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Thread: Shinto Group Thread

  1. #1
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Shinto Group Thread

    This thread is for the purpose of discussion among Shinto practitioners regarding practices, difficulties, beliefs, and day to day life. Individuals who do not follow Shinto are of course welcome to observe, ask questions, and participate in the discussion.

    Let us begin with introductions and how you came to follow Shinto OR your relationship with / things you desire to know about Shinto.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I am from Louisville, Kentucky but I now live in Tucson, Arizona. I was raised as a Baptist, but never too strictly. For a while I went to church and appreciated some of the pastor's messages about honesty and generosity. He was never one to talk about social issues very much, focusing more on people's morality and conscience. Eventually I turned away from Christianity, without having much negativity toward it. My primary reason was that I did not think God could hate or would condemn people for acts of love, which I believed to be the most pure emotion. I never stopped believing in a deity, so at that point I became a Deist, believing that a deity set the universe into motion and did not bother with people.

    Then I had an experience that got me interested in paganism and prompted me to join PF. I had a very strange and powerful experience with the Moon seemingly out of the blue one night. It was very significant to me because I never expected it or felt anything like it before. I believe it was what one would call a spiritual experience. This shattered my line of thinking that there was no spiritual interference in the world. With an increased interest in the supernatural, I found what I believed and went on somewhat of a journey looking at different religious traditions and how they compared. Shinto turned out to match very closely philosophically and spiritually with what I believed.

    Since then, I have had several experiences as I follow the way of the Kami. It has given me many positive feelings and I have found very good harmony and increased understanding with Shinto.

  2. #2
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I was raised in a family that almost, if not, exclusively practiced Roman Catholicism. My family was also very devout and tended to be more strict on moral issues than other families in the area, or of my mates. Throughout my life I simply followed along because it was the family expectation for me to follow the Catholic faith, and I sincerely believed in the Christian god for quite some time. I would, of course, eventually leave the faith, but had you said that to me even a year before I would do so, I would have thought you to have been suggesting the impossible. Christianity was all I knew, and I had been actively warned by my family about other religions and their beliefs, so I was very devout in my beliefs.

    The time when I first started to become skeptical about Christianity was when, in a deep and long period of depression, I opened the Bible asking God to show me the verses he wanted me to see with the first verse my eyes fell upon. I don't remember the exact verse that I read that day, or what its contents were, but that verse started my formal deconversion process. I committed myself to reading the Old Testament, and I believe I had made it through Judges before I was sent spiraling into a spiritual identity crisis. The result was a period of about a year where I was in a state of deep philosophical and spiritual questioning. It was a year of skepticism and self-evaluation. Trying to find out what I truly believed in, why I believed it, and how I can believe it, and whether such belief can be true or viable?

    Despite all of this, I remained under the nominal title of being a Roman Catholic, but I hardly had any faith in the Christian god, or Christianity in general. My views had completely reversed, and made me almost hostile to many of the aspects of the Christian god, although not specifically at those who followed him. It was near the end of this year that I finally found my faith in Christianity to be dead, in every sense of the word. I became Agnostic, and began to seriously question the existence of deity.

    This sparked another period of deep philosophical inquiry in my life. I eventually found myself unable to rationalise a universe without the presence of some form of deity, although I did not believe in a personal deity, and had a more Deist view of the universe. I identified as an Agnostic-Theist, and it became my goal to try and research as much as I could about the other world religions, and to draw my own conclusions on the spiritual nature of the world. I eventually came to believe these fundamental conclusions.

    1) The physical and the spiritual are not completely separate, and overlap in some ways.
    2) Everything within the physical world expresses an element of the divine.
    3) Human beings possess a soul, or something of a similar nature.
    4) God cannot be all-good and monotheistic. It is not philosophically viable.
    5) Ancestors deserve proper respect for the role they play in our current existence.

    As I continued to develop my views on the nature of the spiritual, I found myself seemingly drawn to religions that shared my beliefs about the world. I first gravitated towards the religion of Zoroastrianism, and I found it the simplest religion to be drawn to. Yet my evolving beliefs would prevent my from joining that faith, and I eventually moved to see about Sikhism, yet I also had issues with that as well that prevented me from being properly interested in becoming a practitioner. This continued for about a year.

    Eventually I kept finding myself coming back again and again to Shinto, almost as if there was something about it that I felt clicked. Over the year I had largely dismissed it for its ritualism and polytheism, but I started to find myself, despite my best efforts, leaning in favour of it. The more I researched it, the more I found myself having come to some similar conclusions and agreeing with its beliefs wholeheartedly. Although I still struggled with its ritualism, its personal deities, and the ability for human beings to seemingly ascend to godhood, I found Shinto becoming a bigger and bigger influence in my spiritual outlook until I identified myself as having basically Shinto believes while not considering myself a practitioner.

    It was at this point that I joined Pagan Forum as an Agnostic-Polytheist. I knew my beliefs were very similar to Shinto, but I did not view it as a religion of which I could be a practitioner. I was interested in finding a polytheistic faith which wasn't Shinto, to fill that void and that is part of what brought me here.

    I don't rightly know what it was, but something clicked with me about half a year ago. I became perfectly fine with the concept of Kami and the ritualism of Shinto, and even began to perform ritual purification myself. I found myself starting to revere Kami within the world around me (especially Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto). It was at this point I stopped trying to delay the inevitable, and formally converted to Shinto.

    Since then I have never looked back, and my belief in Shinto, and my faith in the Kami, has increased steadily over time, although I admit that I still have some learning to do. I am firmly in the broom-closet with my family, and do not plan on coming out, and I plan to continue to practice my faith in secrecy. The only thing they know is that I am no longer Christian, and that is limited to my immediate family.

