Shintoism is a purely Japanese religion, the origins of which are buried in the hazy mists of ancient Japanese history. It is one of the world’s oldest religions. The Japanese people have a fierce love for their land and believe that the Japanese islands were the very first divine creation. In fact, Shintoism teaches that no other land is divine, making Japan unique in the world. Not surprisingly, Shintoism is not popular outside of Japan.
The two fundamental Shinto doctrines are that Japan is the country of the gods and her people are the descendants of gods. This concept of the divine descent of the Japanese people, as well as the divine origin of the land, has given rise to a conviction of superiority over other countries and peoples. With the exception of a few designated sects of Shinto, the religion has no founder, no sacred writings, and no authoritative set of beliefs. Worship takes place at one of the numerous shrines in the country of Japan, although many Japanese have altars in their home to one or more of the large number of deities.
The word Shinto comes from the Chinese word Shen-tao, which means “the way of the gods.” A major feature of Shinto is the notion of kami, the concept of sacred power in both animate and inanimate objects. There is in Shinto a powerful sense of the presence of gods and spirits in nature. The gods of Shinto are too numerous to be grouped into a hierarchy, but the sun goddess Amaterasu is highly revered, and her grand imperial temple is located 200 miles southwest of Tokyo. Shinto teaches that the Japanese people are themselves descended from the kami.
Shintoism fosters pride and feelings of superiority in the Japanese people; such elitism, this is the natural consequence of assuming one’s race is of divine origin.
Shinto teaches that the kami might commune with those who have made themselves worthy through ritual purification.
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