sent to read in the school library instead.

I first read about Buddhism when I was about 16-years and made sense to me so I have studied it ever since. I don't believe in a god.

In 1992, I had one of those near death experiences. I was an electrical engineer for a large office building. On day, I was in the main power room when there was a 30,000 volt explosion. I almost died, and according to the doctors, I should have been dead. There wasn't much left of the power room.

I came very close to my own death, like I was watching myself die. It was am amazing experience which I felt there was an energy greater than all of us. Not a god, but something cosmic or universal. I recovered from the experience, which changed my entire life and thinking. I never worked has an electrical engineer again though.

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To throw a true spanner into the works here.

Most Soka Gakkai belief that believing a god(any) is the cause of all the strife in the world. So any form of worship is bad for them, in short don't put anyone above yourself. Even Soka Gakkai leaders aren't to be.

Of course open to corrections from believers here(we got some) and also interested in how they view death-penalty, etc. I can confirm with friends of that faith. ;)

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Many interesting opinions have been stated here. I guess one of the main reason why anyone can live his (moderate) religion of whatever kind in Japan is because Japanese people perceive their own gnostic beliefs not as religion, but just as the way the things are.

Calling anyone agnostic at the same time where she buys OMIKUJI, does OMAIRI, buys incense at temples and shrines just misses the point. From a western point of view, Japan is superstitious, but not religious. Let them be. Faith should be a private issue.

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Johannes.

Got to disagree, those are rituals/cultural customs now. Similar to the west. 100% agree faith is a personal matter and SHOULD remain as such.

I as an European can tell you that there is a high chance you will sit in the 1st pew during mass, not enough people to fill the church, yet the rituals/customs like breaking the bread, etc are performed daily.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What's the thesis here? I'm really confused.

So what if Japanese atheists observe cultural customs such as “omamori”? Japanese are essentially superstitious rather than religious. That's revealed in your observation that 90% of all Japanese observe the custom of visiting ancestral graves.

The fact that there’s even a small town in the north of Japan where the locals believe that the real Jesus is buried is statistically irrelevant, surely?

“Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?” What? How are the two mutually exclusive? Surely it would be entirely expected that the two would go together?

You talk about values that schools need to teach. The main value seeks to be an obsession with Japanese culture, to encourage students to see themselves, first and foremost, as representatives of Japan, Inc, ‘“learning to be Japanese,” as Shintaro Ishihara has observed. That is, rather than as members of an interconnected world community, a dynamic, quickly-changing technologically evolving. ecologically-challenged planet where you have to think on your feet,

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The infinite light reflected in our souls and given expression in our culture is really something to be thankful for. There is a common source of this light or life. Our will, intellect and perception relies on this life/light for its own existence. I am a person and so are all the others. Why would the source of the light/life not have will, intellect and perception of infinite magnitude? The Japanese also sense our inter-connectedness in this global world of ours with the light/life given to them by their culture and ancestors, something to be thankful for. Not to the exclusion of Gaijin but as an affirmation of what makes them human. We also should be thankful for all that has been given to us by our own culture and ancestors and to the source of life itself.

I am really not confounded by the Japanese sense of high morals and high values, for I share the same. I am sometimes confounded when we cannot quite live up to those values and how we rationalize or respond to the realities of everyday living, for it is not quite a perfect world.

Certainly we all agree upon the concept that in spite of all the suffering and death we see around us that we are indeed our brothers' keeper. At least we all, Japanese included, give this lip service and perhaps make an effort to do something in our historical time and place.

Remember when the US constitution was written and put in place, slavery was not outlawed even though it was written that all men are created equal. Certainly, individuals saw this contradiction. Not everyone agrees with how things are done in reality and the Japanese people are no different. Many see their own flaws quite well. They strive as well as I to walk towards that source of light/life and to bring it into our own everyday world. I have great respect for the Japanese because they really are not that closed minded unless pushed into a corner. Perhaps we are not that different after all.

