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My Take: Japanese new religions' big role in disaster response
Volunteers carry boxes of food supplies to a distribution center in Iwate prefecture.
March 22nd, 2011
09:18 AM ET

My Take: Japanese new religions' big role in disaster response

Editor's Note: Barbara Ambros is associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, president of the Society for the Study of Japanese Religions and author of "Emplacing a Pilgrimage: The Oyama Cult and Regional Religion in Early Modern Japan."

By Barbara Ambros, Special to CNN

Devastating images of human suffering have been pouring in from Japan for over a week now and many of us have wanted to help. When news reports showed store shelves in Tokyo were emptying, I felt the irrational urge to mail necessities like rice, toilet paper and batteries to relatives and friends there.

Ultimately, I knew that by the time my care packages would reach Tokyo, store shelves would have been restocked. An organized relief effort requires pre-existing networks. After the Kobe earthquake in 1995, yakuza - Japan’s organized crime cartels - efficiently distributed food and water.

Since this month’s earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, other types of organized aid networks have also largely been neglected by the news media, including the Japanese news: those managed by religious organizations.

These charitable efforts include more than traditional Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that many rightly associate with Japan. The thriving Japanese religious landscape is much more diverse than most outsiders realize, with many so-called new religious movements, in addition to Christian churches and Islamic centers.

Japan’s new religious movements are as diverse as new religions in the United States, where Mormonism and Scientology have emerged only relatively recently.

The oldest new religions of Japan trace their history to the early 19th century. The vast majority, however, came into being as independent religious organizations after the end of World War II, when such groups could first register as independent religious corporations after the Allied occupation relaxed the restrictive legislations of the pre-war era.

Originally organized around charismatic leaders, some new religions identify as Buddhist, others as Shinto and others as neither.

Since the March 11 earthquake and the resulting tsunami, many new religions have mounted extensive aid campaigns. Tenrikyo, one of the oldest organizations of this kind, was founded in 1838. From the late nineteenth century, the group was integrated into state-sanctioned Sectarian Shinto, but it rejected this affiliation after World War II to become independent.

Tenrikyo has established a disaster response center at its headquarters in Tenri City. The group’s long history of volunteering is rooted in its religious practice of hinokishin, a contribution of voluntary labor through which adherents express their gratitude toward the divine.

Tenrikyo Disaster Relief Hinokishin Corps is equipped to work with local governmental agencies and provide assistance in emergencies. A division from Niigata Prefecture is now at work in quake-ravaged Sendai to repair broken water lines. In addition, Tenrikyo has organized a vast, multinational fundraising campaign through its branch churches in Japan and around the world.

The largest new religion in Japan, Soka Gakkai, grew from a small lay Buddhist movement in the 1930s to millions of adherents today. At the forefront of organizing aid, Soka Gakkai’s Tokyo headquarters immediately became the group’s emergency communication center after the March 11 earthquake.

Soka Gakkai turned its northeastern facilities into shelters and mobilized centers in surrounding areas to ship food and supplies. The relief effort built on Soka Gakkai’s centrally organized youth groups. Its fundraising campaign has cut across national boundaries as donations have streamed in from domestic and overseas branches.

Other Buddhist new religious groups, such as Rissho Koseikai and Shinnyo-en, have likewise mobilized relief corps and are raising charitable donations for victims.

A characteristic feature of Japan’s new religions is having well-organized lay organizations and networks, making them effective channels for providing aid.

In addition to these material relief efforts, the new religions naturally have provided spiritual support. On March 15, Shinnyo-en’s leadership performed a prayer service for the victims and for a speedy recovery from the disaster.

On March 13, Ikeda Daisaku, the leader of Soka Gakkai announced that he and his wife were “sending powerful daimoku” to followers. The chanting of the daimoku, an incantation meaning “Honored be the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Sutra,” is a central practice of the group.

Ikeda exhorted followers to show strength in adversity, in the words of Nichiren, a medieval Buddhist monk who founded the school of Buddhism from which Soka Gakkai derives.

Though motivated by a sincere urge to help and spurred by a religious ethic that stresses social engagement, outreach may also present an opportunity for New Religions to improve their public relations.

Ever since Aum Shinrikyo, another new religion, shocked the nation by releasing deadly sarin gas in Tokyo’s subway system in 1995, many Japanese have eyed religion in general with great suspicion. The attacked killed 12 and injured thousands of others.

The suspicion has been particularly keenly felt by new religions, many of which have historically struggled to win wider social acceptance.

In the case of Aleph, a new religion that grew from Aum Shinrikyo’s remnants after its dissolution, the response to the earthquake seems like a careful gesture of redemption.

