Why is Religion Necessary?

 Since the murder of former Prime Minister Abe, the public has become more critical of religion and spirituality. 

The murderer is a religious denier and I think that is more problematic. But the religion that his mother belongs to has deep dark sides, so the public focuses more on that. 

Some of you may be wondering, "Why do we need religion in the first place?” In this article, I would like to think about this question with you. 

A helpful way to think about this question is to look at the opposite pattern.  

I mean, there are atheistic nations in the world. 

Let’s consider whether people can live happily in such countries. 

Marx's communism is behind the spread of atheistic states on earth. 

Marx said that religion is opium = drug, so religion was denied in Marxist countries. 

The spread of this idea eliminated the freedom to believe in religion, and churches and other religious institutions were closed. 

Such countries once included the Soviet Union, and even today include China, North Korea, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam. 

Communist states used to be widespread in Eastern Europe and Cambodia, but have been decreasing since the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

What these countries have in common is a tendency for the state to control the people through coercion and a disregard for human life. 

Marx originally advocated communism, a country of equality without authority, for the oppressed workers. However, in countries that realized that ideal, concentration camps were created and those who did not obey the government or whose ideas did not match those of the government were sent to camps or executed. 

For example, the Pol Pot faction in Cambodia, which advocated communism, forcibly relocated urban residents to rural areas and repeatedly subjected them to forced labor, torture, and genocide. 

It is estimated that about 1.7 million people, or 20 to 30% of the population, including those who died of disease or starvation, were victims of Pol Pot’s policies. 

It is also said that many people were purged during the Soviet era under Stalin, and tens of millions were detained by the secret police or arrested on a tip-off, and many were executed. 

Even today, China is still catching Uyghurs who believe in Islam, putting them in concentration camps, torturing and brainwashing them repeatedly to make them apostatize, and persecuting those who do believe in religion. 

Why is it that such suppression of human rights and persecution commonly occur in non-religious and atheistic nations? 

It is not a coincidence, but rather a common occurrence that appears in the non-religious nations. 

This is because human dignity cannot come from an ideology that denies the existence of God, Buddha, or spirituality. 

If we think of human beings as mere physical beings, they will be considered no different from machines. 

Just as machines are destroyed when they break down, those who are unnecessary to the state are repaired (i.e., tortured or brainwashed) or destroyed (i.e., killed). 

A person who believes in religion is a threat to the state, so from the perspective of those in power, it is better to have no religion. 

There were the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Taiping Rebellion in old China, and these were movements of people who believed in religion and protested against corrupt politics. 

Thus, religion can also be a force that corrects politics when they become corrupt or take steps in the wrong direction. 

When many people believe in it, it becomes a democratic force and a corrective force in the world. 

From the perspective of those in power, the force is a threat to their position, so they either keep the religious followers as docile as possible or thoroughly oppress them. 

Historically, Japan has been relatively tolerant of religion, but a period of persecution of Christianity occurred around the time of the Toyotomi and Tokugawa eras. 

Of course, it is said that this was due to the fact that the Western powers were using Christianity as a spearhead to spread colonial rule. 

It was believed that if Christianity was allowed to spread even within Japan, the West would subsequently intervene and Japan could eventually be colonized like other countries. 

However, there are some exaggerations in that explanation. In fact, it is said that Japan had already been producing guns and other weapons in large quantities in its own country since the time of Nobunaga Oda, and at that time boasted the largest number of guns owned in the world. 

So, if we consider the era of Nobunaga Oda and Hideyoshi Toyotomi, we can see that even the West could not have invaded Japan. 

The banning of Christianity to prevent invasion from the West was a pretext of sorts; in fact, there was not much of a military threat at the time. The actual reason for that was probably the psychological resistance to foreign religions and the political threat such as the Shimabara Rebellion. 

It is not surprising that those in power at the time, who believed in traditional Buddhism and Shinto, felt resistance to the spread of teachings that were unfamiliar to them. 

In addition, Nobunaga Oda conducted the siege of Mount Hiei, for example, the powers-that-be of the time realized that the rise of a religious power with popular support would pose a political threat. 

In fact, there was the Shimabara Rebellion, mainly by Christians, which led to the banning and suppression of Christianity, fearing that such revolts would continue. 

At that time, those who did not renounce Christianity were tortured and killed. 

The authorities of the time thoroughly suppressed Christians. For example, they forced those suspected of being Christians to perform fumie (stepping on a board with engraved image of Christ). 

Christians who were discovered were soaked in boiling water or tortured by “hole-hanging,” the most cruel torture method of the time, so that they would not die immediately and be tormented for a long time before being killed. 

Such thorough repression was, after all, out of fear that the people would unite and stand up against the powers-that-be. 

Religion is essentially a kind of source of democracy, because what is supported by the people spreads. 

Therefore, religion is also an institution that represents the opinions of the people. 

Historically, religions have risen up when politics has tried to go wrong or caused suffering to the people. 

I mentioned earlier the reasons why non-religious nations disregard human rights. The reason why religion is necessary is that human dignity comes from it. 

There are various religious teachings, but basically, they teach that human beings are not mere objects, such as “human beings are not only physical beings, but also have a soul,” or “human beings possess divinity or Buddha nature,” or something like that. 

Therefore, human dignity arises from religion. 

From an atheistic and materialist perspective, for example, one might think that the elderly, who are no longer able to work and produce, are like broken machines and should be scrapped. 

In Japan, there was a tragic incident in which a man broke into a facility for the physically challenged and killed many of them. 

The perpetrator in this case also had the same kind of thinking. 

As you can see, human dignity does not come from materialism or atheism. 

When it comes to the state, the absence of a religion that can serve as a counterweight to the state’s authorities will cause them to be unchecked and to run amok. 

Of course, some religions are not right because they undermine human dignity or use brainwashing or violence to expand their cult. 

If you think that all religions are bad because there are some bad cults, or if you do not understand that religion is absolutely essential thing, you will do things like “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” 

No one should deny people’s respect for God and Buddha. 

Translated by Kyoko.u