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About the Asian New Religions

Discussion in 'Asian Mythology' started by Leftimies, Oct 23, 2015.

  1. Leftimies

    Leftimies Dwelling in the Principle

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    I was wondering, how are the Asian new religions represented on this forum? Whether it be Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong or Taiwan, there are numerous new religious movements in existence that sway notable influence in those countries (particularly the Japanese ones and some of the sinitic ones). Here is a short list of some of them that I compiled:

    Japan.
    - Tenrikyo
    - Konkokyo
    - Ōmoto

    Sinosphere.
    - Yiguandao
    - Tiandi
    - Xiantiandao
    - Guiyidao
    - Shengdao
    - Zailiism
    - Haizidao

    Korea.
    - Cheondoism
    - Daejongism
    - Jeungsando

    I understand that this is at least in part because most of the sinitic new religions are generally labeled as either part of Taoism or just lumped under the 'Chinese folk religion' category. The Japanese new religions excepted, the Chinese and Korean ones seem to be very local in nature and not concerned with other cultures. Therefore it could very well be that there just are no practitioners here on this site.

    However, with 7,6% of Taiwanese people being Xiantiandaoists (apparently lumped under Taoism in census), some 3,4% of all Taiwanese people being Yiguandaoists and, of course, the fact that Tenrikyo has 1.75 million followers in Japan and 2 million worldwide, you'd think that there would be at least tiny representation on this site.

    Indeed, I was kind of expecting there to be at least people who practice Tenrikyo (if I am not mistaken, there used to be one Tenrikyo practitioner here at RF) because of its spread to numerous countries, including Western world. Same goes for Konkokyo and Ōmoto, which, although less popular than Tenrikyo, likewise have an universal character. So I guess my question is that are here any people who:

    1) identify as adherent to any of the previously mentioned new religions.
    2) are not yet adherent, but would be interested in becoming such.

    It would be interesting to know more about those, as online material can be scarce and hard to come by. I have personally no invested interest in these religions, but for cultural reasons it would be nice to learn more.



    Peace.
     
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  2. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    Most Adherents of Cheondoism are in North Korea (2.8 million estimated adherents) rather than South Korea (1.13 million adherents and 280 Churches). As North Koreans have virtually no access to the internet (both as the result of poor infastructure, extreme censorship controls and lack of religious freedom), you will only hear from Cheondoist adherents from the South.
    The only reason I know this is because I recognised the name: North Korea has a multi-party system but all parties are part of a single united front government and subordinate to the Korean Worker's Party, including the Chondoist Chongu Party which "represents" Cheondoism (in name only).

    [For the same reason you won't hear from adherents of "Juche" (North Korea's state ideology) which often comes up as a "religion" in statistics for lack of a better classification and has estimated 19 million adherents. I think it would be considered the world's 10th largest religion (or something like that), but its just too controversial to safely classify.]

    Jeung San Do is a new religion (their central text the Dojeon was first published in 1992) and so is in the South. A 1995 Census showed only 10,000 (South) Koreans follow Daejongism and promotes Korean Nationalism and Re-unification.
     
  3. Leftimies

    Leftimies Dwelling in the Principle

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    I do agree that "Juche" (or at least the 'dear leader' component of it) is a religion de facto. While parts of Juche ideology could be implementable and even fine under some circumstances (I do not think that making your own country self-reliant is a bad idea), one would have be smart about it - which the North Koreans aren't being at the moment. Alas. However, I do know that there are Buddhist monks in North Korea who operate Buddhist temples, and that the state allows them to more or less be at ease. I suspect that this is in part because Buddhism being a religion that emphasizes on suffering and unreality of the world, it actually is very beneficiary for the North Korean state: it provides distraction for the populace from the very real problems in the country. I could see DPRK embracing religions more broadly in the future as a means of psychological control, and this might extend to Cheondoism as well which already has "political representation" (which, as you said, is in name only at the moment).

    Under some viewpoints, the Japanese Imperial Cult could be considered a 'nationalist religion', but its literal interpretations have dwindled since the second world war. These kinds of 'official state truths' certainly provide for an interesting topic when inspected from a religious perspective.
     
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  4. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    At a guess, It will either be for propaganda purposes (mainly for foreign consumption and tourists) or there will be money involved. The DPRK loves hard cash, even if it comes from religious people. What little they exports from the country includes forged US dollar bills and drugs and they use tourism to get hold of money from visitors. Whilst I think you've got the cynicism about right in using religion as a means to psychological control, it's unlikely they will allow other religions in the country as it would be seen as competition for the ruling ideology/party which believes the state has the right to determine what people think.