One day after the earthquake, Aleph issued a condolence message to the victims of the disaster. While this may not seem like much compared to the extensive relief efforts of other groups, it is a significant gesture given the powerful, negative emotions that the memory of Aum Shinrikyo evokes to this day.

Still, how many Japanese would be ready to accept aid from Aleph even more than 15 years after the Aum incident?

The concern is certainly understandable. But overlooking the extensive reach and strong humanitarian support of Japan’s new religions understates their significant role and reach - and ignores a key part of the ongoing disaster relief effort.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Barbara Ambros.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Asia • Buddhism • Japan • Opinion

soundoff (314 Responses)
  1. LookAndSEE

    To SeanNJ
    So put the right ingredients together and just wait for a couple of billion years to go by then you get people (driving cars)
    Thats funny and unscientific

    March 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      Logical and probable, is more like it. I'm sorry that it causes you discomfort.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > So put the right ingredients together and just wait for a couple of billion years to go by then you get people (driving cars)
      Thats funny and unscientific.

      What's funny is that you don't even understand what you wrote. What you propose is to create conditions to see if life will develop and see if it does is a scientific method. So your statment is internally contradictory.

      What's funnier is that at best, no one knows if it's possible, thereby giving you no base to call it silly.

      Perhaps you should try and think before posting here. That way next time you won't look like a fool.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Sounds remarkably like the apologetic analogy of the airplane putting itself together but that fails due to exclusion of bilogical processes.

      What's funny and unscientific?

      March 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  2. Brickell Princess

    Religion is the cancer that plagues humanity and keeps it distant from the true devine. Renounce religion and you will find the true devine.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  3. LookAndSEE

    Heres to all who think you haven't got the faith to believe in God.
    How many believe in the THEORY of evolution. Take a minute to imagine all the necessary steps for life. ie protein, DNA, RNA, Bacteria and many more ingredients for life to function.
    Not to mention the planet earth w/ it's perfect size,air water, etc and position in the solar system
    THAT TAKES A LOT OF FAITH!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      1) Look up the word "theory." Then look up the words "unsubstantiated" and "hypothesis."
      2) It takes no faith. Given the size of the universe and the amount of time it's been around, the result isn't miraculous...it was inevitable.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > How many believe in the THEORY of evolution.

      It's clear that you don't understand what a theory in science is. A theory is the highest level an idea can have. Do you believe in the THEORY of gravity? The THEORY of cells?

      > Take a minute to imagine all the necessary steps for life. ie protein, DNA, RNA, Bacteria and many more ingredients for life to function.

      The theory of evoution only comments on life when it exists. It's population mechanics. That's all. It has nothing to say about God, the origin of the universe or the start of life. A grade 9 science edcuation would assist you in your demonstrated lack scientific knowledge.

      > Not to mention the planet earth w/ it's perfect size,air water, etc and position in the solar system

      The only way you can see it as being perfect is if you have no clue of what you're talking about. Which you obviously don't. As an example, there is no such thing as a perfect size of the planet because the human body can survive much higher gravity then we're used to.

      > THAT TAKES A LOT OF FAITH!

      I think you mean to say "My opinon on the matter takes a lot of ignorance." I fixed your statement for you, you're welcome.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      @LookAndSEE

      -> How many believe in the THEORY of evolution.
      WHy do you capitalize theory? And what is there to believe in evolution? Evolution is FACT.
      I'll give you a quick explanation to show you the difference between a fact and a theory.
      Example of a FACT: Gravity is a fact because things fall down.
      Example of a THEORY: Newton's gravitational theory tries to explain the fact of gravity.
      His theory explains gravity on earth/acceleration due to gravity/ and made predictions about gravity. It is called theory because in science it needs to be falsifiable, testable, make assertions, and make predictions. But the theory could be wrong. Newton's theory was partly wrong because his equations failed to explain the elliptical orbit of planets. Along came Einstein, and with his theory of relativity, explained why planets have elliptical orbits and also predicted the number of degrees that sunlight would bend by during an eclipse. Astronomers validated Einstein's prediction and he was right, this prediction made Einstein a celebrity. Einsteins theory then replaced Newtons. Einstein's theory is now the theory in use and Newton's was wrong. But did apples stop falling to the ground when Newton's theory was showed to be wrong? No! Because gravity is a FACT, and we use scientific theories to explain facts. There is no need to believe in gravity since there is obvious evidence for it.
      In the same way, evolution is a FACT and we use the theory of evolution to explain these facts. Unlike the evidence for elliptical orbits of planets not agreeing with Newton's gravitational theory, there is NO evidence that is contradictory to evolution. All evidence agrees with the theory of evolution. Thus there is no need to believe in evolution, since there is ample evidence for it.
      I can say the same thing for germ theory of disease. Germs/microbes/bacteria are FACT (they can be observed with a microscope), and then we have the germ theory of disease to explain why humans get sick due to germs. Germ theory works and thats how we come up with medicine to cure people. Just becuase its called germ theory does not mean that its not true or we have to believe that it is true. There is no belief here, just facts.
      Back in the day, the majority of people thought that everything revolved around the earth (geocentric). Galileo proposed in his heliocentric theory that everything revolves around the sun. With our current knowledge of our solar system, we know that the sun as the center is a FACT. And Galileo's heliocentric theory tries to explain this fact. Just because its a theory does not make it untrue and again, there is nothing to believe here.
      And that in a nutshell is how theories work. I hope you understand.