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Man... there were so many things I wanted to quote and point out during the course of this read... but others beat me too it... So here's a list of those I thank for beating me to the punch and why:

BoratLikeBarry - atheism isn't a religion

cleo - terrible logic jumping from reincarnation must mean that's a higher power.

Nicky Washida - "Bachi ga ataru" might be karma

I know there was one more somewhere... but I've lost it.

And now for one that slipped by

@tokyokawasaki

Steve, my feelings are that if religion was treated like cigarettes and alcohol (only available to those with a mental capacity to think critically and for themselves) i.e lets say above 18 years old. I am sure that within a generation or two the population that continues to believe in religious myths would only be somewhere around 5%.

A child's mind is delicate and precious, and I hate seeing it being manipulated by their parents (of any religion). Children should be left alone to discover the wonders of life, nature and the universe independently. Let them experience the journey of discovery and science whilst they see TRUE facts with their own eyes about how life works and evolution. Then when they are mentally mature (18) show them the bible and all of it's 'handed down' stories (and ZERO FACTS) and just watch the mature child look at you as if you are insane.

Now let me start by making myself clear. I don't necessarily disagree, I'm playing devil's advocate here. If we treat religion as something that is learned, then one could say the same about science, since it is something that is learned. In that aspect, it could be argued that science is a "form of religion" (I can't think of a better way to convey my meaning other than this absurd statement, sorry) and thus by restricting the teaching of religion at a young age, but actively teaching science, one is brainwashing the youth away from their spiritual nature. It basically comes down to "Teach all or teach none" If this can be done without influencing their decision, (which is impossible, really) that's the only way you can fairly allow a child to decide on their own.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

IF JAPAN has such high moral standards.. then why is their Porn industry 3 times bigger than Americas in proportion to the amount of people... Everybody i know that has gone to Japan, says JP women are treated like crap... Lets look a the artrocities of the atheist/shinto/buddists of the JP Imperial army.. the rapes and murders.... Once we are all dead, then we will find out the truth on who is right.... the Christians, muslims, buddhists and the atheists

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

and observed her teaching adult students more traditional manners such as the proper way to walk, bow and serve tea

These aren't manners. They are memorized cultural activities. Your manners are based on how you deal with individuals you've never met before, in situations you've never experienced before. In this respect, Japan fails miserably in many cases.

My own personal feeling is that anything that could be attributed to good "manners" (low crime, patiently waiting in line, etc) is not due to something they learned in school, or the superiority of Confucian values, but rather the simple fact that Japanese are a generally docile and easily led people.

It's only manners if you make a conscious choice how to act. Most Japanese people don't, which could explain why so many go to shrines yet claim to be an atheist. They claim to be an athiest because they don't believe in any kind of singular "God," but they go to shrines because everybody else does.

If they didn't, what would the neighbors say?

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Moral behaviour is a characteristic of individual choice, Religion or the lack of it as far as I have experienced is not important, in regards to a persons ability to decide what is ethical.Having a religious belief does not ensure such a person will be devoid of some of the worst traits some humans display, nor will the absence of such tenets. Basic upbringing of children plays the greatest part in the development of human nature, empathy, tolerance, patience, understanding and respect.taught by example in a safe and caring home, helps install the seeds of decency and kindness. I would consider my own beliefs to be of a personal nature and do not choose to inflict them upon my friends and neighbours. who have their own oppinions. As for manners, they cost nothing, but, they mean a lot

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Great post Gaijinfo.

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My own personal feeling is that anything that could be attributed to good "manners" (low crime, patiently waiting in line, etc) is not due to something they learned in school, or the superiority of Confucian values, but rather the simple fact that Japanese are a generally docile and easily led people.

Pretty damning, huh? I take a different view that the fact so many people have to live in such a small space (close to 30mio people in the Tokyo/Chiba/Saitama/Kanagawa area) that they have learned to get on with each other. Something Western cultures seem to be completely unable to do.

