Tag Archives: kami

Religious Tolerance: find the beauty in every religion

In more recent years, religions across the world have been on the decline. According to the Washington Post, in the 1950s those who identified with no religion was at about 2 percent of the entire population. In 1970, this percentage grew to 7 percent. Now, the percentage has swelled to almost 20 percent of the population.

According to Pew, 74 percent of those who don’t identify with a religion grew up without a religious belief.

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It’s hard to locate the source of the problem. With the younger generations it seems religion and faith have taken a back seat. More children are being raised faithless in the United States than every before. The decline in religion dates to the 1990s when trust in religious institution became questionable. Scandal is no stranger to religion, including sexual scandals of church leaders and the church’s opposition of same-sex marriage.

1worldI’ve noticed the decline of religion in my life. My great-grandparents were straight off the boat Irish, strict Roman Catholics. Both my grandparents and my parents were raised Roman Catholic, but me? Well, I was raised Roman Catholic too, but not in the same sense they were. My upbringing was not strict. We did everything the normal Catholics did. My siblings and I have all been baptized, confessed, communed and confirmed. We used to always go to church on Sundays until there was some controversy with my mom’s favorite priest, and we stopped going after he left the parish.

Over the years I’ve grown apart from the religion I was raised in. Learning about other religions and understanding what others believe in has made me more accepting of other ideas. Maybe Catholicism isn’t the only important religion out there? Maybe I think there’s more than one God? Maybe I don’t even believe in God?

I have always been one to question religion and I think I always will. There will never be a way to really known and that’s why we have faith. As I’ve grown up, I’ve lost the faith I had in the Catholic church. I like to think that I’ve developed a syncretic religion that is all my own.

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Here is what I know…

  1. I love the Amish life of simplicity.
  2. I love the Taoist idea of the Tao. The feeling inside of you that cannot be described in words. The source and the driving force behind everything. When you have to make a decision and something instinctively tells you to make a certain decision, that’s the Tao working inside you. The Tao will always keep you on the path meant for you.
  3. I love that marriage is a central notion for Mormon life. They believe God ordered them to get marriage and have children. Mormons believe that the family continues on together to salvation after death and I hope that’s true.
  4. I love all of the ideas behind Sikhism. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to keep God in your mind, to live honestly, to work hard, to treat everyone as an equal and to be generous to the less fortunate. I think if we could all learn to live like the Sikhs the world would be a much happier place.
  5. I love the Wiccan quote “If you take the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible is the wind and the rain.” Like me, the Wiccans believe in the very world they see right before their eyes.
  6. The unity and push for equality that surrounds the Unitarian Universalists is beautiful. I hope one day all religions can be this accepting.
  7. I like that Scientology seeks to base their beliefs in something concrete.
  8. I love the Buddhist idea of reincarnation. For me, reincarnation is the explanation for déjà vu. Why do I feel like I have been here before? Because you have been. Why do I know exactly what he is about to say? Because you’ve heard it before.
  9. I simply love the Rastafarian dreadlocks.
  10. I love the Jain idea of bad karma accumulating on the human soul and that the human has to spend their life “chipping away” that karma. It gives us a reason to live for the good.
  11. I love the Bahá’í belief that greater good will prevail when humanity works together in unity for the benefit of not themselves, but others.
  12. I love that Zoroastrians pray facing the sun because it symbolizes God’s divine light.
  13. I love that Spiritualists believe that every soul lives past physical death and that all souls are reunited.
  14. I love that Santeria was born because the African slaves felt so strongly about their religion they refused to completely convert, but instead blended religions.
  15. I love that Atheists believe in humanity rather than a higher being and that they believe the real reward is living a good life now while you’re here to live it.
  16. I love Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith and that they are required to help the less fortunate.
  17. I love that Hasidic Jews live together in tight-knit communities where they really care about each other.
  18. I love the Shinto notion that there are kamis there to guide us. Everyone can use a helping hand now and then.
  19. I love that Candomblé doesn’t believe in good or bad. Just that one person should live their life in order to fulfill their own destiny as best they can.
  20. I love the creativity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
  21. I love that Confucianism teaches that human nature is “teachable, improvable, and perfectible.”
  22. Interfaith marriage is beautiful.