      March 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  4. Zerg Rush

    Ok, i completely agree, but Buddhism is more of a way of life rather than a religion. If i wasn't an aetheist I would be Buddhist because I like their teachings. But it comes down to this, should we or should we not help these people. I believe we should, but if you believe that this was an act of "god" then I would presume that you don't want to help, because your god, i am assuming, is punishing them. But what did they do?

    March 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  5. LookAndSEE

    To JS: You have been given an invitation to the Judgement day at birth.
    Everyone will see ALL the opportunities they had during their live to follow the Lord. You will see the times U rejected God as He worked on your heart. As I said in the previous post "God created us W/ FREE CHOICE (Thats Love)
    God has given him a name which is above every name – that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…" Philippians 2:9-11.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • x

      You know what's really sad is the mental health field thinks religion is a good thing. I wished humanity would give up the fables.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  6. JoJo

    Ms Ambros, don't waste your time studying this crap, do something useful!

    March 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • JohnR

      @jojo Indeed! I'm sure there's an opening at the Ministry of Silly Walks! MUCH more useful than this idiocy!

      March 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  7. Idjit

    Not the old "freedom of choice" chestnut ..
    I do not believe in God. BUT I believe I live a good life and am a good person (as far as I can judge). So if god does exist and I have been a good person, will I go to heaven. If God says no because I did not believe in him, then he is a vindictive being with a large ego that requires belief. If yes, then belief is not a requirement, but being a "good" person is what counts.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • gomezbaby

      So let me ask you...who's version of "good" are you following? If there is a God, what if your version of "good" does not meet his standard of "good?" You hit the nail on the head..."as far as I can judge..." And who says "good" is "good enough?" Who makes that decision, you? Pretty arrogant, don't you think? What if it was "good" for me to beat my kids or steal from my neighbor...I don't consider myself that bad...I'm still "good"...as far as I can judge...

      Unfortunately, your theory breaks down the second you start asking questions. Try again...

      March 22, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Idjit

      Exactly .. who decides "good" ... your version of god ... someone else's ... a selectively constructed, poorly translated book ... who can tell me what is good? Certainly not you .. or religious leaders by your own argument ... so I have to make my best judgement just like you and hope it satisfies this potential being ... who if he sees I tried my best should be ok with that .. otherwise we can all guess wrong and be screwed anyway.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • JDJ

      How good does one have to be?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Idjit

      Also .. dont confuse morals with religion ..

      March 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      @Gomezbaby, you said: If there is a God, what if your version of "good" does not meet his standard of "good?"

      Then logically God would have to apply our standard of good. Do you get mad at a dog for barking at a car or mating with a female dog in heat? No. Because it's a dog.

      We don't take the dog to court for custody and child support. Because the dog cannot understand.

      As such, God would have to realize "Humans are humans" and need to be judged as such.

      Now you might argue that God told us what he wanted. Except that if that's the case, God is a bumbling bafoon. The majority of the world does not believe what he wrote. Why is that? Why is it that God can be all powerful yet be so completely and totally ineffective?

      When Stephen Hawking writes a book on the universe, it's articulate, it explains things and makes claims. He explains his thought process and while you're reading you go "Wow, this is amazing. What a brilliant man."

      Why don't you get that from the bible? Why did God write it so poorly and inconsistently. Why does it contain mistakes. Why does God seemingly forget that he's all powerful when he makes a bet with Satan about Job. Why does Satan forget that God already knows the answer.

      It's all nonsense. And the only reason you still believe is because you want to believe it's true and to hell with what the truth is. I bet you haven't even read the entire bible.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  8. JoeT

    I can't believe we are still using natural disasters to test faiths! I pay good money to Consumer Reports so they can do all the work, then present judgment across multiple axes to determine what the best car, lawnmower, dishwasher is, etc. Why can't we just up the ante a bit and get this whole religion thing codified the same way?