It's that wilingness to co-operate that makes Japan such an easy place to live. The aggression I feel in UK/US/EU is overwhelming at times, what on earth do the people there have stuck up their rear ends that makes them so selfish?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's no such thing of heaven or hell. people should forget about all the rules in religion and live life to the fullest! religion = war, protests, bullying...religion is no good

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IF JAPAN has such high moral standards.. then why is their Porn industry 3 times bigger than Americas in proportion to the amount of people...

Personally I'm not into porn, but if other people want to enjoy it and they do so without harming others I don't see that there's any problem as far as moral standards go. Compare and contrast that with America which you tell us has only one-third the porn industry that Japan has, and has all those holier-than-thou quasi-Christian fanatics - but where the problem of violence against children is more acute than in any other industrialised country; millions of children reported as abused and neglected every year and over 20,000 children believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members, nearly four times the number of US soldiers killed in iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. Compared to that, gimme a smutty magazine any day.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15193530

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Back on topic please. References to Iraq and Afghanistan are not relevant to this discussion.

1% percent christian population in japan: One the reasons I love love love living in Japan. when i first arrived in 2001 there was a .08% xtian population here. that increase is quite troubling. hope it doesnt exceed 1%.

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What is it like to belong to a religion? As you said, most Japanese visit shrines on New Year’s Day and observe some religious acts. But most of them don't know about the beliefs of Buddhism and Shinto, let along difference between them. Besides, most of them don't believe in reincarnation, heaven, and God. Is it safe to say that they are religious just because they observe some religious traditions?

Although it is true that the foundation of moral is based on some kinds of religious beliefs, it seems to have lost its religious meanings today. People's courtesy, consideration, friendship, modesty, contribution to society are directed to other people and especially to themselves, not to god or beliefs. They think doing so is beneficial for themselves to live comfortably in Japan's society.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I'm sure this must have been said before, but I'll say it again: 99% of the major problems between people are as a result of religious beliefs of opposing groups of people. So, religions are the main underlying causes of problems in the world today. With that said, I expect many Christians, Muslims etc to start firing away. There you go....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With all do respect, this article starts with a question and ends with a question without answering the first question.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I said: Japan has a second official language. English? No, MONEY!!!!

And that explains not being able to speak Japanese, how?

JapanGal, Mary isn't a god, but Mother of God. Christianity is monotheistic...in Catholicism there are saints but they aren't gods.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@reckless The author says that Westerners get confused because Japanese have many conflicting beliefs, yet despite that there is order in their society, then explains that the values aren't from the conflicting religions, but Confucian values, but the real question is, who's supposed to teach them and how are they to be adopted in modern society.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think Christianity is the best religion because it give us the best festivals/holidays...

All the good ones come from Christianity... Christmas, St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Halloween...

Why haven't other religions come up with such good events?

It's nice in Japan because everyone can enjoy these festivals without feeling guilty, or even understanding them.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Christmas was adopted from a pagan worship of the winter equinox, Halloween isn't even a Christan belief neither is St.Patrick's day they maybe all American bust certainly not all Christian.

As for Christianity one of the problems resides with confession saying that your sins will be forgiven by confessing your sins in front of god therefore you get the "Feel Good" sensation after confessing thinking you had washed hands. You don't get that relief in Japan so it's better not to dirty yourself in the first place. As for reincarnation,according to Buddha true enlightenment is only gained when you break the chain of reincarnation and that life is like a board of monopoly. You go round and round until you had shed all sense of desire(not sin) and once welcomed into Nirvāṇa, you live in a total bliss without desire. This might sound good but if you think it through then Nirvāṇa is not heaven in the western term since it should be a very sterile place with nothing to look forward to who still possess worldly needs (and desire).

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Bob wrote;

I'm sure this must have been said before, but I'll say it again: 99% of the major problems between people are as a result of religious beliefs of opposing groups of people.

