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Visiting a shrine to pray is different from being religious. It has nothing to do with religion. Most Japanese, including me, don’t think about whether we’re religious or not.

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Yasunori Ueda, who visits the Ise Grand Shrine every summer to pray for his family and good health. Japan is one of the world's least religious countries, according to a Gallup survey this year, but people of all ages continue to visit shrines at pivotal moments in their lives. (Christian Science Monitor)

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Who is your messiah?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@clemenza, what makes you think I'm a Westerner? My tea ceremony teacher certainly doesn't think so, neither does my family in Sendai.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

outside japan, if you do not believe in "my god", which happens to be "the one and only true one", i will kill you (examples: catholic inquisition and modern day terrorists, its all the same shite). in japan, lots of killings, but at least not justified with religion.

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Shallots

Russell's Teapot adequately explains:

"I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely."

I don't go around not believing in Thor, or Pixie Dust. It is just so unlikely.

You see what I mean when I say I am a 'strong' atheist.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

going to the Shrine on new years eve to "pray" is most BORING way to usher in the new year.'

It doesn't hold a candle to sitting through the Catholic mass I was a forced to attend as a schoolboy. Give me a trip to a shrine over that.

New Year's Mass? That's a new one, Jimizo. Most of the Japanese Catholics I know visit a shrine for New Year's (not church) but in a totally non-religious way, of course, like everyone else.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@turbotsat It's a bit frustrating to argue about definitions. But, most public atheists that I've looked at don't follow this definition and I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense either. I think most public atheists (the ones who write books or engage in debates) would say: Atheist: There is no evidence for the existence of god(s), so I don't believe. Gnostic: I have knowledge/experience of a god/gods Agnostic: I don't know a god/gods. You're welcome to stick by your own definitions but you should be aware of what most of the "bigwig" atheists mean - as far as I've seen. Of course, I'm fallible so I'm open to learning if this is incorrect. "isms" are generally about belief so it makes sense - beyond just what claims, or lack thereof, are actually being made by people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Atheist: 'We can't prove the existence of god(s), so there aren't any.'

Agnostic: 'We haven't proved the existence of god(s), so there may be one / some.'

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@Black Sabbath I've met strong atheists. But I don't think any of them believe the term means one who believes there are no Gods. Honestly. Maybe you do? Anyway, I'm lazy. I don't believe because there's no good evidence. That's easy. "There are no gods" sounds like a lot more work (although I may agree).

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@ Peace Out:

Religion makes sense to people who make cents from people with no sense but lots of cents.

Spot on!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Gerald F. Shields jr.

This from the Telegraph on the subject of religion:

'Out of 65 countries, the UK was sixth from bottom, vastly less religious than Thailand (94% religious) and Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia and Morocco (93%). The least religious country was found to be China, where only 6% of people say are they are religious with 61% being confirmed atheists. Other countries at the bottom of the list included Japan, Sweden, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Hong Kong.'

I think the idea of being religious was based on an answer to the question, 'Are you religious?' in this survey. As a Brit, I think many would be surprised at the UK result considering the UK has an established church. I suppose the simple answer to the question of are you religious is about the best guide we have.

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And "not believing in god or gods" makes you an atheist, not agnostic.

No it doesn't.

Considering you admittedly didn't know what agnostic meant 12 hours ago, I'll forgive the confusion.

Reading someone else's posts?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

katsu - thanks - I think my earlier posts also emphasized religion and a belief in the super-natural.

I agree with your example. Many people follow religious conventions and engage in religious customs without being a believer. As some one posted, millions of people go to xmas masses & services in a church, purely for the atmosphere, music, or custom. Such actions would not qualify in my opinion as religiious because such participants probably don't align themselves with the super-natural theatre on display.

As nonchalant as many in Japan may be towards religious activities, as I stated earlier, millions are believers.

The act of praying/wishing/hoping for some super-natural intervention to advance, help, illuminate a cause or request is a religious act by my definition - pass exams, better health, safe driving, getting money...etc..etc is a call on some super-natural force - whether it is acknowledged as such or not.

Some people believe religion must be organised as is hiearchial christianity, islam or judaism to be a religion.

That's fine, but that's not my definition.

If someone

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@BurakuminDes

To be honest, all formal "religions" make little sense to me - particularly when huge sums of cash are involved.