    March 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  9. LookAndSEE

    If God were to step in EVERY TIME a disaster or wrong doing of someone, What lessons were the universe learn?
    God created His creatures w/ freedom of choice, ie to obey or not. It would not be true love if any other way.
    His highest angel 'Lucifer' (light bearer) was given the same choice. You are given that choice.
    If some crazy person is welding a gun, God may not step in, people will get hurt, but in the end, when God is put on trial, everyone will see the BIG PICTURE and God will be vindicated.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • JS

      Wow, pretty looney! But please shed more details on this god trial – when and where, etc?

      March 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @LookAndSEE

      What type of lesson is god trying to teach us by 'choosing' to not step in and save them from the tsumani? What about sinless babies who are born with bone cancer and will not live very long, what kinda god would try to teach us a lesson from that? And i can bring up countless other examples...
      When i look, i fail to see a loving god who would let these atrocities happen.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Steve

      How bout God just arriving in the sky and saying "here i am" so we can all see him..rather than hiding and working in his "mysterious ways". The requirement of faith is a silly notion that is completely unnecessary and just a construct to explain why he is not "here" and not intervening. The freedom of choice argument I find puzzling based on the unconscious and limbic brain and the fact that we neither choose our genes, parents or experiences that make us who we are. In line with this the freedom to choose vs god did not want robot followers is a bit tricky. Where is the dividing line between free will and being a robot. I am not allowed to have a thermonuclear detonation device in my home..my freedom is being restricted...am i a robot yet? That person yielding a gun? Well is skin were made strong enough to resist projectile or sharp objects many people would be spared death. Is that poor design along with wisdom teeth, the appendix, same entry for air/food = choking death? God could have made it where the person fires at someone and the person suffers no injury...no collateral damage and yet the shooter, whose motivations were likely evil, still gets judged accordingly? Hmm

      March 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @LookAndSEE

      you said, "Everyone will see ALL the opportunities they had during their live to follow the Lord.".
      WHat about sinless babies who are born with bone cancer and die soon after with a painful, agonizing death. What kind of 'opportunity' did god give those babies to follow him? Seems like your god is not there.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • JDJ

      We live in a fallen world and bad things happen to innocent people. Babies who die go to Heaven. The Bible provides comfort in telling us that God works all things (good and bad) together to make us into the people He wants. Haven't we all had a bad experience, but then seen later the good that came from it?

      March 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      @JDJ

      you said, "We live in a fallen world and bad things happen to innocent people. Babies who die go to Heaven."
      How do u know that babies who die go to heaven? What about babies who are born by accident into other faiths such as buddhism, hinduism, islam, scientology, etc... do they go to heaven too? surely those babies dont accept Jesus (we all know that in christianity u need to accept Jesus to be permitted into heaven) since they have no comprehension as to what Jesus stands for. so how can they go to heaven, is it by default? i think that you are just making this up to get around the issue of why babies die.
      You said that we live in a fallen world. i guess u r taking about the fall of adam and eve. Newsflash: Adam and eve is a creation myth and they never existed because that creation story goes against facts. If they did exist, then please explain away these contradictions:
      1. FACT: If a brother and sister have a child together, there is a high probability of that child suffering from retardation.
      Based on this fact, why isn't most of the world suffering from retardation if we all came from Adam and Eve?
      2. FACT: The first early humans were walking this earth 200k-500k years ago, and came out of AFRICA.
      Based on this fact, how does the Adam and Eve story hold up to such a vast error in timescale? God created the world in 7 days, and even if you say that 1 day = 1000 years, the number is still way off!
      3. FACT: The stars we see in the night sky are just other suns (some larger than our sun, some smaller). They were also formed BEFORE our sun.
      Genesis 1:3 says: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. <– This means that the sun was created.
      Genesis 1:16 says: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
      Why did God make the stars AFTER our sun?? It contradicts FACT.
      If you can't explain all these contradictions to facts, then u have to concur that adam and eve is a myth and that we do not live in a fallen world.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Ed

      He did steve in the beginning to the first humans they didn't listen why would we be any different we didn't listen to our parents why would we listen to him. if would have to appear every few miutes and then to things to to prove him self to us constantly. In short for you to beleive in God he would have to be your servant and then you still wouldn't listen to him. He knows this not much of a fai trade. So he says have faith the rest is up to you. As it should be.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Ed: That's asinine. I guess my only solace is no one takes these ravings seriously except for others with the same bizarre outlook.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • LetsThink123

      @Ed
      Checkout my reply to JDJ to see why Adam and eve is a creation myth. Its' a made up story! Please stop referring to made up stuff. THanks.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • JDJ

      @LetsThink123

      You raise some interesting points.