Well, except for the major killers of the 20th century......Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, The NK Kims, etc.. Other than them...

Plus, within religious groups, some seem to have more trouble than others in living together. Not too many Buddhist or Jainist terrorists around, are there?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Some great contibutions here, on an interesting topic, and I'd say the general tone of the discussion is quite liberal, all things considered. The three major religions at play in Japan seem to have been woven quite beautifully into the fabric of the culture, without dominating it in any way. It's nuanced, elegant and quite delicate, but to me the central theme of Japanese life that is most important and dominant is the sense of community and obligation to one another. To what extent this is controlled by the 3 religions I can't say, but I suspect it is not actually that much. The Japanese have mastered the idea of community and social obligation from the inside out and adopted these enhancements to compliment that. To me, this is one of their great strengths. I am not anti religion. I used to be more of a firebrand about this, but I have mellowed. Whilst not being religious myself, I can see it's virtues as a code of ethics to live by, which offers guidance and a moral code to many. It amuses and saddens me that Christians and Muslims and Jews squabble and bicker when they all believe in the very same God, so the weakness of religion is that it puts ideals before people and can be divisive.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It amuses and saddens me that Christians and Muslims and Jews squabble and bicker when they all believe in the very same God, so the weakness of religion is that it puts ideals before people and can be divisive.

At least two of those three groups seem to get on pretty well these days......

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I wonder why the bombastic atheists feel such a need to proclaim themselves and put down people of faith? In all my years in Japan I have rarely been prozelized by people of religion except for an occasional call at the door by JW, but am frequently accosted by self-(and loudly) proclaimed atheists who almost invarialby ridicule my faith. Why the hatred and contempt? I can understand the atheist point of view and have held it myself and certainly don't begrudge anyone else holding it, but why the intollerance?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

All you guys that think Christianism is a bad religion are WRONG.

Indeed, there are many christians that like to bow before a statue. Statues and images should be seen pretty much like pictures or statues of somebody loved or cared of. What I see wrong is that a lot of people do this but do not go and visit Jesus, which we believe - as told by Jesus himself, see New Testament - is present in a "hidden" way in the Holy bread. And indeed there have been wars, and capital punishment - fatal errors from leaders.

Nevertheless, what Jesus of Nazareth left us, was His word of Love and care for each other , which ultimately lead us to eternal Life. Please do not judge Catholic religion - or more generally, christian - just because of the mistakes of some peoples. Christianism in its true sense is a religion of love and respect!

In my personal opinion, I do not find reincarnation promising, but I respect your beliefs.

Peace and well!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

WHAT A SHAME THAT SOME PEOPLE THINK THAT CHRISTIANITY MEANS HALLOWEEN AND FAT "SANTA CLAUS" LAUGHING AS WELL AS OTHER PARTIES!

THAT'S NOT CHRISTIANITY!!!!!!!!!

Those are mostly pagan feasts, or derived from highly-consuming societies like that from USA.

PLEASE GUYS, STUDY A BIT ABOUT RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD BEFORE SAYING FOOLISH THINGS! :S

And WAKE UP! Japanese society has become highly consumer-demanding of many non-sense things! I could be wrong, but I think you are forgetting about your folklore.

PD Santa Claus NEVER existed, it was Saint Nicholas image - a true saint that lived long ago - that was deformed I think by Coca Cola, to promote their product around the 1950's --- I dislike the fat santa Claus! I realized it was a fake when I was a kid!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

An additional quote:

We DO NOT adore images nor statues. Nor these are gods. These are images of good people that once lived life serving others with true love and care. That's why they are considered saints and seen with reverence...and again...read the Holy Bible or study.

About the virgin Mary, she is mother of Jesus since she conceived him by the Holy spirit. I will not go further since I'm not the best one to explain in the right words to people from other religions and I do not wish to introduce "noise". Study! or ask a catholic priest.