Well they make a lot of cents to others. In fact, they make a lot of dollars too!

Religion makes sense to people who make cents from people with no sense but lots of cents.

Did that make sense?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

You are not praying, you're making a wish.

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But we don't pray to it. How can you separate religion from prayer? I mean, if you don't believe in God, who are you praying to then?

Yourself, your friend, your family etc.? However, I don't buy into Japan being one of the least religious countries. Shinto and Buddhism are Japan's two major religions, with Confucianism and Christianity taking up the rear. Also, there's the Bahá'í Faith, Taoism, Judaism and Islam as well some "folk" religions in the Ryukyuan (Okinawa) and Ainu (Hokkaido) regions of the country.

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Triring

I don't see how what you wrote in any way detracts from the point: Japan's notable lack of religious doctrine.

[As an aside Nobunaga was not during the Muromachi period; he ended it]

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Black SabbathSep. 12, 2015 - 01:25AM JST

Talk about jumping to conclusion equating 1+1=4?

How do you actually equate exam techniques to religion is beyond imagination. Taika no Kaishin in 645 was a clash between Shintoism and primitive Buddhism that was later reformed after Japanese Buddhist monks like Saicho and Kukai traveled to Tang China to learn directly for the horse's mouth rather then listening to hearsay but Shintoism but mountain worshiping survived and is doing fine even today with Mount Miwa in Nara and the Oomiwa Shrine still in existence today.

As for Muromachi era, it was Nobunaga that waged war with the warrior Buddhist monks setting Hiezan into flames not Taiko Hideoshi. Oda Nobunaga also waged war against Ishiyama Hongaji sect due to their ambition to control the Emperor and become the top Buddhist school. Basically he hated the status quo where the Buddhist priests were acting like tyrants under Buddha's name. His ideals were way ahead of his time even in European standards.

BurakuminDesSep. 12, 2015 - 01:27AM JST

That is modern commercialism not having much to do with Buddhist's way. If you actually talk to a Buddhist monk faithful of his ways he will tell you that the amount has nothing to do with his way of praying but the middle men sets the price.

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I've not met any atheists who espouse this position [that there is no god or gods]"

I have. We are called 'strong atheists." In one way, atheism exists along a continuum from strong to weak. Weak, or implicit, is the absence of belief in god(s), supernatural phenomena, spritualism, etc. Strong denies the existence of such.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"An atheist insists there is no god or gods."

I've not met any atheists who espouse this position. It's impossible to prove there aren't pixies or gingerbread men. Atheist simply don't believe. Agnosticism is about lack of knowledge knowledge. One can be an agnostic atheist.

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san_diegan

I've found most Japanese to be almost militant against religion yet, adamantly spiritual.

I've found Japanese to be neither.

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wow! I really liked this slim and evocative article and the varied comments! In my almost 40 plus years of associating with Japanese, I've had many a lively conversation concerning religion/ spirituality. I've found most Japanese to be almost militant against religion yet, adamantly spiritual.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ Tiring - thanks, good points there. My question - is it more spiritual/religious devotion that compels Japanese to pay very big amounts for funerals, for instance, or just social obligation? Funeral costs in Japan seem unreasonably expensive, compared to other countries where service costs in almost every other walk of life is more expensive than Japan, such as Australia. A very, very basic, non-elaborate Buddhist service for my Mother-in-Law did not leave much change from 2 Million Yen, priest fees were 400,000 Yen. Generally most things in Japan are very reasonable value for me - but this certainly was not in my non-religious mind! Japanese seem to baulk at paying big sums for many services - but not "religious" ceremonies. Hmm, more study required...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Visiting a shrine to pray is different from being religious. It has nothing to do with religion

I think what he means by religion here is an organized doctrine of belief and practice. And in that way, I think he is correct: while Japanese are very ritualistic, even the cults in Japan are fairly loosey-gooset when it comes to doctrine.

This lack of doctrinal rigor, clarity, and even existence goes deep into Japanese history. All the way back to the Taika reforms, when Buddism was imported for exclusively political reasons. Whenever a theology, for lack of a better word, evolved to challenged secular authority, it was vigorously stamped out: the oppression of Pure Land -- notedly highly non-doctrinal -- , the Taiko's thirty year campaign to destroy the (largely secular) power of the mountain top temples, and again the later stamoing out if xtianity all point to a consistent theme is 'pre-modern' Japanese history:

There shall be no lord beyond the clouds to which/whom allegiance may be owed, and from which right conduct may be known. That challenges the political regime, and will not stand.