      All babies who die go to Heaven. They have no comprehension of right or wrong and are thus not held accountable.

      Even if one were to reject the story of Adam and Eve, one would have to say that we live in a world where things do not always work as we would think. However one wants to frame it, they would have to agree that something is wrong with the world.

      1. The area of genetics is beyond me, but an easy answer to the dilemma is that the human race is now so widely dispersed that only close relations, as you have indicated, would cause problems in the offspring.

      2. God created the world in 7 literal days. I can't explain why some others have created the theories they have about the timing and origin of man. Isn't 200,000 – 500,000 years a pretty big window for those folks?

      3. I haven't heard about there being other suns, but that may be the way they are characterized by some scientists. In any event, these suns/stars came into being the same time as the sun.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Steve

      Letsthink123. Just wanted to add to your statement of the "opening account". Bible also states vegetation was created before the sun. Whoops photosynthesis? Also creatures of the oceans and birds arrived before land animals. Whoops..geologic evidence shows birds came after reptiles. Bible wrong again. They also believed in water below the firmament, the oceans etc, and above the firmanent which is not rain in the clouds but the blue sky. Well that blue sky is not water but I can see how the ancients might have thought so. Also the sun was in the firmament which means the bible writers also believed that the sun and moon was below this water that was above the firmament. In other words water was above the sun. Bible could have been prophetic too if it stated the stars were suns (which they are). Missed opportunity. Bible also believes in unicorns, dragons, behemoth, leviathan etc..mythical creatures. Unicorns were tough too...lol. Oh and the world was a circle held up by pillars.

      Ed, what i am saying is there is no need for him not to be around. You know like your mother and father..show up occasionally and show love. Don't take off, leave a magic book of violence, science errors and sillyness threatening to kill everyone who does not have faith in you, like that is true morality..lol and oh and say here...deal with these diseases I created but don't worry i will be back and take them away if you have faith (not evidence) in me. Yeah right.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Erin

      "these suns/stars came into being the same time as the sun." Ummmm, you really don't understand science at all. Some sun's are still forming to this day and the universe is still expanding. So, God didn't create it in 7 days if it's still creating itself.

      Oh, and for the record just to give you a clue there are 10 billions suns just like ours in each galaxy, and a computer has estimated there are probably some where around 500 billion galaxies, give or take a few.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • JDJ

      @Erin

      Thanks for your post. The point I am trying to make is that there was a starting point when things were made, even if there are other suns/stars being formed. God also created all of the animals in the beginning, but the population is certainly larger than it was at the start.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  10. Catherine

    What a load of crap. This is what these religions do they want money. Religion is crackpot science. Can't we just take care of each other?

    March 22, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • The Bobinator

      Crackpot science is claiming snake oil can heal you. Religion isn't science at all. No testable claims.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  11. adam

    Religion is the root of all evil.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  12. JonathanL

    You can't really explain real events using false religious beliefs. This was a geophysical event of a type that is hard to predict. Earthquakes are caused by the tectonic plate movement. If you happen to build your house on the San Andreas Fault, and there is an earthquake, and your house crumbles and you die in it, it is not because this or that god was angry (so frequently in history, natural disasters have been attributed to the hand of whatever god was in vogue at the time). It was because there was pressure built up in the plate as it moved slowly up down or sideways, and it gave. Religion has always had a hard time explaining things via faith, evidenced by such as wanting to burn Gallileo at the stake for claiming the Earth was not the center of the universe, but a planet that revolved around the sun, as burning Joan of Arc at the stake for being a witch. Most theist religions such Judaism, Christianity, Islam, HInduism, Ancient Greek Paganism, all rely on miracles and mythology to explain things. Today we know better, yet it is amazing how many people cling to false beliefs in the face of hard truth, fact, and mountains of evidence. It is like large chunks of the human race engage in mass denial in exchange for some comforting false belief. The only problem, whatever the benefits, this behavior skews and confounds the ability to be logical and even see the simple truth of how things really are.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Hacha1

      Please, do NOT infect the Internet with this "science" you speak of.

      😀

      March 22, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Haemisch

      You can be a believer and still understand tectonic plate theory. There is not necessarily a contradiction. Believers just feel that God is in control of those things, so your point is still just moot.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Logikflux

      so, if she weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood....

      March 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Hacha1

      @Haemisch

      I..ah...