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Every one has faith. Atheist believe in nothing. Agnostics believe that there may be something to believe in but are not sure and all others believe that they are not the center of the universe, that there is something mystic beyond themselves. I for one do not have enough faith to be an atheist. But it is interesting that all peoples of all times, countries and races have felt the call of something greater than themselves. They may call it nirvana, god, spirit or community. But it would sadden me greatly to think that this world is all there is. Will we be kami or guardian angels? Will we just fade away into nothingness? No one knows but many believe.... I would add, that religion is never the problem, people are the problem. Many like to blame religion for what people do in the name of religion. Selfish people will always find an excuse to accomplish their goals. Stalin and Hitler advanced the religion of the state and were antiChristian, anti other gods but themselves, Christians and Muslims have long histories of cruelty and killing too. If you put yourself first, it is easy to use religion or to make up any excuse to impose your will upon others, even to kill them. The Japanese have their history of cruelty, killing, wars, torture and continue to have problems with home grown terrorist, rapist, murders and the like because like all of us they are a society of humans, of people.

The Beatles said it best "all you need is love". By the way Jesus said: "I give you a new commandment - to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34) and Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples - if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) and "No one has greater love than this - that one lays down his life for his friends." (Which he did.) And: Luke 6: 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you." For those who think religion is the opiate for masses, try living up to this, it is not easy. In deed it is easier to deny religion and hate your enemy, and ignore the man in need of food and clothing. Far easier, to put yourself first rather than striving to be last as Jesus taught.

Do not confuse religion with what people do. I am sure that one could find sayings similar to those above attributable to Buddha or Krishna or others but as a Christian, these were easier for me to find. The problem with people is that as Nietzsche said, they are "Human all too Human". So those of you who decry religion, think a little deeper. Those of you who say I don't have a religion because I am atheist, think a little deeper because you are worshiping your self, your own concept of what is right and wrong. Perhaps you have achieved your world view after much study and internal debate but in the end it is still your own creation. Some like Nietzsche took great pride (comfort?) in having created their own morality. I prefer to have the what Feuerbach (an atheist) longed for, the joy of belief. For the agnostic, you should read about Blaise Pascals wager (he was a mathematician and one of the early developers of probability theory amongst other things, you may remember Pascal's law from physics--- my first graduate degree was in Physics so I embrace science as well as religion and find them completely compatible).

These are just some random thoughts on the comments that have been posted. As for me I will seek justice, show mercy and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6: 8).

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@SamuraiBlue:

I guess you never seriously bothered to learn about western cultures. There is more to the world than Japan and the US.

Christmas is the highest christian holiday. It has adopted a few aspects of pagan beliefs - which had a celebtration of the longest night of the year three days earlier - which is where the Christmas tree comes from. Father Christmas is nonsense created by CocaCola company in the US to boost their sales.

It is modeled after St.Nicholas, as Abesan said, who was a very caring bishop (in the Greek town of Myra) in the Middle ages. St. Nicholas day (December 6th) is a true Christian custom.

St Patrick's Day is the national holiday of Ireland. It celebrates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.

Halloween is the day of All-Hallow's Eve. This is sort of a Christian form of the Japanese Obon. It is said to have a few connections with the pagan Samhain, but that is not proved up to now. It has been abused by the American pop culture industry.

Saint Valentine's day is a day of memory for a group of Christian martyrs in the Roman age. It has been abused by the American sweets industry, who introduced gift-giving customs to boost their sales.

Of course, only a handful of people in Japan truly know anything about these things.

Furthermore, all the "confess and thou shalt be forgiven" is a catholic custom. It is neither "feel good" nor is it generally christian. Actually, catholicism is the most "guilt-ridden" religion. Christianity said that Jesus died for the original sin, so that we are allowed to start with a clean slate. There is no "you deserve to suffer, because you did wrong in an earlier life".

Religion is not the problem. The problem is humanity. Good and bad people exist everywhere. There is no whatsoever connection between kindness and moral to any religious group.

