Strange how mankind seems to be hard wired to myth and superstion let alone when this is organised for him into theism by some form of central authority usually cultural/political. It is more than just cognitive dissonance or lack of education/child brainwashing. So since Asian part of mankind how come escaped?

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The orient DIDN'T escape. The native Japanese religion is Shinto, which worships the sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, as well as a host of other gods. I don't know as much about other parts of Asia, except that some sects DO worship Buddha as a god. And you can bet that there were native animist religions everywhere before Buddhism, and other religions do exist alongside it. The fact that the most basic form of Buddhism does not have a god may be exactly why places like Korea and Viet-nam and China were such ripe picking grounds for Christian missionaries (although Communism wiped out much of Christianity in China). And there are plenty of Muslims in China, too.

And if you include places like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Pakistan in Asia, then there is ample evidence of theism, including Hinduism and Islam.

So, no, Asia did not escape at all.

Also, a lot of Oriental cultures developed into ruler worship.  Up until recently, the Japanese emperors were considered living gods and worshiped as such.

Natalie, that sounds right. Did you have opportunity to live there or know someone? I'd love to learn your story. 

Yup, I lived in Japan for 2 1/2 years, and had plenty of opportunities to observe Buddhism and Shinto. And in my previous post, I didn't remember to include the fact that before WWII, emperors were considered gods. One of the requirements of the US govt. in writing the peace treaty with Japan was that Emperor Hirohito publicly renounce his god status. Which he did, and I think that was a wise act on his part. What many people don't know is that the emperor in Japan was cloistered for centuries (still fairly cloistered, but not as much as previously), and the govt. was actually in the hands of a military junta at the time of WWII. Hirohito really didn't have much to do with the decisions made before and during WWII, but he took a lot of the blame. What is interesting is that the Japanese people mostly accepted Hirohito's change in status, although at the time I was there (68-72, with a break in between) the elderly people refused to stop worshipping him, but they did it privately, so as not to create friction in their families or in public.

I think the desire for a god to take care of us is a universal need in people who don't have the mental ability or the emotional strength to accept otherwise.

And the other thing I want to note is that religion in Japan is much like religion among the Jews: it's just a part of the way people live, and belief or non-belief is not the central issue. There is no pressure to confess or profess; you just do the rituals, and nobody questions you. In Israel and in Japan, there are large groups who, if you asked them why they do it, would have no answer, even though there are others who are very observant and know exactly what their holy books say and can discuss it with you in detail.

And to answer a post above, there is NO big THREE, because Judaism is in no way big -- the major players in the religion game are Christianity and Islam, because both of them are proselytizing religions, and really do feel that everyone in the world should follow their beliefs. Judaism does not fit that description; it's neither big in numbers, nor does it practice proselytization in ANY way -- proselytization is expressly forbidden. Which is why I, as a cultural and ethnic Jew, really resent the grouping of Judaism with Christianity or Islam.

I agree whole-heartedly. I grew up in Miami Beach back when, and my friends and family are Ashkenazim. Most American Jews are secular (it's an ethnicity). Fewer than 10% are Orthodox, though they wield a bit more power than their numbers - in the US and in Israel. 

Christians love the phrase "Judeo-Christian tradition." It implies that their bigotry and anti-intellectualism is broad-based if not universal. Don't let them get away with it!

Thank you, Phil! As a minority, we were forced to learn quite a bit about Christianity and Christian philosophy, but I find that Christians and the Christian-raised know next to nothing about Judaism and Jews, except for what they infer from THEIR translations of the Tanakh. And they make assumptions based on their ignorance, not even knowing that they are ignorant. My brother and I may not believe in a god, but both of us are definitely Jewish -- our morals and ethics are definitely influenced by the way we were raised, even though we don't attribute them to god.

Hi Natalie,

Regarding this:

"I think the desire for a god to take care of us is a universal need in people who don't have the mental ability or the emotional strength to accept otherwise."

In my opinion, it may not be a question of mental ability or emotional strength. I was at one point caught up in a cultish religion and later left it. Many people, even clergy, end up leaving a faith after a time. Was it that they did not have mental abilities or emotional strength while they were members of the religion? Then they suddenly or gradually grew this mental strength later? I think it's more a matter of being exposed to different, non-theist points of view, of broadening one's point of reference through questioning things, of maturing, of being lucky. I am the same person I was when I was in the cultish group, when I was believing in their beliefs. My mental abilities are the same. It's my frame of reference that has changed. We are all believers by nature. We have to make a conscious effort, using those same mental abilities, to extricate ourselves from the natural tendency. Anyway, that's my two cents worth :)

Michele, great question! I hope someone comes up with an explanation. 

This is a common misconception. The Orient is, in fact, very spiritual.

The reason they are seen as having little, if any, religiosity is because "religion" is a Western concept. They only know what it is because they are connected to the West now and because of (mainly) Christian Proselytizers. However, they themselves have no concept of religion, at least not as we understand it. So if you ask an Asian if they're religious, most of them will say no. But if you ask them if they believe in a higher power and spirituality and the like, the vast majority will say yes.

Nathan Hevenstone

I do not know how you got the idea that the eastern people have no  idea of religion. The Vedic religion (Hinduism) is the oldest religion in India  and was closely followed by Jainism, the atheist religion. In 600BCE, another atheist religion, the Buddhism alo emerged in India. So they definitely have the idea of religion. Buddism has very little preseence in India now and Jainism also has a small presence. Zoarastrianism came to India almost immediately after emergence Islam. Hindus are very religius people and great god believers. If anybody in India would say that he is not religious, it would be only because most city dwellers have stopped practicing many religious rituals, but otherwise, their faith is still very strong. 

Easy. Polls taken in the orient asking if they are religious show a very low level of religiosity, yet different polls show an extremely high level of spirituality.

"Religion" is a Western concept. When I said they have no concept of it, I didn't mean that they don't know what it is. I meant that they do not consider religion something inherent to their cultures. A traditional Buddhist, for example, would not consider Buddhism a religion. Sam goes for a traditional Jain. Zoroastrianism and Islam are, like Christianity and Judaism, Western religions that made their way to the Orient. More often than not, especially for those who take Christianity, they incorporate the Western traditions into their Eastern philosophical traditions.

As such, most of those in the Orient do not consider themselves religious. They do, however, consider themselves very spiritual and very traditional

I think the east started relatively early with the notion of a universal group rather than tribal group.They had Confucius and the Dao early on in their cultural/statehood/communal development. The focus was universal group membership rather than tribal. Theistic focus in the west was on tribes as in "chosen people" etc. We probably have Amenhotep to blame for this and it may be more than coincidental that the earliest Judaic monotheism is somewhat parallel (1300-1400bce - but who copied who would be an interesting discussion).

I am not sure there is any record of a war between two cultures over pantheistic issue (i.e. pantheistic religious wars) - we had to wait until we had "theistic" religion before the benefit(sick:-)) of religious wars. Plenty of early wars over possessions, bragging rights, insults, etc., but not because our gods are better than your gods!

A good read on the evolutionary psychology of religion as groundwork for this is "The Righteous Mind" by Jon Haidt.





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