      March 22, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Hacha1

      and therefore....?

      March 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @Haemisch

      His point is valid, and not moot. You have just attached an imaginary figure to be the source of the plates moving. When plate tectonics was not posited by science, it was your god who caused earthquakes and we didn't know why. Now we have a valid rational explanation for earthquakes with plate tectonics and you just attach your god to be in control of plate tectonics, lol. when will it end?
      If god created the earth and thus created plate tectonics, then he wanted these people to die. That means god is evil, malevolent, or doesn't exist. The last option makes sense to me. That's why believing is a delusion and detaches you from reality.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Hacha1

      LetsThink123

      Orrr....

      Since it is actually taught in all Abrahamic faiths at some point in time....their God they are believing in "could" be Satan posing as God.

      Not saying this is true......at all.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Ghazi

      She turned me into a newt! . . . i got better. . .

      March 22, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Hacha1

      "On second thought, let's NOT go to Camelot.....'tis a silly place."

      March 22, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Hobart

      I could not agree with your perspective more. Thanks for the synthesis.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • LetsThink123

      @Hacha1

      The idea of god and satan in Abrahamic faiths is what we call the 'barnum effect' because it can never be wrong! If something good happens, then god did it. If something bad happens, then satan did it. They can never be wrong, and if you cannot be shown to be wrong, then its not falsifiable, and not science.
      Here's a classic example of the barnum effect: Jesus did not set a specific date as to when the world would end. Instead he said something like 'no one will know but the father when I will return'. If you can see through this statement u will easily see that he will always be right!! If he comes back, he was right. And if he never comes back, he is still right because he said that no one will know but the father! It's the greatest barnum statement ever to keep his followers guessing and in line forever. Of course the rational answer is that he was just a good man who died like everyone else dies, and will never come back. But because of his barnum statement in the bible he will always be right! that's genius!

      March 22, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Steve

      I concur Jonathan. What religious people frequently overlook is the point of why god made plate tectonics to begin with when inevitably it would cost lives. He had the option not too unless he is subservient to natural laws or more accurately "patterns" which would then not make him omnipotent. The contrary would have been better considering this life is basically a "morality test" from a christian perspective. Why kill a baby in an earthquake and not allow her or him to take the test? Why cause uneccesary pain? The frequent answer is to "teach us a lesson" as if the holocaust occured to teach us to be nice to one another. The god silver lining proposition is ridiculous. People don't want to accept the fact that the universe is amoral and that the only solace we will find is from each other, those who share the human condition and empathise.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Tiffany Hurst

      @ LetsThink123
      "Of course the rational answer is that he was just a good man"

      C.S. Lewis:
      "That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic- on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
      ~Mere Christianity, chapter 3-The Shocking Alternative, pg. 52

      We have a decision to make about Jesus. Liar, lunatic, or Lord. A good man would not strive to deceive people into believing he was God and that he had risen from the dead if it was not true. A good man would not claim to return to earth from heaven at a later time (as you pointed out Jesus claimed) so that people would continue in faithfulness to him if he was merely a human being and not capable of fulfilling that promise.
      The stakes are high. Don't take this decision lightly.

      March 23, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  13. Hacha1

    Amazing how the West's knowledge of eastern "religion" is so slim.

    Buddhism, at its core, is not a religion, but simply a WAY...to engender understanding and compassion between human beings. Also, understanding of the suffering around this crazy world.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  14. Spirituality

    Religions are not the answer to anything, all religions over the world are in decline of followers, they've started following spirituality now more than ever before, which is why all different forms of spirituality are recording an increase in members every year.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  15. Steve Jobs

    New religions = just more pigs at the trough of a tax free life for their leaders.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • @Steve Jobs

      Your comment about tax free lives for church leaders is a little misguided. I am a member of the LDS church and not one of our leaders are paid for their church service, it is on a strictly voluntary basis. There are many hours spent each week, of what could be personal time, for which there are no tax right offs, income, etc. Please make sure to qualify your statements in the future so that they are accurate.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      So I guess all those buildings build themselves do they?

      March 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • @The Bobinator

      Umm...the leaders don't physically build the buildings. I don't know about you but I'm not a skilled carpenter and I would venture to say that most people aren't. The funds come from voluntary donations from the church members. Additionally I'm not sure what connection you are trying to make between the leaders serving income free and who builds the buildings. Please do explain.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Umm...the leaders don't physically build the buildings. I don't know about you but I'm not a skilled carpenter and I would venture to say that most people aren't. The funds come from voluntary donations from the church members. Additionally I'm not sure what connection you are trying to make between the leaders serving income free and who builds the buildings. Please do explain.

