Saturday, March 13, 2010

A good thing about Japan - it's not religious!

Yes, Japan has many good points and I've just remembered one of them!

Japan is not a religious country.

Well, that's not entirely true. A vague but deep sense of superstition pervades the culture. Many people believe in ghosts, spirits, and good luck charms. They will go to a shrine to pray for health, or assistance is passing university exams, or help in getting pregnant.

But their beliefs are not dogmatic. A typical person will cheerfully go to Shinto shrine and a Buddhist temple in the same month without seeing a contradiction. Nor is there one. Indeed there is a kind of informal overlap between major religions here...Shinto looks after birth and childhood; you get married in a church with a (usually fake) Christian priest, and your funeral is a Buddhist ceremony. Nobody gets angry. And then, if asked, people will say 'there's probably no God anyway.' I have even read that most Buddhist and Shinto priests don't actually believe in God or an afterlife - it's just a job.

Nobody really takes religious belief seriously here. The conflicts of the Middle East and the ravings of the American Bible Belt are viewed with bemusement or dismay. And best of all, religion has not forced its hypocritical slimy tentacles into government, or education, or morality. Sex doesn't come with the religious guilt it does in the West. You will not go to hell for sleeping with the soccer team - you will just get gossiped about.

The lack of strong religious belief in Japan is one of its best points. Probably contributes to low levels of violence and a general feeling of physical safey.

And I think this is funny:

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