    Wow...that ended up being much longer than I expected...
    Last edited by LunarHarvest; 03 Sep 2014 at 21:10.

  3. #3
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Yes, some of your story reminds me of my own. Oddly enough, Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto also seems to be the kami that I get the strongest feelings from and revere the most.

    I, too, have a family who does not know of my religious leanings. I can't really have a kamidana here in the dorms - not that it is required, I would just like to do the most I can. I am also unfortunately having a tough time finding a place and time to pray here on the campus. I enjoy doing so at night, but there is really not anywhere to be alone and safe like I used to have next to the garden in Kentucky.

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    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I am in the same situation. I am largely unable to practice rituals because I rarely feel like it is safe to do so. Largely also due to the fact that there are people around. I am lucky though in that I am, at times, alone where I live, or everyone else will be asleep, and that's when I most often perform any rituals. In addition, I have been finding ways to practice my beliefs in secret. For example, I disguise ritual purification as washing my hands.

    I have to wonder about whether there would be a different reaction to someone saying they are Pagan compare to a Shinto practitioner, in the public sphere. Shinto does come with the added difficulty of not only being a form of Paganism, but also being greatly misunderstood by a great deal of people in the Western world that I have seen discuss the religion. Its yet another hurdle we may have to get over.

  5. #5
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I'm interested as to how you disguise it as such. I might like to try doing so.

    I actually had the experience of telling someone the other day I am Shinto. He was doing some sort of religious survey on the campus. His first question was whether I had a Japanese parent or friend. I had to explain that was not the case. I have heard religion professors tell students it is impossible to be Shinto outside of Japan even though this is not true. Rev. Koichi Barrish at Tsubaki Grand Shrine is a well-known example.

    There is also a misunderstanding of what kami is. It's sometimes hard to grasp from a glance, I suppose.

  6. #6
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Aye, Rev. Koichi Barrish is certainly well-known. There are even some European priests like Paul de Leeuw MA in Amsterdam.

    I will often do it as I wash my hands after using the toilet, or before eating. I will wash my hands with soap initially, then perform Temizu. Behind the closed doors I can do this ritual without causing much attention. It is certainly not the most formal performance of Temizu to use tap water, but I figure that it is much better than not performing any rituals at all. It is perhaps one of the only rituals I have been able to somewhat routinely preform.

    Shinto also just isn't properly heard of in the West. I have yet to know a person who knew of Shinto when I mentioned it. Just about ever Western interpretation of the religion I have seen paints it as a 'Japanese-only' religion, or a religion that cannot be practised outside of Japan because 'the Kami only exist within Japan'.

    Additionally to all those, as you stated, is the very concept of Kami. It is a very difficult concept to grasp at first, and especially in a society which is used to a completely different concept of 'God'.

  7. #7
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    In an ideal world, we'd be able to use natural water. But, you know, today's world and the like. I have to wonder if the pools on Mt. Lemmon (mountain nearby me) are clean enough.

    It does seem that there is little understanding of Shinto outside Japan. There also seems to be this idea among people that Japan is a very non-religious country. I think that stems from a very Western outlook on what religion means. Eighty percent of people in Japan go to the shrines and revere the kami, so that should say something...

    And kami are definitely here, in other parts of the world. Otherwise there couldn't be shrines in Washington and Amsterdam. I'm sure that, like myself, you've probably had personal experiences that tell you the kami exist here as well.

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    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    If this was an ideal world I probably would have already gotten a certification of priesthood and opened a shrine in my city.

    Perhaps part of the issue is that Shinto does not, or rarely ever does, anything remotely similar to missionary work for the purpose of converting people to the faith. Shinto seems very content to let outsiders find it, rather than it going out to try and find them. That is all well and good, but it possibly could be one of many sources of why so many people have no proper understanding of Shinto.

    I have to wonder, if Shinto was properly understood among the population, how it would fare in another nation? It would be a first, and it would be interesting to see what would happen if another country were to at least get a sizeable influx of the Shinto religion among its population. Then there comes the other question of would anything happen at all?
    But I digress.

  9. #9
    Sr. Member Cobra's Avatar
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    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    I have actually thought of what it would be like to go and earn that certification. I think it would be nice. I can't sacrifice my geoscience studies for it, though, and I think it is beyond the resources I have.

    Actually, there is a case where a U.S. state received a sizeable influx of Shinto. The state of Hawaii has I believe 8 shrines. I'm not sure if it has grown or shrank. I know that the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Washington has of course grown since its inception.

    Technically, the population of Shinto adherents is shrinking, but only because Japan's population is shrinking.

  10. #10
    Copper Member LunarHarvest's Avatar
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    That being said...

    Re: Shinto Group Thread

    Yeah, it really is a shame about Japan's shrinking population. They need to get their economy back going to start reversing this trend. I could go deep into the politics and economics of that, but that is probably a discussion best put aside for a later date.

    The actual numbers of Shinto practitioners in Hawaii is proving very difficult to find any information on, but the shrines are, with I believe the exception of one, in good condition and properly maintained, so the congregations are obviously large enough to be able to support the shrines. That or they are receiving funding from the main shrine back in Japan.

    From what I can tell though, the number of Shinto practitioners in Hawaii alone probably numbers in the tens of thousands. Needless to say its properly difficult to estimate the population of Shinto practitioners. I'm going to go ahead an contact the Census bureau in the States and in Hawaii, if they have one, and see if I can get a number of individuals who identified as Shinto. I'll see what I can find out.

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