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 How Japan's religions confront tragedy 
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Post How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Found this interesting....

CNN wrote:
How Japan's religions confront tragedy
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Proud of their secular society, most Japanese aren't religious in the way Americans are: They tend not to identify with a single tradition nor study religious texts.

"The average Japanese person doesn’t consciously turn to Buddhism until there’s a funeral,” says Brian Bocking, an expert in Japanese religions at Ireland’s University College Cork.

When there is a funeral, though, Japanese religious engagement tends to be pretty intense.

“A very large number of Japanese people believe that what they do for their ancestors after death matters, which might not be what we expect from a secular society,” says Bocking. “There’s widespread belief in the presence of ancestors’ spirits.”

In the days and weeks ahead, huge numbers of Japanese will be turning to their country’s religious traditions as they mourn the thousands of dead and try to muster the strength and resources to rebuild amid the massive destruction wrought by last Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.

For most Japanese, religion is more complex than adhering to the country’s ancient Buddhist tradition. They blend Buddhist beliefs and customs with the country’s Shinto tradition, which dates back to the 15th century.

“Japanese are not religious in the way that people in North America are religious,” says John Nelson, chair of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco. “They’ll move back and forth between two or more religious traditions, seeing them as tools that are appropriate for certain situations.”

“For things connected to life-affirming events, they’ll turn to Shinto-style rituals or understandings,” Nelson says. “But in connection to tragedy or suffering, it’s Buddhism.”

There are many schools of Japanese Buddhism, each with its own teachings about suffering and what happens after death.

“There are many Buddhist explanations of why calamities happen: from collective karma to seeing calamities as signs of apocalypse,” says Jimmy Yu, an assistant professor of Buddhism and Chinese religions at Florida State University. “And perhaps all of them are irrelevant to what needs to be done.”

Indeed, where Christianity, Judaism or Islam are often preoccupied with causes of disaster - the questions of why God would allow an earthquake, for example - Eastern traditions like Buddhism and Shinto focus on behavior in reaction to tragedy.

“It’s very important in Japanese life to react in a positive way, to be persistent and to clean up in the face of adversity, and their religions would emphasize that,” says University College Cork’s Bocking. “They’ll say we have to develop a powerful, even joyful attitude in the face of adversity.”

Japan’s major religious groups are still developing responses to the disaster, but experts say the impulse toward maintaining a positive outlook will likely translate into calls for Japanese to help friends and neighbors clean up and rebuild.

At the same time, Japan’s Buddhist priests will be preoccupied with rituals surrounding death and burial. Japanese Buddhism is often called funeral Buddhism because of its concern with such rituals.

Despite the Japanese penchant for blending their religious traditions - even with Western traditions like Catholicism - the overwhelming majority are buried according to Buddhist custom: cremation and interment in a family plot.

With many bodies swept away in the tsunami, many Japanese will have to come to terms with having to forego that ritual.

After burial, Japanese typically continue to practice rituals around caring for the spirits of the deceased. Most Japanese keep Buddhist altars in their homes, Nelson says, using them to pay tribute to dead ancestors.

“In the days ahead, you’ll see people praying, with hands folded, for the spirits of those killed,” he says. “It goes back to a really early understanding of human spirits and rituals designed to control those spirits, which can take 49 days or, depending on the type of Buddhism, could go on for up to seven years.”

One popular school of Japanese Buddhism, called Amida - or Pure Land - believes in a paradise that spirits of the dead can enter with help from living relatives.

Despite what is likely to be a mass embrace of Buddhist rituals after the earthquake, there may also be some grievances expressed over those traditions.

Many young Japanese have left Buddhism, accusing priests of profiting from grief because of their paid roles in burials. Critics say the priests spend money from funerals on temples without playing a broader role in society.

“The earthquake is an opportunity for Buddhist priests to step up and show they are still relevant,” says Nelson. “Young people just aren’t buying it anymore.”

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/1 ... t-tragedy/


While watching AC360 last night they noted how calm everyone has been in the wake of this tragedy. Very interesting indeed.

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March 15th, 2011, 9:48 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Interesting... the Japanese have been an "odd" bunch overall on how their culture reacts to things. They obviously moved away from religion some time ago but maintain some pieces to their past which influence their culture. I think there is more of a link between their samari past than their buddist past if you look at history, which gives them a culture much more focused on the country as a whole instead of individuals (Americans basically only care about themselves). You can see that in how they react to tragety and even how they came together as a nation in WWII and how they saw themselves as individuals willing to give their lives purposefully for the nation.

I think it is bigger than just a few religious ceremonies left over from a religious past a long time ago...

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March 15th, 2011, 10:42 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
I don't intend to bash religion here, so please don't take it that way. But, we had a discussion on here before where it was stated that religious people had higher morals and better values. If that's the case, then why does a secular society like Japan have no looting during a natural disaster? We've seen rampant looting before in places like New Orleans and Haiti following similar disasters, which supposedly have more religious populations. Perhaps, atheists/agnostics aren't such bad people afterall (even though I'll admit that some of them are).