And let’s face it… I have nothing nice to say about the Westboro Baptist Church.

When you take a chance to open yourself to others beliefs you might be surprised. You might end up believing in something you weren’t raised to believe in. You might learn to tolerate others in a new way. There is something beautiful in every religion if you take the time to find it.

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Shintoism: praying for helping hand from the spirits

mulanpraysIt’s largely debated that Disney princess Mulan was Shinto, a spiritual religion centered on communication with helpful spirits. While Mulan is Chinese, many aspects in the movie point to Shintoism. The movie even depicts the family’s personal shrine where she goes to pray to them for safety before she joins the war.

Shinto is an ethnic and spiritually bound Japanese religion that emphasizes the communication between living humans and spirits. The religion centers on the connection between present day Japan and ancient Japan. The name Shinto is derived from the Chinese characters for Shen meaning the divine being and Tao which means the way of the spirits. Ritual is central to the Shinto religion and visiting shrines is popular amongpriests-meiji-cc-chrisjfry followers especially around the Japanese New Year. There is no founder of the religion and there are no Gods to be worshiped. There is also no central text, although Shintoism does teach a set of ethical principles for worshipers. Shintoism is also very much a local religion. There is not much missionary work and the religion revolves around the idea of local worship. Followers might even have small shrines in their homes. Shinto has been viewed as a Japanese faith that has influenced culture for more than 2000 years.

Shintos call the spiritual beings they connect with kami. The work kami can be translated to “spirits” in English, but it is important to note that the Japanese version of the world also incorporates the spirits of landscapes, elements and nature. Shintos believe that kami are spirits that have passed on who are still interested in human beings and communicating with us. Kamis are not Gods, but they can be prayed to and should be treated with respect. Shintos believe that if kamis are 711308701_origproperly respected they can help us and bring us good benefits like A’s on final exams. Kamis have the ability to influence nature and human lives in order to bring us happiness.

There is no concept of sin in Shintoism and it is believed that all humans are basically good. Most followers of Shintoism are devoted to the emphasis of goodness in a man’s life.

One important aspect of Shintoism is purity. Shintos believe that all humans are born pure and that humans collect “badness” over time. The human can get rid of the impurity in their life through purifying rituals. The most common purifying agents are water and salt. The purification takes place at the beginning of the ceremony when the hands and face are washed. The priest then uses a haraigushi, a ‘purification’ want over the person completing the purification.  Many Shintos perform these purification in large groups, especially at the beginning of a new year.

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The Shinto shrine called a jinja is a sacred place where the kami live. Every town has its own kami and a shrine dedicated to it. There is always a Shinto shrine in town for public worship, but many Shintosshinto also have private shrines. Shrines do not have to be buildings, they can be anywhere, but they must be special to each kami. There is no obligation to visit the shrine. Shintos visit the shrines during festivals and whenever they feel that they should. Often they visit shrines during time of need to ask the kamis for assistance.

Shinto weddings do exist, however, they are very unpopular with only 20 percent of Shintos participating. The standard Shinto wedding is small, involving family and close friends. The bride wears a white kimono and a white scarf to symbolize purity. The wedding begins with a purification followed by prayers to the kami for the couple. The couple takes three sips from three different cups and read their commitments to each other.shinto_wedding_meiji_jingu_4093

The Shinto concept of baptism is called Hatsumiyamairi. The newborn is taken to the shrine by the grandmother and prayers are recited.

In Shintoism, death is seen as impure. Shinto funerals do not usually occur. The dead are handled by the laypeople who bury the body in a cemetery. Shrines and cemeteries will never be found near each other in Japan.

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