Great Construction

Does God Exist?

     The issue of whether or not God exists has been debated since antiquity. Even now the matter has yet to be resolved, but I would like to comment on the topic from my own experience. Which is, that until about thirty-two or thirty-three years of age, I was a hard and fast atheist. I would not make even a slight bow when passing before a Shinto shrine. My reasoning was the following. The object of worship in a shrine was simply a metal mirror, a stone or the fragment of a piece of paper on which had been written some letters that had been placed in a small box housed in a wooden structure covered by a roof and a door. It was meaningless to worship such an object. Therefore, I decided that worship itself was nothing more than superstition. At that time, I had an interest in philosophy and agreed with the theories of Rudolph Eucken. From his work I remember the following.
     Human beings possess a basic instinct to worship something. Primitive peoples are satisfied to make an object out of wood or stone, put it in a place of honor, and pay reverence to it. More civilized peoples do this on a higher level. When some great personage dies, they idolize and worship that spirit. When this idol is worshipped, offerings, flowers, and such are presented, but at such times, the front of the offerings are placed so as to be seen by the worshippers. If these offerings were made to a god, should not they be faced in the direction of the god? Otherwise, the whole performance is merely an excuse in self-satisfaction. So, as you can see, I was an extreme atheist. When I look back upon my self then, it terrifies me even now but to hear atheists speak today, their point of view is readily understandable.
     It was in such a state of mind that I unavoidably experienced a great turning point of fate. That turning point was the failure and loss of my business, and then the death of my wife. The property I had painstakingly accumulated over many years was lost and in its place I was saddled with heavy debt. I was plunged to the very depths of pessimism. It is at such times that human beings look to a path of faith, calling on God for help in distress. In the same way, I could not help but start on a search for faith. I looked at various religions, but I did not feel much in any of them, except one, the then-popular Omoto-kyo in which I did feel something. I ended up joining and gradually became an earnest member. Although this experience was not enough to overcome the deep suspicion that permeated my body and soul, it did remove my atheism.
     That is because I learned that indeed there is God in this world. I will leave that subject to the next chapter, “Understanding God,” but life in those days was one miracle after another. The more I doubted, the more there occurred miracles that inevitably dispelled those doubts. No matter how I thought about it, I realized that what I was experiencing could not be understood with human logic or rationality. God did exist, and even one obstinate atheist had to unavoidably bow his head to God. Not only that, I was shown very clearly and vividly in a certain format the great mission I was born to perform in the physical world. I finally came to the point where I had to make a great decision. The decision was to abandon all and start a life of faith, nay, the promotion of the tremendous sacred task of the salvation of humanity in which I still am engaged.

Essays on Faith, page 68, September 5, 1948
    translated by cynndd