      I never said they were built by the leaders. I was attempting to illustrate that the church uses it's members to further it's own goals. In the case of Moromonism, you have several absolutely moronic and easily disprovable items of faith, for example, native americans being israelites (disproved by DNA) spouted by a man who wanted to have personal fame for himself past the grave.

      Well it's working, and you're giving it to him, not that he can appreciate it now that he's dead.

      The church uses you for it's own purpose. So it can grow, so it can be funded, so it can pay for things. That doesn't come out of thin air and is the salient point of the discussion we're having.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  16. Shaun the Sheep

    Baaaarbaaaaraaaa! Baaaad! Sheeeple aaare baaaad!

    March 22, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • The Bobinator

      The Lord is my Shepheard.

      So, your God protects you from wolves so that he can milk you and then kill you for meat when he gets hungry?

      March 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  17. JohnR

    Hey Ja-pan! Don't worry! I'll nose whistle for you! That'll fix things in no time! I'm sure you are overwhelmed with grat-itude.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  18. bam

    Finally some countries are getting it!
    Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says
    www bbc co uk/ news/ science-environment-12811197
    The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

    March 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      And they are prosperous countries with low crime rates.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  19. Shigataganai

    Everyone needs help, not just those in disaster zones. Job growth is more important than ever now.
    If everyone can keep busy doing something productive, it can help them to cope in a big way.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  20. The Bobinator

    I'm sorry, filling people's heads with fanciful notions that havent' been proven doesn't help. Perhaps we should treat people like intellectual adults and give them the tools to work through their issues, rather then trying to shortcut the process of healing by making up garbage.

    March 22, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Yoshi

      Fighting against the emotional crutches that people cling to will probably only make them cling harder.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • bam

      The author just might have a point though. I mean Sally struthers etc definitely arent handing out bibles to the starving people of Africa. There is a difference between helping people out and HELPING PEOPLE OUT with the good word

      March 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • T3chsupport

      If you were truly some sort of 'intellectual adult', you would realize that some people need religion. It's part of them and their culture, and it generally won't go away. It works for them, and to take it away from them would be a big problem. Just because something is good for you doesn't mean it's good for them, and vice versa. It's incredibly immature to think that just because you do or don't believe something, then everyone else should as well (and really, you're just as bad as the religious people who try to push their religion on others).

      Different strokes for different folks.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > If you were truly some sort of 'intellectual adult', you would realize that some people need religion. It's part of them and their culture, and it generally won't go away. It works for them, and to take it away from them would be a big problem.

      Really? So then by your logic people with OCD "need" their compulsions. It's part of their lives and lifestyle, it doesn't go away generally and it works for them, providing them a release from having anxiety. And to take their OCD away suddenly would be a big problem.

      The problem here is that you're not fully appreciating what I'm saying. If someone doens't know anything about cars they'll need a mechanic. They need a mechanic until they're taught to change their own oil. People don't need religion to feel good about themselves, to have a purpose or to do good things as demonstrated by atheists having these qualities, myself being a good example. Until they're taught how to change their own "mental oil" they're going to need the religion mechanic.

      > Just because something is good for you doesn't mean it's good for them, and vice versa. It's incredibly immature to think that just because you do or don't believe something, then everyone else should as well (and really, you're just as bad as the religious people who try to push their religion on others).

      Firstly, it's not immature. Is it immature to assert that adults shouldn't have imaginary friends to make them feel better about being lonely? Or is it a reasonable conclusion based on irrational actions? Is it immature to suggest that someone really shouldnt' be throwing salt over their shoulder and avoiding the black cat because they have money in the stock market and it might tank?

      Secondly, atheism is the logical default position for the existence of any God. Period. It's not logical to deposit any being without sufficient evidence. Faith isn't rational. In fact, I'd suggest that the difference between faith and gullability is rather small.

      > Different strokes for different folks.

      True. But we have to remember that fully roughly one half of the population is below average intelligence.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
    • Trudy

      Hate to tell you but atheism/humanism is in the minority among the global family and is actually the less intelligent option since much of the population accepts the metaphysical realm as being part of the human experience (don't forget the so called scientists of each generation always want to shut down – and sometimes kill – those who offer new or different opinions from theories that are in vogue. Atheists keep trying to apply scientifc rules of evidence where they don't belong–to matters of human affairs–yet are perfectly content to throw away the same rules when it suits their purposes (e.g., evolution). Other evidentiary systems (eg., legal) work better for some topics–such as religion.