We can see the lack of ideology when the early Xtian missionaries struggled with limited success to translate the Bible into Japanese for lack of not only parallel words and concepts, but, -- largely unique to 'civilized' nations [i.e. those with cities and writing] -- the non-existence of even a coherent ideology of any sort. The salient point about Japanese civilization is the paucity of doctrine.

At present, the lack of an imposed intellectual order can be seen in the way they teach secular subjects: its just a bunch of stuff that happens. History has no arch. Science is a slew of disparate techniques, factoids and perhaps a notable heroic scientist or two. There is no great or greater meaning to any of it.

Its just a bunch of stuff to be memorized.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

BurakuminDes

In the past it was labor and/or material offering like food not money that was donated. The temple/shrine requires both to maintain them. These days it was simplified by substituting money instead of the two I mentioned. This is due to sophistication of society in which money can be exchanged to all required items the temple/shrine requires.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting discussion. I guess it depends on ones definition of "being religious". For a nation whose people do not consider themselves "religious", I'd have to say compared to Australia and the UK where I have lived, Japanese sure visit "sacred places" (shrines and temples) quite a lot, take part in ceremonies, hold on to old customs, keep mini "shrines" inside their homes, occasionally go on temple "pilgrimages" - and pay LOADS of money for the many ceremonies associated with death. Sadly I found this last part our recently with the passing of my Mother-in-Law. I guess all these behaviours may not be considered "religious" by the participants?

To be honest, all formal "religions" make little sense to me - particularly when huge sums of cash are involved.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@albaleo

That's not the definition of agnosticism that I learned.

I was not defining agnosticism. I was defining agnostics.

The word "agnostic" was coined by T.H. Huxley as a statement of his absolute certainty that he didn't know the cause of existence. He didn't apply it only to belief in gods, but as an approach to everything.

Well, Huxley died just before the last century. The meanings and use of words change over time. For example, the word "big" meant "strong" in the middle ages. A "big shield" could have been rather small, but would not buckle. So now its the 21st century, Wiki is my friend and it quotes a modern philosopher who just died last month, William L. Rowe, and he said:

"In the popular sense of the term, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, while a theist believes that God exists, an atheist disbelieves in God"

Agnosticism may holistically mean more than that, but it includes what I said, doesn't it?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sensato: "I would say this is akin to the fact that most people putting up a Christmas tree, which is clearly a Pagan and Celtic religious symbol, don't give much thought to the Yuletide religious connotations of the tree."

Actually, it's not a very valid comparison. Comparing people using a Christmas tree and not necessarily being religious would be akin to people throwing beans and decorating their houses for Setsubun but not being religious, since they likely don't really know the religious origins (or that it's even imported from China). A more valid comparison for people going to a shrine and praying but not being religious would be people going to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for mass but not being religious -- just going because it is a custom or for the atmosphere, or what have you.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

browny1 SEP. 11, 2015 - 08:54PM JST As you suggested, definition of terms is critical to supporting ones viewpoint. And I guess I stand by the reasoning I gave, that super-natural & religion and entwined...

Ah, now this I think I'd agree with much more. What we're teasing apart here I think is the difference between something involving the supernatural and something involving superstition. So we need to define those terms. And when it comes to superstition, I like to go back to the Latin. Superstition isn't something simply involving the supernatural, but an excessive reaction to the idea of the supernatural.

Suppose I were a Jewish person who always celebrated the Passover Seder and always filled a cup for Elijah. If I honestly believed that Elijah was running around, liable to walk in my door at any minute and demand a drink from my cup, it would be fair for you to say I was superstitious. I would have a belief in a supernatural miracle happening as a part of my religion. But suppose I devotedly participated in the Seder and filled Elijah's cup, but didn't actually believe Elijah was waiting for it. Perhaps I view the filled cup merely as symbolic of the potential for fulfilled promises. Perhaps I don't truly believe even in YHWH or the story of Hebrew slavery in Egypt, but I still devotedly partake in the rituals because I believe they are important symbols of the suffering of my people. Since faith in YHWH isn't a necessary part of being a Jew, that would make me a participant in religion without superstition. Now I'm not Jewish and have never been in a Passover Seder so I have no idea if any Jews actually think this way. I'm not so much trying to describe a real-life approach to religion so much as showing a theoretical potential. Surely a large chunk, maybe the majority of religious people do involve superstition in their lives. What I'm saying is simply that it's possible that they don't have to.

