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Understanding World Religions

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today -- particularly when it comes to the "big three" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don't adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world's religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.
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Nov 18, 2015

Our quote for today is from Yukitaka Yamamoto. He said, "To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world's goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Shinto"

Shinto, Japan's traditional religion, combines animistic aspects with ancestor veneration. There are shrines, priests, and corporate ceremonies, but much of Shinto is practiced in the home. It has no founder or starting date and has been practiced in Japan since before recorded history. It is so imbedded in the culture that it didn't even have a name until the arrival of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism from China in about AD 400, when it was called Shinto to distinguish it from the other systems. The name comes from the Chinese words "shen" and "tao," meaning "the way of the gods." The Japanese name, "kami no mi chi," means the same.

Although "kami" is usually rendered "gods," it has a much broader meaning in the Japanese mind. It refers not only to major deities like the Sun Goddess but also to lesser deities, spirits of ancestors, even a spiritual presence in trees or hills. Basically, anything possessing a form of spiritual power or influence fits into the category. The Japanese estimate there are eight million kami.

Shinto also has nationalistic aspects. Its mythology explains the origins of the Sun Goddess (Amaterasu), the creation of Japan and the rest of the world, and how the Japanese emperors descended from Amaterasu, which is why they were believed by the Japanese to have divine status. In the 1930s, the military manipulated these traditions to justify the invasion of China and the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

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