I don’t know if this is just Kyushu or Japan-wide. Bottles of water are typically found on or about the walls and gardens of Japanese properties. Theoretically, cats are afraid of them and won’t be hopping up and doing whatever nasty kitty business it is that they get up to. I’ve not heard of this fear of bottles and it’s more likely that cats just don’t jump on walls when something is on it already, but people believe it to be true.
I’ve heard it said that Japan has the most superstitious atheist culture on the planet. If you’re a pedant, that statement probably bothers you. Good. Screw your pedantry. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who claims to be a Buddhist of some sort outside of the temples. Christian sects are a bit more obvious since they’re usually Mormon door-knockers with their black ties and short-sleeved dress shirts. Islam is pretty must only found in immigrant populations.
Yet everyone will head to the Shinto shrine with their friends and family to ask for the graces of a nature deity they don’t really think is real when the new year rolls around. Or when the spring festival happens. Or the summer festival happens. Or when they buy a new car or a new house. Or want to have a baby. Or when they didn’t study for the exams. Or want more money, or bigger breasts. People are just weird like that when they’re in a group.
I have some photos of what I assume are Taoist shrines/ temples/ somethings in Taichung. They look like the cheesiest China-themed casino you could ever drunkenly stumble into. If I can get one cleaned up enough to be presentable, maybe I’ll post it up. I’ve never been able to get a full explanation of what goes on in those places as far as ceremony goes as well. I assume my Taiwanese friends have better things to do on the weekend than ponder yin and yang.
Korea, like my American pals to the south, suffers from the blight of evangelical Christianity. Or, to be more accurate: Corporate Christianity. Churches/ personality cults that start out with a floor in a commercial building somewhere, advertised by a garish neon cross on the roof. The hope is to get enough folks so they can get as rich as the Moonies. I once had a friend who fell in with one of the mega churches there. Note the “once had” part of the last sentence. Had to give him up when he went full blown loon.
Even then, he was a lot more acceptable than the former friend who went full on scumbag once he became a drone in one of the Chaebols.
I make no secret that I think religious belief (as well as it’s root: The adoration of authority) is a steaming load of dookie. But I do admit that for the most part it’s harmless. A collection of habits and rituals that people use to distract themselves from the awareness of the future meal they’re going to become. It’s meaningless, but at least they’re not passing laws telling gays they’re not human, or murdering people in malls over it.
Recently, I was hipped to an article about atheist churches. I had heard of the concept before and I didn’t pay it much heed because the idea is like saying you’re a firm Catholic on your way to your third abortion.
Let me tell you a not-secret secret: Atheists have as much in common with each other as Canadians do. Same country, different worlds. There are atheists who think wimmins need to shut up and stop spoiling the fun with their lady brains. Some atheists will strongly deny any gods you present to them, yet will go on at great lengths about ghosts, Bigfoot, and the UFOs that brought all of them to Earth. There are also atheists that think climate change is a scam of Big Solar, vaccines are mind-control drugs, and the moon landing was done on the Star Trek set. Aside from being idiots, the only thing these atheists have in common is disbelief in deities.
Yet someone decided that what atheism needed was the power structure of religion and they scammed a bunch of people into agreeing with them. Sure, these organizers will talk a good game about community and ritual. But all leaders talk about community and ritual. Making people feel like a group is part of the toolbox of those who seek money and power. And these social structures inevitably exist solely to maintain the power of the people at the head of that structure. It’s human nature. It’s also something to be rejected because it’s what leads people to pass laws that tells gays they’re not human, and murder people in malls.
In Kyushu, it’s common to dress up small stone Buddhas in cozy winter gear. I feel this is a much better expression of ritual than any of the above mentioned. So if some atheist wants to knit a little cozy for their copy of The God Delusion, they have my blessings. Leave the priests to the religions.
Despite what your religious leaders and peers have told you about atheists, we do have the ability to appreciate beauty regardless of the inspiration for it. We can even listen to an entire hour and a half of Bach without exploding into flame.
That’s why I’m fond of visiting religious structures when I come across them. They show the benefits of being devoted to supporting and promoting a wealthy power structure such as a religion: You get the financing to bring fantasies to life, and beautiful buildings and art tend to result.
Science and secularism, for all it’s superiority in explaining reality, is lacking in the more physical manifestations of beauty. Of course you’d have to be dead in the heart to look at this photo of Saturn and not be awed by it. But Saturn is a billion kilometers away and there’s no way you can pass an afternoon sitting on a nearby bench and looking up in appreciation of it. It was also forged by forces beyond easy human comprehension. Saturn seems inevitable given the power of the cosmos. Exceptional, but not exceptional given the context.
But the Pieta? You marvel that a small, short-lived, cosmically insignificant ape made that. It seems almost inconceivable this came from an ugly, vicious human brain. Most of us can’t even handle Pictionary, yet one of us did that?! Wow, right? It still doesn’t mean that religious beliefs have any basis in reality. But I’m secure enough to admit that, when it comes to making beauty, religions have us heathens beat.
That’s why we’re claiming rock and roll and hip hop! They may not be beautiful most of the time, but do make you shake your butt.
Like every photo for the next few days, this was shot in the city of Nagasaki with a Mamiya C220f.