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Why the hatred and contempt?

Recherche88, That's what I ask myself about people that worship any god, buddah, Allah etc. Although I am not a Christian, I tend to 'try' and keep an open mind about any religion. I don't put any religion, faith or belief down. Many of my friends come from all a different kinds beliefs. With that said, I still do not know why there are and have been so many wars based on religion. "Love thy neighbor?" What happened with that?

If we bring this whole religion thing into perspective, now days, look at what is taught in Christian churchs, cathedrals, or whatever they are called. Based on the Ten Commandments, how does a person of the cloth explain what they do to alter boys? I understand that not all of them do it but it seems rampant to me. How are there Priest, Rabbi's , Fathers, in the Military? "Thou shalt not kill?" If I'm not mistaken, there is no "See the fine print under paragragh C" written in the bible to exclude these kinds of believers.

I am approached by my friends of different faiths to "convert" to be saved. I listen to thier conversations with an open ear and always give them the chance to explain themselves. However, I just can't buy into any of thier beliefs when they base thier beliefs only when they want to believe in it. For now, Chrstians, Buddhists, Islmists, Shintoists, etc can be who they want to be, and I'll stay with Me, Myself and I. I like it this way.

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Wow! I never even saw this coming, so many comments about religion etc..but for the average Westerner or Muslim, Jew, most Japanese religions will not make any sense. You see that mountain over there, yeah we worshiped that mountain for centuries?? Ah, yes a fox is cool, so we have some Japanese worshiping foxes, wait, a typhoon killed off most of the Mongolian invaders a few hundred years back and hence the KAMI KAZE, translated as divine wind, but actually kami is a god, and kaze is wind, so you have 神風 ok??Now are all the non Japanese here fully confused by Japan and its so called religions??

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Christmas was adopted from a pagan worship of the winter equinox, Halloween isn't even a Christan belief neither is St.Patrick's day they maybe all American bust certainly not all Christian.

Christian festivals may have been cobbled together with pre-existing events but, nevertheless, they certainly aren't Jewish or Muslim festivals... these are fun Christian holidays.

Actually, Diwali is pretty cool so well done Hinduism, but all these other religions really have to make their festivals more fun and more entertaining.

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Elbuda, I'm a bit more confused by your post than Shinto.

Now are all the non Japanese here fully confused by Japan and its so called religions??

I don't find Shinto stranger than any other religion. In fact, a worship of the world around you, the world you see and interract with on a daily basis, the world that gives you food and life, this material world? That makes perfect sense to me. Seems much more reasonable and pragmatic that you trying to convince me that an invisible 'God' being is the creator and master and that I will conveniently meet him after I depart this world.

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Thanks Tamarama! I am not putting down Shinto, but it actually is like many so called pagan religions, worshiping mountains, trees, rivers, and fox here and there, but it is a sad shame the Japanese Imperial Army forced Shintoism down the throats of all other religions here in Japan during WW2, not too sure if you know this fact of Japanese history. All the Buddhists sects etc..had to use a Shinto talisman, and everyone had to pray for Dai Nippon Teikoko to triumph over its enemis, like the USA, China etc..so actually, it was used for some really bad purposes and to this day, Yasukuni Shrine is a big sore spot between the Japanese and other Asian countries, ie, the Koreas and China.

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Japan has floated off into metaphysical space long ago, never to return

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@Elbuda Mexicano

I'm not so sure about Shinto's "Pagan" bit but I do know that REAL Pagans in Japan, just like the small Christian community, were pretty much ostracized and discriminated against so they were living in hiding and maintaining a very low profile hundreds of years ago. Paganism, just like Shintoism, have multiple gods and deities. The Moon Pagan Goddess been the highest as Jesus Christ is for the Christians. Have you heard of the term "kitsune-mochi"? They still exist today, go visit your local Shrine and see for yourself. Don't ask me how I know that.. ;)

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“He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is an atheist who does not believe in himself.” ― Swami Vivekananda

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"I would rather have every one of you be rank atheists than superstitious fools. There is no mystery in religion. Mystery mongering and superstition are always signs of weakness. These are always signs of degradation and of death. Therefore beware of them; be strong, and stand on your own feet."