And that's what I see so much of in Japan. People participate, but excessive reaction to the supernatural is unnecessary. The idea of supernatural things is surely a part of Shinto- but there's no obligation that anyone actually commit to it. If they want, it can simply be a metaphor for what we think to be important in our ordinary mortal lives.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They can when many if not most of those are as Buddhist as their Shinto/Christian weddings, and when they themselves say they don't believe in it when someone who CONVERTS to Buddhism obviously does.

smithinjapan - I was referring to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent (where the real numbers are) more than Japan. As the story points out, I never considered Japan a buddhist country, let alone religious. In any case, I'd rather hear what they have to say than a poseur.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

'I would posit that it is very possible to have religion without superstition.'

That would depend on your definition of religion. Some have argued that Buddhism would be better described as a philosophy rather than a religion. I suppose for some the idea of religion involves some belief in the supernatural.

As for me, I'd argue that a belief in the supernatural, the belief in the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, saying 'bless you' when someone sneezes, holy water, sacred/lucky/unlucky numbers, the healing or cleansing power of rivers or pools, kicking out evil spirits from the house with rituals or warding them off in the first place with scary images, holy meteorites, icons over your bed to watch over you or devices to catch bad dreams makes it difficult to draw a clear line between religion and superstition.

I included that last one after seeing a crucifix and a dreamcatcher above a bed in a university dorm.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

katsu - thank you. Some interesting points.

As you suggested, definition of terms is critical to supporting ones viewpoint. And I guess I stand by the reasoning I gave, that super-natural & religion and entwined ( by religion I don't mean a modern or obtuse usage such as the religion of sports, a religious fervor about music or the like).

And thats interesting re - a statement of faith. Openly expressing faith appears to be central to christianity (and other religions) but I'm not sure that it's a prerequisite for certain beliefs to qualify as religious or not.

Your last point re "religion without superstition is possible" may well be, but I don't know of any religion that avoids any conception of the super-natural in it's realm.

But as a very lay-person I'm open to enlightenment.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Both Shintoism and Mahayana Buddhism are polytheistic. On top Shintoism doesn't have any set of dogma to follow therefore Japanese are more tolerant in accepting/adopting gods without the need to eliminate the other like monotheism in which can only accept God in a singular state which is exclusive to the religion the one worships and any other gods are considered heresy.

Basically Japanese believes in all god but really doesn't follow/practice any of the dogma within the monotheistic teaching because we are not bound to that single God.

I really do not think Christians/Muslims/Jews would understand the concept believing in only one God disregarding everything else as either spirits, superstition or heresy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

browny1 SEP. 11, 2015 - 05:51PM JST I reiterate my earlier posting that belief in the supernatural & religion are not seperate.

That depends entirely on how you define those two terms. I often find that in Internet discussions about religion, 'religion' gets defined very narrowly by people who mainly have experience with Christians or Muslims, so they insist on faith being an element of all religions when historically it has not.

Vikings didn't run around asking people if they had accepted Odin as their savior. If you lived in Rome you wouldn't get a knock on your door asking if you had heard the good news of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Nor were the Greeks terribly put off that Egyptians had a different pantheon than they did. In fact, it was generally just accepted that the details of a religious pantheon were tied to the people who worshiped. In many ways, Japan's approach to religion very much reminds me of the pre-Christian ancient world.

Visiting a church at easter & xmas doesn't make someone a christian - in the same way visiting a shrine or temple at new year or obon doesn't make some one a shintoist or buddhist.

Visiting a church at xmas doesn't make one a Christian because Christians (usually) define themselves by a statement of faith. I have never heard of any statement of faith required by any participants in Shinto.

I think we're broadly in agreement in how Japanese religion works in practice, but I doubt the sweeping nature of your claim. I would posit that it is very possible to have religion without superstition.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Because it was another argument to back up my point.

pointing out your beliefs is not an argument, Strangerland.

And "not believing in god or gods" makes you an atheist, not agnostic.

