Great Construction

Superstitious, Heretical Religions

     Newspapers, magazines, and radio and such vigorously warn members of society not to be deceived by superstitious and heretical religions. Superstitions and heresies have indeed continually appeared since antiquity, but they seem to be most conspicuous nowadays. Not all should be said to be superstitious or heretical, because of all the religions that have been so called, some still remain that are outstanding. In truth, one of those religions whose growth and vigor has been celebrated is one of the major religions of the world today, Christianity. All know the story of how, while alive, Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, was treated as a superstitious heretic and in the end was put to death. A crown of thorns was put on his head and he was dragged off to the execution ground, but no righteous person came forward to help him which shows the degree to which Christianity was seen as superstitious and heretical by the people of the times.
     In Japan as well, persecution has been most severe as is clear from what can be seen in the ancient examples of Honen and Shinran who were sent into exile and of Nichiren who suffered to proclaim the Lotus Sutra. More recent is the example of Miki Nakayama, foundress of the religion Tenrikyo who was held in detention more than twenty times and actually imprisoned several times. The fact that Shakyamuni did not suffer from oppression was probably because he came from a princely family.
     When I observe the varieties of religions that have newly come about, I cannot help but disapprove of the inferiority of their level. I see instances where even I, if in a position of authority, could not help taking strict measures. It is difficult to believe that faiths which make mischief throughout society and stress spiritual phenomena, or which stir large numbers of their followers into the disgraceful behavior of frenzied and confused dancing that are simply unbearable to watch, and in which are made sudden utterances that frighten the world, or which make suffer their neighbors from their clamor and noise are true religions. Among instances of such faiths are religious enterprises whose only objective is to make money, but all these, with the passage of time, will decline and disappear.
     All the world over, there are terrifying religions. I refer to the type of faith that frightens people and uses blackmail. Those, for example, which warn people that on such-and-such a day of so-and-so month of this-and-that year, something terrible will occur. Those who want to be saved should join So-and-So Church. And when people do join these religions and then try to leave, they are bombarded with terrible warnings. “You will certainly die if you abandon this religion.” “Death will continually stalk your family” are all used to threaten and keep people from quitting. None of these examples show the right way of conducting a religion. These measures are all a form of threat and to continue in your faith merely because you fear it is a great wrong. Divine beings are love. Divine beings are compassion. It is not possible that divine beings would threaten and coerce.
     The divine naturally engenders gratitude and appreciation, so a true faith is one you would want to join. Another sort of behavior to be on guard against is the following. This is to forcibly urge others to join a faith, and even though refused many times, to continue to insist that someone become a member, or over a long period to try to involve persons in religious events which, and at times, may even cause undue influence on their entire families. I do believe that religions that present with such conduct are not true.

Essays on Faith, page 28, January 25, 1948
    translated by cynndd