And this other quote from Swami Vivekananda one since it seems like many of these religions have to do with blind faith

"To believe blindly is to degenerate the human soul. Be an atheist if you want, but do not believe in anything unquestioningly."

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Concerning the Christian festivals: Sunday is an old pagan worship day and the origins go back far in time. There are some debates on this but the only ones that seem non-sensical are the ones coming from the blind faith preachers who block out the truth if it doesn't fit their agenda. Now keep this Sunday in mind as we go to the formation of Christmas which is a day to celebrate the Sun god. These 2 go perfectly together to better prove that Christianity is born out of pagan worship. There is nothing wrong with this at all but I do not like Christians calling other religions like Shinto paganistic and then not realizing their own origins!

We read in Werner Keller's book The Bible as History the following admission:

"December 25 is referred to in documents as Christmas Day in A.D. 324 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian [A.D. 527-565] it was recognized as an official holiday. An old Roman festival played a a major part in the choice of this particular day. December 25 in ancient Rome was the 'Dies Natali Invictus,' 'the birthday of the unconquered,' the day of the winter solstice and at the same time, in Rome, the last day of the Saturnalia, which had long since degenerated into a week of unbridled carnival..." (p. 331).

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"...But the worship of the sun-god continued widely throughout the empire, and under Aurelian (A.D. 270-275) the cult was restored to its former high estate. In the year 274 Aurelian declared the god -- now called Deus Sol Invictus -- the official deity of the Roman Empire; he built a splendid temple of the sun in Rome...and set the sun's birthday celebration (naturalis solis invicti) ON DECEMBER 25, the date then accepted for the winter solstice (also in his solar character the BIRTHDAY OF MITHRAS). In the time of Constantine the cult of Deus Sol Invictus was still at its height, and the portrait of the sun-god was on the coins of Constantine....Likewise it must have been in this time and with the intent to transform the significance of AN EXISTING SACRED DATE that the birthday of Jesus, which had been celebrated in the East on January 6...was placed in Rome ON DECEMBER 25, THE DATE OF THE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION OF SOL INVICTUS. This date appears in a list of dates probably compiled in A.D. 336 and published in the Roman city calendar, edited by Filocalus, for the year 354" (Finegan, p. 211-212, emphasis mine).

Personally I am neither an atheist or an theist. I am just BEING with a sense of HUMANITY. Become humans first then consider religion later. It may take a few thousand years before most people start to live this life.

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@Joseph Garrett Baxter

Concerning the Christian festivals: Sunday is an old pagan worship day and the origins go back far in time. There are some debates on this but the only ones that seem non-sensical are the ones coming from the blind faith preachers who block out the truth if it doesn't fit their agenda. Now keep this Sunday in mind as we go to the formation of Christmas which is a day to celebrate the Sun god. These 2 go perfectly together to better prove that Christianity is born out of pagan worship. There is nothing wrong with this at all but I do not like Christians calling other religions like Shinto paganistic and then not realizing their own origins!

Pagans are NOT very welcome in many societies as far as I can see.... But it makes me wonder how some people have the nerve to call Pagans "Devil Worshippers", "Satan's Offspring", etc. It's not only insulting but downright ridiculous and low. There is NO devil and there is NO satan in what we believe here, period. I respect your Jesus, Buddha, Ganesha and everyone else's gods, but people have ZERO right to insult and degrade others based on what they believe. So thank you for posting this, Joseph. Religion is a two sided blade. One must be very careful. By the way, we are celebrating SAMHAIN here at home next 31th which is also the New Pagan Year. I'll be baking Apples with cinnamon, maple syrup and brown sugar. Also my husband's favorite Pumpkin pudding. I just wish people could share knowledge and opinions without disrespecting.