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March 16th, 2011, 12:08 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
slybri19 wrote:
I don't intend to bash religion here, so please don't take it that way. But, we had a discussion on here before where it was stated that religious people had higher morals and better values. If that's the case, then why does a secular society like Japan have no looting during a natural disaster? We've seen rampant looting before in places like New Orleans and Haiti following similar disasters, which supposedly have more religious populations. Perhaps, atheists/agnostics aren't such bad people afterall (even though I'll admit that some of them are).


If you take "religion" in general and feel that none are right then yes, lumped together "religion" is no different than "non-religious." I could easily point out Russia as the exact opposite and the fact that non-religious Japan was trying to take over the world with Germany in WWII as examples of a counterpoint. I could then take the USSR and China one step farther on what non-religious country can do... the exact same mess that the religious countries do.

I contend that you can find good and bad in every situation and point in in favor or out of favor for religion. Example, NO area claimed a very deep religious tie, yet they looted. In that same situation though, who were the organizations that stayed longer term helping rebuild? I went down twice, first time there was a LARGE group of Campus Crusades for Christ, Amish, Methodist, and some non-religious and corperate help. When I went back the second time, it was JUST the first three. After a month or so, all that was left was religious organizations helping out... so one could argue that the religous groups are the ones that showed they really cared.

I'm not going to make that claim because I think that it is short sited, as you pointed out, who was looting? What I will point out is that I see a distinct difference to those to SAY they believe something and those who seem take it more seriously. Religion is just a set of defined beliefs, NOT any indication of what that is and how much they practice it. Do a sidewalk poll and you will find 75%-95% in the US will claim to be Christian depending on your location. Then ask how serious they take it and that number drops by 50% almost immediatly. Then ask those who focus on their beliefs daily and you are looking at under 10%.

Now, how much is that going to actually influence their life? If I say I think something is important, but don't do anything to have it influence my life, my life is not going to be effected by it or it's values. I will just have a tag on me but no real significance to it. If I say I'm buddist, but can't tell you what it takes to be buddist, does that make sense? Ask those on the street that question and again most won't be able to tell you. So they are Christian, but don't know why... huh?

My point is, if the religion isn't influencing your life, what is? I contend that for most people claiming Christianity, our culture is MORE of an influence because they focus more of their time on fitting in to our culture. You will be influenced by what you spend your time on. it's simple human nature. If I spend 6 days a week watching MTV, FoxNews, MSNBC, movies, etc. then on Sunday maybe show up for church, what is going to influence you? I know this is a touchy subject, but it's simple. You don't get a bachelors degree by showing up to class for 1 hour on a morning and no one will take your degree attempts seriously. No one is going to think you are being influenced enough to understand and practice that skill you are trying to learn.

So how Christianity contends this idea, I can't speak for any other religion, is that the Bible is clear that we are going to screw up and not be perfect. AS Christians or not, we are not going to do everything right. Culture will influence us, we will slip up, etc. US culture and many other western cultures, we see looting in times of peril. Culturally, we are all about us and we make decisions as such. We don't actively as a culture seek to control the world (yet), but we get a lot of other stuff wrong. Japan and their culture on the other hand is more "us" focused, looting in these times hurts the collective so it isn't accepted by them. But as a collective when they wanted to control the world, or a large part, they bonded together and did something we consider terrible.

I think the culture has been a bigger influence tha "religion" because (1) we are going to make mistakes, all of us (2) we mimick what we know. Since culture is much more influencial in our lives than religion (by practice, the vast majority is that case) then the tough calls are going to be decided by culture rather than religion. I don't see any explination that explains this other than this... I've tried looking, I get nothing.

I contend that, take that 10% of "full time" Christians and you get a different reaction than the 40% that would be Christian by name only as a group reaction. Same thing with something like Buddist, take people who devote to that religion intently daily and those who just say they believe but don't do anything, you will get a much different (better?) reaction than those who don't. On the flipside, you get a much different one from "extremest" Muslims than Muslims by name only, but that might be such a positive difference ;)

We are influenced by what we focus on, for MOST humans, religion is a by name only deal so it isn't going to influence us when the gun is to our head. It is just the way we are, no getting around it. We can be influenced by something other than culture if we focus on it, for the good or the bad. I think taking isolated incidents as "proof" means we all are just going to note the ones that help our "cause" more instead of getting it all in context. I know I'm guilty of it, but I'm willing to look at it from a wider view.

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March 16th, 2011, 10:48 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Here is an example of cultural differences showing:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/ ... 3554.shtml

50 people likely to die if/when the nuclear reactor goes. They'll stay till the end to try and stop this mess.