Considering you admittedly didn't know what agnostic meant 12 hours ago, I'll forgive the confusion.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Original wing, I love the birthday cake comparison, indeed lots of Japanese going to temples or shrines are making wishes if you will

Me, I always say I abstain from religion & I too LOVE the way Japanese go about it here.

So yes I don't believe in god(s), for me I haven't seen any proof, that said I have ZERO problem with people whose various religions bring joy to their lives, if it does GREAT I am happy for them!

If we could all leave it at that it would be great, but sadly we don't do we & when religions want to push their ideas yes I can disagree, some points quite strongly, though I get no joy doing so.

That said IF there ever came a day when god(s) were proven to exist I WOULD change my view immediately!! How many religious folks could say the same, not many I suspect.

So if that day comes, I will change my mind but I will be surprised if it does to say the least!!

Oh & often when I am making a wish at the shrine/temple with my wife its often to GET HOME soon so I can have a cold one & crack open that new shochu bottle & pour some on the rocks after a GOOD DAY OUT!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I reiterate my earlier posting that belief in the supernatural & religion are not seperate.

Then stating that this is "just a custom" falls clear of the mark.

Visiting a church at easter & xmas doesn't make someone a christian - in the same way visiting a shrine or temple at new year or obon doesn't make some one a shintoist or buddhist.

BUT there are millions & millions in Japan who do believe such actions of "custom" have supernatural consequences.

They do.

Everything from job interviews or weddings on deemed auspiscious dates, to priests attending funeral rites to ancestor worship at the family butsudan to appeasing "negative" spirits through goryo to the act of mourning a death for 49 days to acknowledging heaven (ten) & hell (jigoku) to the use of the expression kami-sama.....the list is endless. To right off all of these myriads of beliefs as the same as "santa claus" is myopic in the least.

Japan's religiosity may well be VERY different from others cultures, but by definition the society is to a large extent emeshed in religious practices that determine thoughs & actions. It may be declining, but no one can deny the existance of belief in the super-natural by millions, which by my accounts equates to religious beliefs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

An agnostic has the wisdom to not choose either way, in full realization that this no proof either way.

That's not the definition of agnosticism that I learned. The word "agnostic" was coined by T.H. Huxley as a statement of his absolute certainty that he didn't know the cause of existence. He didn't apply it only to belief in gods, but as an approach to everything. One principle is that you should be open and willing to believe in anything so long as it is supported by sound reason and evidence. If you don't accept there is evidence to support the existence of gods, then don't believe in god. That, by some definitions, may make you an atheist. (i.e. absence of belief in god) But by another definition (absolute belief that there is no god), you would not be an atheist. Huxley listed atheists among the groups he despised. I'm guessing "atheism" was defined in the latter way in his day.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Coming from a country where God is name dropped in every entertainer's or athlete's speech or when a politician must be of a certain religion if they want a realistic chance of getting elected...

I salute you, Japan, for being the Least Religious Country in the World.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I am not Japanese so I wont state this as fact, only an idea that I hope someone might confirm or correct. My sense is that the non-devout Japanese as mentioned in the beginning quote see praying at a shrine roughly the way I see making a wish before I blow out the candles on my birthday cake. It is a traditional moment of reflection and a visualization that I have no expectations of coming true through the mystical powers of the cake. But it is a nice thing to do that I'd vaguely feel disappointed about if I didn't get to do it on the traditional day each year.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

clamenza: "I really don't think a Westerner who has recently taken up Buddhism can speak on behalf of the 500 million who grew up with it as part of their culture."

They can when many if not most of those are as Buddhist as their Shinto/Christian weddings, and when they themselves say they don't believe in it when someone who CONVERTS to Buddhism obviously does. Simply being 'born Buddhist' doesn't make you more Buddhist than someone who has chosen it because they know its history and believe in it.

As to the quotation itself: "Visiting a shrine to pray is different from being religious. It has nothing to do with religion. Most Japanese, including me, don’t think about whether we’re religious or not."

I think it depends entirely on your definition of religion and beliefs. I bet Yasunori Ueda goes to the very same shrine to pray every year to pray for good health, and has probably been to another Shrine to pray specifically at that one in order to pass a test or exam, and yet another if he bought a car and wants it blessed. So, why does he, and/or others, go to these specific shrines to PRAY for specific purposes? I bet Ise Grand Shrine is not in his back yard. Why a shrine at all if he is not religious? why not his own backyard? or if he wants a quiet place, a library; or if not solemn enough, a graveyard?