*

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@BlueWitch

Don't really know what you mean by "REA"L Pagans since there are no unified definition meaning to the word some considers it as 1. A non-Abrahamic religion, while others consider it as 2. A pre-Christian European religion and/or as 3. A polytheistic world religion. Shintoism fits 1 and loosely into 3 but is not in anyway a world religion.

As for Shintoism again there is no unified dogma only that it worships more than one god which may be a mountain or the mountain being a symbol of an event that happened in the past. Inari shinko does not actually worship a kitsune or a fox. Inari shinko worship the god of harvest in which the fox is considered a bringer(messenger or servant of the Inari god) of good harvest because it wards off pests that would otherwise destroy a crop.

As for the authors original question "Japanese values and morality", it really does not have much to do with religion but more to do how the Japanese society developed from the past where an individual work load was not enough to maintain and increase yield from a yearly crop. There was a need of large group of people to develop and maintain farm land in Japan. The surrounding of a village is 100% modified in someway or another by man from flow of water to the type of tree that are planted in the nearby woods. The difference of mori and hayashi is whether man had modified it or not. In a hayashi, the under brush is constantly culled and tended by the villagers so it will remain healthy which provides various useful crops like tree bark and/or large branches to create charcoal in return.

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cleo - terrible logic jumping from reincarnation must mean that's a higher power.

Err ... HumanTarget was the one who bought it up.

Cleo was rebutting him/her. Thus has the same position you do.

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I wonder if any of the Christian primeministers paid their respects at the Yasakuni Shrine!

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And upon learning that so many are atheists, many ask, “Then how is it possible that the Japanese are so well-mannered and crime is so low?”

Terribly stupid comment there. How can religion be linked to being well-mannered and not a criminal? So being atheist implies an inherent immorality. Stupid and insolent comment, Mr. Landsberg.

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@Flippy

Stupid and insolent comment, Mr. Landsberg

I hope you don't think that's the opinion of the author, otherwise you missed the whole point of the story.

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cleo wrote Compare and contrast that with America which you tell us has only one-third the porn industry that Japan has, and has all those holier-than-thou quasi-Christian fanatics - but where the problem of violence against children is more acute than in any other industrialised country; millions of children reported as abused and neglected every year and over 20,000 children believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members

The US seems to be in good company, Cleo, with a country I think you might be familiar with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_abuse#Prevalence

A UNICEF report on child wellbeing[30] stated that the United States and the United Kingdom ranked lowest among industrial nations with respect to the wellbeing of children.

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Wow! There seems to a strong dislike for religions in general and especially for Christianity here. Interesting.

Japan is an enigma. On the surface it seems like a very moral country. Indeed, it is much safer than the US - which is no longer a Christian country. But I think this is true mainly concerning violent crimes only. Their gun law has something to do with that as well I think.

But, in other areas, it is a mess! Sexual morals are extremely low. There are many broken relationships. Depression and suicide rates are very high. Pride is very strong and some racism still exists. Greed and self-centeredness abound. Of course, there are good things too. Take the harmony for instance. Even that though, if you look under the surface, things are not as harmonious as they may appear. For the Japanese, it is the looks, the surface, and the appearance that is all important.

So if you look at the surface, it may look like a very moral country, but if you look beneath the surface at the heart like God does, the Japanese are just as sinful as you and I. It just shows itself in different ways here. I'm not saying this as a criticism. I love Japan, but this idea that Japanese are not sinful is ridiculous. I guess it depends on what standards you use to evaluate sin. he Bible claims people are sinners using God's standards, not the arbitrary standards of Joe Blow down the street. People like to pick and choose and make up their own standards to justify their lifestyle, but that is not permissible. God sets the standards by which He judges and according to biblical standards, Japanese are sinners through and through just like the rest of us. T

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