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March 16th, 2011, 12:09 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Good on ya, workers and thank you! You represent a dying breed and are a credit to your Country, Family, Friends, etc. I salute you all!

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March 16th, 2011, 2:16 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
It is a dying breed for sure, I bet it would be harder to find 50 people to do that in the US IMO. They have much different approach to what each persons role is. We focus on personal freedoms so much everyone thinks they are out to get theirs and that is it. Much different culture and this is certainly a very commendable aspect of it.

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March 16th, 2011, 2:54 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
steensn wrote:
It is a dying breed for sure, I bet it would be harder to find 50 people to do that in the US IMO. They have much different approach to what each persons role is. We focus on personal freedoms so much everyone thinks they are out to get theirs and that is it. Much different culture and this is certainly a very commendable aspect of it.

Sad, but true. Though I would be willing to bet I could find more than 50 (or even the 180 being talked about now) that would do the same as these Japanese workers, but they're all in the military....just a different mind set.

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March 16th, 2011, 4:07 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Yeah, probably could find them... but it would be much more difficult which we can agree I bet.

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March 16th, 2011, 4:11 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
steensn wrote:
It is a dying breed for sure, I bet it would be harder to find 50 people to do that in the US IMO. They have much different approach to what each persons role is. We focus on personal freedoms so much everyone thinks they are out to get theirs and that is it. Much different culture and this is certainly a very commendable aspect of it.


I either read an article or heard it on the news, but there are people trained at each of reactors here in the states to respond to the same type of disaster. The discussion indicated that these people would risk their lives just as fireman, police officers or a special forces trained person would.

I think you have a hard time finding someone off the street to do it, but I feel pretty condfident that the men and women trained to handle the disaster would be willing to step to the task.

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March 16th, 2011, 10:07 pm
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
"Greater love hath no man, that he should give up his life for another."

It boils down to love, and when you measure up your abilities as compared to the needs of the situation, sometimes life seems so insignificant. These men and women, know that they are the only one's capable of doing the job, they also know the risks, or are already exposed. So why send someone healthy to do what I can do, until the radiation kills me. It is a similar mindset to Civil War Soldiers, they didn't fight for a cause, a leader, or the people back home as much as they fought for the guy next to them.

It's a beautiful demonstration, but costly!

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March 17th, 2011, 9:42 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
TNLionsFanatic wrote:
steensn wrote:
It is a dying breed for sure, I bet it would be harder to find 50 people to do that in the US IMO. They have much different approach to what each persons role is. We focus on personal freedoms so much everyone thinks they are out to get theirs and that is it. Much different culture and this is certainly a very commendable aspect of it.


I either read an article or heard it on the news, but there are people trained at each of reactors here in the states to respond to the same type of disaster. The discussion indicated that these people would risk their lives just as fireman, police officers or a special forces trained person would.

I think you have a hard time finding someone off the street to do it, but I feel pretty condfident that the men and women trained to handle the disaster would be willing to step to the task.


Wow, that would be cool. I agree they exist. I just contend that it is easier to find these people in the Japanese culture.

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March 17th, 2011, 9:44 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
Steens, Im not so sure about that. Yes when nothing is going on the american priority is very selfish. But look at how we rally when tragedy strikes. Look at how people reacted to 911, or New Orleans. While the response to New Orleans was slow, people who lived in that area were on boats rescuing rooftops stragglers almost instantly.

The American people always seem to rise when the occasion calls for it.

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March 17th, 2011, 11:03 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
You will get people to rise, absolutaly. I'm talking general here. Sly noted a perfect example, what did Americans do when Katrina hit? Some helped, some looted. What happened in Japan just now? Some helped, no one looted. There is an obvious difference here that we cannot deny. It isn't that their cutlure is better than ours, it's just different. Their culture breed a goliath of a takeover attempt, what does that say about them?

I think it just shows we are different and that even with each benefit in the culture they have, it leads to some very negative things as well. We as a culture are more selfish and more apt to only help ourselves. They as a culture are more apt to work towards more goup level good.

We have to face the facts that no culture is perfect and I know people want to just defend America at every corner for patriotic reasons, but we also should realize that we are not perfect and we show that in a different way then other cultures. Their imperfections show different.

I bet most of this board would risk their lives in that reactor. I think overall this board is a bit more ready for that than most Americans though as well, at least we talk the talk ;)

But let's be honest, though we can rise up on occasion, overeall we are more selfish than other cultures. We are not actively others focused day to day where the Japanese are group focused. Right or wrong, good or bad? Not my point, it's just the facts. We loot, they don't, balls to the wall, gun to our head, every major issue we have looting is rampant where as they have none. If we cannot acknowledge the difference then we cannot learn how to work to make ourselves better.

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March 17th, 2011, 11:17 am
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Post Re: How Japan's religions confront tragedy
i can buy into that thinkin

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March 17th, 2011, 1:34 pm
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