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds in Japan where people might pray to a god unknown or not.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

'Unfortunately many atheists perversely steer every conversation around to religion, and can be extremely intolerant of other views'

Just following on from NZ2011, when the dogmas of religion are used to discriminate, I think it's legitimate to call it out and to be intolerant of those dogmas. Many civilised religious people are also capable of this. Fortunately, Japan's view of religion is highly evolved - they have largely relegated it to tradition rather than using it as a reason to kill, persecute, tell often decent people they don't like are disordered and unnatural etc,etc.

Have you ever met an atheist railing against Japanese people for dropping by the shrine or temple a couple of times a year and pretty much leaving it at that?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't see this as all that particularly complicated. Lots of commenters are raising interesting points about Japan, religion, etc., but when it comes back to the actual quote in question, it is not unsurprising and, in fact, probably the most common view of these visits to a shrine or temple for Japanese people, particularly young people.

So many religious practices have now just become part of the culture and traditions of Japanese society. Yes, it is "religious" but those that engage in them are not doing so to be "religious" per se, but just to continue a tradition/custom. In my opinion.

My wife makes her twice-a-year visits and offer her "prayers". That's it. Same for her parents. They don't have a butsudan in their house. It is just a practice they do. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, when it comes to a senior public official doing the same thing in their official capacity, then it takes on a very different meaning, but that is really a separate topic.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think the vital difference between atheists and agnostics is being overlooked here.

An atheist insists there is no god or gods.

An agnostic has the wisdom to not choose either way, in full realization that this no proof either way. Japanese tend to be agnostics, not atheists. They are not committed to the idea that there is no god or gods. Atheists can get rather militant about their disbelief in gods. Its obvious that most Japanese are not remotely militant about the topic.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Commanteer

I am exteremely intolerant of some views, racism, sexism and so on, unfortunately they are sometimes tangled up in this thing called religion.

I doubt many atheists would bring up belief either, except the fact it is used to discriminate..

2 ( +3 / -1 )

gandhi: i like your Christ, (but) i do not like your Christians. They are so unlike Christ.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That's one thing I love about Japan. No silly and heated religious arguments. And the atheists are among the worst. I have my own beliefs, and others have theirs, but I never force a conversation on the topic. Unfortunately many atheists perversely steer every conversation around to religion, and can be extremely intolerant of other views. I rarely have this problem with other religions. If they start, I tell them I'm not interested, and they usually lay off.

Japanese people believe in various spiritual things, but they rarely push those ideas on others.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Visiting a shrine to pray is different from being religious. It has nothing to do with religion. Most Japanese, including me, don’t think about whether we’re religious or not.

Very true. I'm sure many other posters here have heard the expression regarding Japanese people: "Three day a year Buddhists". That certainly does not qualify as being "religious".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I understand the word 'religion' has different connotations for each of us, but in looking at some of the religions listed above I see they have one thing in common and that's that each is based on man-made myths.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

As a young lad, I was only forced to attend mass on Easter Sunday. Only one Sunday out of the entire year so not bad.

Every Sunday morning for me, and as I got older the boredom was exacerbated by hangovers.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

No one asked you or even referenced your religious beliefs, so why would you share that?

Because it was another argument to back up my point.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

As one Japanese businessman told my father back in the 1960s when he was here on a trip describing Japanese:

"99% of Japanese are smokers and atheists and the other 1% are Christians."

My father always laughed when he thought back on what that Japanese guy told him.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It doesn't hold a candle to sitting through the Catholic mass I was a forced to attend as a schoolboy. Give me a trip to a shrine over that.

Thank god Japanese aren't catholics. Indeed, that would be an equally torturous ritual. As a young lad, I was only forced to attend mass on Easter Sunday. Only one Sunday out of the entire year so not bad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Anyone know of any athiest or sceptic groups in Tokyo?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The assumption being that there is only one and they know who he is. I'm afraid you fell into the same trap at the end of that sentence.

No, I just forgot an "S".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Nothing wrong with a bit of tradition, humans seem to like ceremony and celebration, it's all good, if it's not harmful. People can believe what they like but feel a secular law system is crucial to protect everyone including the religious.

Athiest is a question of belief. Agnostic is a question of knowledge.