    Couldn't agree more. :)
     
  5. Leftimies

    Leftimies Dwelling in the Principle

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    I definitely understand your skepticism about the status of Buddhism in North Korea, and they probably rank among the lowest in North Korean social hierarchy at the moment. However, it is good to remember the following issues:

    1) the Buddhist elements in the country are organized under auspices the state-run Korean Buddhist Federation
    2) these Buddhist temples and their monks receive government funding in order to be able to 'promote their religion'
    3) there is an official state sanctioned study program/degree for the Buddhist clergy that runs for three years
    4) apparently there is a Buddhist revival taking place, with the establishment of an Academy for Buddhist Studies

    All in all, when it comes to North Korea, exact data is hard to come by, be the topic in question anything, really. I have managed to dig up even less about the situation of Cheondoism (that is, whether or not they have institutes for study like the Buddhists have) in North Korea, which seem to be much more politicized element in the North Korea than the more recluse Buddhist monks. If you have any detailed info about the Cheondoists in North Korea, it would merit this thread greatly.

    I am cynical enough to see a nihilistic-pragmatic/opportunistic motive in the North Korean government's actions towards Buddhism (or anything, really). For example, the point (1) of my list can be interpreted as state controlling Buddhism through the Korean Buddhist Federation. The point (2) can be seen as the state using the monks as a permanent maintenance/restoring crew of the historical temples, which are listed as national treasures, and for this reason they are being paid monetary support. The point (3) is probably a way for the state to infuse the monks with state dogma. But when it comes to number (4), that seems to serve no apparent state function: it really seems to have cultural issues at heart.

    What do you think?
     
  6. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    I can honestly say I don't know. There is only ever a very small trickle of information that comes out of North Korea, much of it from defectors who are not always reliable. the problem with the latter is that "we" don't really know what to do with them, and they end up being discriminated against and doing menial low paid jobs. So the money involved in press interviews can be very persausive to exaggerate what they went through. This is not the same as saying they are all lying, or that North Korea isn't a hell on earth.

    I'm basing my evaluation of this based on communist precedents, but north korea is barely communist. there is a pattern of institutions and ideas left over from the period when it was Marxist, but they have been disowned and "Juche" considered superior (by merit that North Korea surivived the collapse of communism in the 1990's inspite of the massive famine that shook the country). My best guess is, if it's state run, there will be an alterior motive. but it is just a guess.

    The only information I got on Cheondoists was form wikipedia and I looked it up to reply to this thread. So, you are in the same position as I am basically. :)

    The North Korean government, like all communist governments, does take cultural issues to heart. This however isn't like in the "western" sense with freedom of religion and secularism even if it is professed in their constitutions; only Albania went as far to ban religion, all the others had nominal "freedom" of religion even during the Stalin and Mao eras. Rights do not originate from the individual, but from the state in these legal systems. So whether a person has the "freedom" to practice their religion depends on the collective moodswings of the ruling party. Juche ideology is no exception and if anything goes much further than all previous communist ideologies combined in deifying the "dear leader".

    As with the league of militant atheists in the USSR,the state is involved a direct and conscious attempt to mold the opinion of the population to fit with government beliefs. This is considered part of the "planning" of national life, which is why Mao had a "cultural revolition". they do not treat ideas and actions as seperate, and therefore whatever our private thoughts may be, they are assumed to have an effect on our actions and are therefore the concern of the state. Orwell got it right to call it "thoughtcrime" as that is really what it is. As an institution, the Russian Orthodox Church survived in the USSR because it "went along" with the bolsheviks but only just. I think the number of churches was reduced to a few thousand by the end of the Soviet era. the same goes for all the other major religions. This didn't mean it's survival was gaurenteed as there were several attempts to eradicate religion especially under stalin, but also later episodes of repression under Khruschev. They introduced courses of "scientific atheism" in the USSR universities, and the same pattern appears to work in North Korea with "Juche" classes at university to ensure ideologicaly correctness. Again, there is no specifics, but it is reasonable to assume that anti-religious campigns probably have happened in the country. Religion in communist countries underwent periods of repression and thawing, but the objective was the same; to eliminate it. co-operating with the north korean regieme is a survival tactic but it well within the power of the government to sent all the buddhists to camps as happened in Russia and China in their respective communist eras.

    The reason I'm sceptical is because the soviets staged events and visits for foreign intellectuals sympathetic to the regieme as well as diplomats. This was there way of winning them over and then saying all the "bad" stuff was manufactured by the Nazi/capitalist/imperialist press. it worked, and its understable as it's hard to dis-believe your own senses. The information we have about north korea is largely propaganda (on both sides, not just the DPRK's). Some people want to make it seem worse than it is and others want to make is seem better as it is.

    you're welcome to believe otherwise, but be careful who you believe. If possible, try to find a source that conflicts with the one you've got as it will give you at least a better understanding of what information is out there and views on the subject. If someone says "I don't know", there are probably more trustworthy than those who seem absolutely sure. there is a propaganda war being waged on both sides so there won't be a huge amount of information you can trust. Everybody lies about something. just some lies are bigger than others. ;)
     
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