Major World Religions Shintoism

About the major world religion Shintoism, some of the history, varieties, beliefs and meanings behind the religious tradition.


The native religion of Japan, Shintoism developed out of primitive worship of ancestors and natural forces, but it has been influenced by Confucianism and Buddhism. The word "Shinto," which is Chinese (shin tao), means "the way of the gods."

After Buddhism became established in Japan it overshadowed Shintoism for centuries. In 1868, however, the Emperor Meiji seized power from the shogun and revived Shintoism. It was made the state religion and it was taught in the schools. Since Shintoism emphasized the divine origin of the Emperor's family, the military lords of Japan strongly promoted it, using it to justify their expansionist policies. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur disetablished Shintoism as a state religion. The Emperor, renouncing his claims to divinity, declared that the throne depended on the people's confidence and affection, not divine right.

Today there are about 65 million followers of Shintoism, many of whom are also practicing Buddhists. Shintoism places great emphasis on physical and mental purity.

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