Japan and Religion

I’m not sure about this but Japan might be the most secular country in the world. It certainly must be in the top 5. The people themselves in general could care less about religion and the only time it enters any discussion past “you’re Christian, right?” is from some crazy Jehova’s Witness who comes a-knockin’ on your door on a Sat. afternoon. (Yes, they exist here).

I love it.

One of the reasons I grew so fed up with America was the insane amount of Jesus preaching that goes on. In America, founded largely somewhat as an experiment to separate religion and state officially and irrevocably, the president has to meet with an evangelical preacher (if you aren’t from America and not sure what that is, it’s one of those people who believe the snake in Genesis was an actual, talking snake) in order to even have a chance at getting elected. America is insanely nuts over Christianity.

As an atheist, I grew very sick of the entire scene. Luckily for me, I landed in a country that believes in god only somewhat more than I do.

One of my favorite things to do is to debate religion. I could care less about what happened on some reality show. But talking about the meaning of life and whether a soul will outlast our human bodies eternally? Yeah, that sounds important. Debate is more difficult to find in Japan than it was back home, what with trying to maintain wa and all that.

My journey to atheism started during high school. I got it into my head reading the bible would be great fun. What it really was was the quickest path to becoming a non-believer. From there, it was a matter of some years while the layers of faith I had held since I could remember slowly crumbled away one-by-one.

Two distinct occurrences kept me hanging on for quite a while.

One day, I was driving to school or my friend’s house. I was about 16 or 17 at the time. On this particular road there was a RR crossing without a gate. I drove this road almost every day of my life. This particular day I was driving along and keeping tabs on the car behind me. This car suddenly started to slow down. I couldn’t figure out why this moron was going from 45 mph down to 30. 20. 15. Damn, he’s nearly stopped. In the middle of the road. What is he doing? I couldn’t explain it. The track lights weren’t blinking. There was no sound from the RR tracks. The light ahead of us (the one on the immediate other side of the tracks) was still green. What is this guy doing? So, figuring he’s just out of his mind I kept on driving.

Upon reaching approximately 5 feet to the other side of the tracks I looked again into my rear view mirror to see what this guy was doing. To my surprise I was staring at the middle of a train. I quickly glanced to my left and saw this train was a few cars down the track. Even to this day I have no explanation for how that train got that far down the track without either 1) some kind of disturbance of time/space or 2) blasting my car apart and killing me instantly along with it.

At the time I was convinced it had to be some sort of guardian angel.

The second instance happened some years later. I was on my way to being an atheist but making a spirited stop at “spiritual”. The Christian god might not exist, but one like him without all the rules and violence surely did. I had read some snippet of the book “Conversations With God” at some point. I can’t recall where this happened. I can’t recall being able to recall at that time whether I ever knew when and where it happened. I just knew I had read some of it and wanted to read more. I took my girlfriend to the book store to hunt this book down. Problem was, I couldn’t remember the damned title.

So, we wandered around the spiritual section for a good 40 minutes or so with no luck. I even asked the staff. Nothing. So, we both resigned it just wasn’t to be and decided to go home. On the way out of the section I told her I’d like to take just 10 more seconds. Give it that ol’ Christian try, ya know?

Suddenly, off to my right a woman exclaimed “Here it is!” I looked over and she was kneeling, reaching for a book on the bottom shelf. Her husband or boyfriend, who had been looking at the books on the 3rd shelf, was putting a book away and starting to bend down toward her. She was probably 15 feet away. Instantly, I knew the book she had just been so elated was the exact same book I was looking for. I walked over to grab the copy next to it, thumbed through it, and lo’ and behold it was the book!

I was convinced this was one of those “messages” from god. The entire thing seemed like it was out of a movie, except the audience would have groaned for the ex machina mechanics at play.

For a long time those two instances kept me hanging on.

Eventually I moved on. I’m now pretty much in line with strong atheism, where not only do I reject the belief in a god I would go so far to say one doesn’t exist. Nor does any other supernatural occurrence.

Japan is still a country ripe with superstitions of ghosts and spirits. However, Japanese people are much less likely to condemn you to hell for laughing off their ghost stories as their Western counterparts.

It’s one of those points that meshes with me very well here. It’s probably one of the things that has me most concerned whenever I pack up and head back to the States.


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