For example, I don't belief a god exists but I don't claim to know that is certainly the case. Agnostic atheist.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It doesn't hold a candle to sitting through the Catholic mass I was a forced to attend as a schoolboy. Give me a trip to a shrine over that.

What Wv626 was talking about the countdown and the party that follows. I'll take that as well.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

@Wc626 We should follow the teachings of the Unifying Force... I am more tend to be Ashla but I know the need of Bogan in someone's life

0 ( +0 / -0 )

'Too many slippery rocks on this thread. All I know is going to the Shrine on new years eve to "pray" is most BORING way to usher in the new year.'

It doesn't hold a candle to sitting through the Catholic mass I was a forced to attend as a schoolboy. Give me a trip to a shrine over that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Too many slippery rocks on this thread. All I know is going to the Shrine on new years eve to "pray" is most BORING way to usher in the new year.

2 ( +5 / -4 )

I think a lot of people are getting very confuse and also tend to relate closely Belief in a god (or gods)=religion... that is not true. Most of the time it goes along but it is not a must.

Let me explain.... Religion is basically the need to follow some guidelines, acts (rites) that affect directly the life of the follower. Also there is little tolerance to those religions to follow the teachings of other religions.

The belief in a deity is the other hand free and with little to no need to do some sort of act. Just when you need to ask or talk with the deity (pray) there may be some sort of rule to follow.

As someone said, most Japanese are Agnostic, based in the occidental view of religion and belief, but in truth the majority of Japanese are Buddhist-Shintoist. Agnostics (as I am) tend to behave like most Japanese do, but I think we have and even "broad" view of what are gods, beliefs and religion.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Look people, it's simple. Japan is an agnostic society. Shinto (and more recently Christianity) for weddings, Buddhism for funerals & everything between. Japanese have always 'picked & chosen' their 'faiths' (for lack of a better word) to suit the occasion. The fact that Japan doesn't have an orthodox (read: archaic) Church & State system is a... drum roll godsend. I'll see myself out!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Strangerland, sorry I was not pedantic enough for you; by definition (Oxford Dictionary) an atheist in one who does not believe in god or godS.(emphasis mine)

And I only referenced God, not gods.

And on top of all that, I don't believe in God nor in gods. I'm not an atheist though, I'm agnostic.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

As stated by Jimizo - superstition & religion are not necessarily seperate entities - they both dwell in the super-natural.

Personally I find much superstition in all major religions. Each religion tries to qualify it's own "superstitions" as the "Truth" and puts down others as shams, falsities, heathen, pagan or other tags.

And those who say that many Japanese, by praying at a shinto shrine or buddhist temple are not religious, hold only a very narrow definition of the word. The formal act of prayer - to whom / whatever - denotes a belief in super-natural powers by the person(s) that will answer their call in some way or form.

Japan fits my understanding to a T. Amen.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It all depends on how you define "religious":

If religious means getting up and going to work --> Japan is very religious. Religiously standing in line #1. Religious dogma => Japan is very low on the scale.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

'There are thousands of "gods" in Japan, just because they don't focus on one in particular does not mean they don't believe in God.'

It's the arrogance of monotheists who see nothing wrong with the question "Do you believe in God?". The assumption being that there is only one and they know who he is. I'm afraid you fell into the same trap at the end of that sentence.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@katsu78, very well put. I note that my JP wife seems very spiritual and believes in Heaven and spirits and ghosts even though she would probably agree with the quote above. The Japanese way is kind of comfortable and recognizes a type of spirituality without blind adherence to a Book.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This thread is interesting. Everyone has a chunk of the truth, but none have a monopoly. Those who seem at odds, are not really. They are just talking past each other, or nitpicking, or, talking about certain groups and not others. For example, we don't know what is going in the mind of non-believing Japanese people who "pray" at shrines. Are they praying to themselves, god(s), dead ancestors, their lucky stars, or is their mind a complete blank at that moment? Or are they asking themselves what they will have for lunch, or remembering a TV show they saw yesterday?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

There are too many comments here from non-Buddhists who believe those of us who revere (not deify) Buddha and his teachings believe in God. Buddha didn't teach that.

I really don't think a Westerner who has recently taken up Buddhism can speak on behalf of the 500 million who grew up with it as part of their culture.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Strangerland Atheism is the absence of belief in any God. Hindus and Buddhists and Shintoists believe in gods.

