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Thoughts on The Shinto Religion and Its Philosophy

(For more on religion, here are some materials I wrote:

Once again, I am exhausted, so like with my recent writings on the site, I will try to be brief in order to conserve my energies. Let's begin with what I have to say on one of the world's most unique religion: The Shinto Religion.

The Shinto religion is probably one of the world's most liberal religions, in a sense that it doesn't have a single divine authority, nor things you necessarily have to believe in as a practitioner of Shinto. Unlike western religions, Shinto's philosophy is more about practicing ceremonies rather than having faith.

From what I gathered, which you can see for yourself too, most Japanese people practice Shinto, but most of them, regardless of their practicing, do not necessarily believe in the Shinto faith.

This is what makes this religion very unique, because in the eyes of the Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity and Islam, a practitioner is expected to believe in the religion they follow.

Shinto comes in and says that, as long as you practice the appropriate ceremonies, the appropriate blessings and so on, your faith matters less. That's at least the impression I got from looking at videos, and if I recall correctly, I also studied a bit of Shinto at university.

Shinto, or "The Way of the Gods", was almost never a coherent religion. it has no founders, no prophets, and not even an idea of an afterlife like of a heaven-and-hell reward system. Instead, it has... yes... infinite gods, with each God being the supervisor of something or someone specific. Who knows, maybe you have a God supervising on you too, if we are to believe that Shintoism exists as a fact.

There are countless shrines in Japan, dedicated to different Gods, or Kamis. Kamis are essentially the Shinto gods; heavenly spirits that exist alongside us, whether visible or invisible.

During WWII, the Emperor of Japan was regarded as an Earthly Kami, or a living Kami, to be specific, the embodiment of the divine.

Due to its liberal nature, there is no conflict among Shinto philosophy when it comes to adopting and even combining other religions, such as Buddhism and Confucianism. However, a small sect of Shinto believers still regards the Japanese Emperor (they have a constitutional monarch) to still be a living, Kami. Thus, they might praise him as if he was a living god.

Being a ceremonial religion, you are basically free to do anything you wish as long as you respect your community, your family, your nation and, of course, your Kamis. The "funny" thing about Shinto, is that it was only used as a name only far later in Japanese history (the 17th century if I'm not wrong).

This makes this religion to be something more folklore-based rather than institution-based. There are no sacred texts, only sacred ceremonies, which you don't even have to believe in, in order to perform them, and thus, pay the respects you are required to pay in Japanese culture.

What is a Kami? If we are to assume that exists an extra layer of reality, a reality that we cannot see with our own naked eyes, then the whole universe might as well be bombarded by these supervising, respect-requiring spirits.

In a video I watched, there was a claim that there are over 80 millions of them, even though the commenter believes it's just the way for the Japanese to claim that there are infinite gods/kami. Whether or not one can communicate with a Kami, is far beyond me, but the medium of which one can influence their impact on one's life, is through ceremonies and festivals.

I find it very ironic that most of the Shinto's practitioners do not identify themselves as this religion followers (if that fact is indeed true). As a "Jew", I am expected to wear kippas in certain occasions, such as funerals, bat mitsvahs and the Passover feast (Kippas are pieces of cloth Jewish males put on their head).

However, since I do not believe in Judaism anymore, I see no reason to wear something belonging to a religion I do not identify myself with. Being the founder of the world's other Abrahamic religions, Judaism expects you to both practice religious ceremonies and believe in the God of which you serve.

However, when I was exposed to Shintoism, I was very surprised to see that not every ethnic religion is necessarily an authoritarian one like Judaism and Samaritarianism (AKA, the Samaritans' religion).

As a philosopher I am very fond of the concept of polytheism, even though I don't believe in it. I am fond of it, because it's there when you are allowed to believe in whatever god you want, at least in most cases. However, the Abrahamic religious philosophy, with its idea of a rewarding-or-punishing afterlife, might condemn you to eternal damnation if you do not truly believe in what you practice.

In other words, Shintoism is a very refreshing religion, and probably one of humanity's most tolerant religions, along with Buddhism. The only way it punishes you is by bringing you misfortune, but you can "fix" that by performing fortune-bringing ceremonies, such as community services, festivals and donations to the local shrine.

This isn't to say that I believe in it, which is far from the truth, but as a philosopher I am glad to see that not all forms of religions are necessarily authoritarian in nature... especially when it comes to forcing upon you their beliefs and expecting you to believe in them as well.

If you happen to be a Shinto practitioner, I apologize if I happened to be wrong about certain things mentioned in this article. If you want to learn more about Shinto, look for it yourself, for I do not pretend to be a researcher, only an input-provider. Aren't all philosophers, input-providers, at the most basic level?

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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