      March 22, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • The Bobinator

      > Hate to tell you but atheism/humanism is in the minority among the global family and is actually the less intelligent option since much of the population accepts the metaphysical realm as being part of the human experience (don't forget the so called scientists of each generation always want to shut down – and sometimes kill – those who offer new or different opinions from theories that are in vogue.

      It's hard to make out what your saying in your inane babbling, but I'll refute the few points you managed to articulate.

      First of all, it's simply idiotic to assert that an idea is more or less valid because of how many people believe it. According to you and your "logic", the concept of the earth rotating around the sun was the "less intellgient" conclusion back in the dark ages because the majority of people believed the sun went around the earth.

      Second of all, because you clearly demonstrate that you have no logical thinking capabilities, I seriously question your opinions on matters of logic and reason, namely science. It's akin to someone disagreeing with complicated mathimatical forumlae when that person struggles with multiplication tables.

      > Atheists keep trying to apply scientifc rules of evidence where they don't belong–to matters of human affairs–yet are perfectly content to throw away the same rules when it suits their purposes (e.g., evolution). Other evidentiary systems (eg., legal) work better for some topics–such as religion.

      So much wrong with this statement. It would be easier just to call you stupid and call it a day, but I really try to help people. I'll take the role of your grade 11 law and science teacher to explain a few things to you.

      First of all, the legal system does not determine reality. Anyone with a basic level of knowledge in law will tell you that decisions are reached by applying the most logical conclusion based on evidence to the existing rules. This does not determine what actually occured. For example, a murderer could in fact be charged and convicted of murder without the court knowing what actually occured. Furthermore, conclusions are not consistent, as evidenced by the advantage of picking your jurors. Different juries can (and have) come back with wildly different conclusions based on the same evidence.

      Second of all, evolution is a fact and a theory. It has been independantly confirmed by different branches of science and has been observed. Just because you're ignorant of the subject and rely on hucksters who tell you what you want to hear doesn't mean it's suddenly wrong.

      To summarize, you're a tool. Go to a damn library and read a book.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Reglions are BS

      Religions are one big pile of dung. And yes, dung has a useful purpose!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • JPopNC

      Trudy.........excellent reply!!!!!

      March 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • JPopNC

      To "The Bobinator": in your attempts to provide any type of argument against Trudy, you simply come across as mean and sarcastic. Seeing how actions speak louder than words, and those actions are constant through the majority of the atheist religion out here, it's evident atheism is totally selfish and uncompassionate. I mean, seriously, you're berating people who are helping others? What are you doing besides being mean and sarcastic? Just what I thought....nothing. Well, keep on doing what you do best and be sure to give zero credit to anyone doing good in this world.

      March 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Trudy said:

      "Hate to tell you but atheism/humanism is in the minority among the global family and is actually the less intelligent option since much of the population accepts the metaphysical realm as being part of the human experience"

      By your logic Einstein was not intelligent because he was of the minority who has a genius IQ.

      If you stop regurgitating fallacies promulgated by apologetics and actually do some critical thinking about what they are saying it may not be so embarrassing for you as their mouthpiece.

      March 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > To "The Bobinator": in your attempts to provide any type of argument against Trudy, you simply come across as mean and sarcastic.

      And that disproves my statements how. If the biggest fault you can find is that I wasn't nice enough when I reply to stupid answers that aren't clearly thoughts out, I'm sitting pretty well.

      > Seeing how actions speak louder than words, and those actions are constant through the majority of the atheist religion out here, it's evident atheism is totally selfish and uncompassionate.

      Explain to me how being rude is being selfish. You're as slow as that other woman posting here.

      > I mean, seriously, you're berating people who are helping others?

      How are they helping? By muddling the minds of people. By presenting arguments that will dumb down our children? I'm sorry, stupidity isn't to be tolerated, no matter the guise. And that includes religion.

      > What are you doing besides being mean and sarcastic?

      Proving her statements wrong so other morons don't adopt them.

      > Just what I thought....nothing.

      Only because you're incapable of seeing past your own bias.

      > Well, keep on doing what you do best and be sure to give zero credit to anyone doing good in this world.

      Ok, to steal a bit of a challenge from Christopher Hitchens. Name me a single demonstratable action that a person of faith can do that a person of faith cannot. A hard question and I've only heard one answer. Now, think of a single action that a person of faith would do that an atheist would not. Planes into towers ring a bell?

      I'm not sure if you're a troll, because artificial internet stupidity is very close to some of the actually real responses I read here, yours included.

      Now, if you want to be upset and dismiss my words because I'm being mean, that's your choice. But that leaves you at the kiddie table while the adults go off to deal with adult thoughts.

      March 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.