Strangerland, sorry I was not pedantic enough for you; by definition (Oxford Dictionary) an atheist in one who does not believe in god or godS.(emphasis mine)

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I mean, if you don't believe in God,

There are thousands of "gods" in Japan, just because they don't focus on one in particular does not mean they don't believe in God.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

There are too many comments here from non-Buddhists who believe those of us who revere (not deify) Buddha and his teachings believe in God. Buddha didn't teach that.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

In a way, the very concept of religion has become a victim of the success of Christianity and Islam. These two religions, apart from a few related cults, spin-offs, and modern movements inspired by them, alone among most of the religions in human history emphasize a commitment to a declaration of faith. For the overwhelming majority of religions in human history, faith just isn't that important. What's important is participation in symbolic rituals as a part of a community. And yet because Christianity and Islam are so populous and so influential in world politics, people are now under the mistaken impression that all religions must fit their mold.

Japan isn't an atheist country. It's simply a country where with respect to religion orthodoxy is almost entirely disregarded. For the majority, participation is through orthopraxy. Which is an approach I'm much more comfortable with, personally.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

You'll have to point out how it was false.

Too busy today to do research for you. Google it and thank me for correcting you later. You're welcome in advance.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How ironic that a country without religion has a religious-backed political party in the ruling coalition, meaning that no bills in the Diet can be voted into law without their agreement and support.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

You'll have to point out how it was false.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Thats right. Some Buddhists and Hindus can also be classified as atheists while the majority are not.

Atheism is the absence of belief in any God. Hindus and Buddhists and Shintoists believe in gods.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

So Buddhists are atheists? And Hindus? And shootists? None of them believe in God.

Thats right. Some Buddhists and Hindus can also be classified as atheists while the majority are not. You'll have to fill me in on what a "shootist" is

In any case, you haven't addressed your original false statement

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Stangerland; You did, though; by definition one who doesn't believe in god is an atheist;

So Buddhists are atheists? And Hindus? And shootists? None of them believe in God.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Nothing you said counters anything I said, nor did I mention anything about atheism.

Stangerland; You did, though; by definition one who doesn't believe in god is an atheist; your first post says "whether you believe in god or not."

1 ( +3 / -2 )

'But we don't pray to it. How can you separate religion from prayer? I mean, if you don't believe in God, who are you praying to then?'

Why the singular with 'God'? Monotheism never really caught on in Japan. I remember my old Japanese teacher ( I miss you Hiro - RIP ) giving us a fascinating, irreverent and funny lesson on a toilet god.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

When I'm wrong, I admit it. It's happened a few times here. But I'm pretty much always right.

You are the George Costanza of JT posters. Every instinct you have is wrong.

At least George Costanza knew he was full of it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Using the word 'pray' loosely, I think many people pray in any number of ways for any number of reasons. Is visualising praying? Is it that different from going to a shrine and praying?

http://www.footy4kids.co.uk/visualisation_techniques.htm

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Please address other contributors by their correct user name.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

'But more about superstition and less about religion in my opinion.'

The two can't be neatly separated.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Nothing you said counters anything I said, nor did I mention anything about atheism.

Clearly you did. How can someone be so consistently wrong as you, yet continue to pontificate so much?

Strangerland, little friend. You take the cake.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Wrong again. People are simply covering their bases.In other words, they are agnostic, not atheist.

Nothing you said counters anything I said, nor did I mention anything about atheism.

You're trying too hard Clammy m' boy.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

" I mean, if you don't believe in God, who are you praying to then?"

It's probably 90% about "luck" relating to success in romance, school, career, etc. And health of course. But more about superstition and less about religion in my opinion.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Yourself. Whether you believe in god or not.

Wrong again. People are simply covering their bases.In other words, they are agnostic, not atheist.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

But we don't pray to it. How can you separate religion from prayer? I mean, if you don't believe in God, who are you praying to then?

Yourself. Whether you believe in god or not.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

'Japan is one of the world’s least religious countries, according to a Gallup survey this year,'

One of its true beauties. Please don't change.

16 ( +23 / -7 )

But we don't pray to it. How can you separate religion from prayer? I mean, if you don't believe in God, who are you praying to then?

2 ( +12 / -10 )

I would say this is akin to the fact that most people putting up a Christmas tree, which is clearly a Pagan and Celtic religious symbol, don't give much thought to the Yuletide religious connotations of the tree.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

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