Christianity and Shintoism: Death and Dying

Table of Contents

Every religion has its peculiarities and customs that determine what life the followers of this religion lead. A person’s belief may have a significant influence on the decisions they make and their worldview. Some of the things that are influenced by beliefs are views on diseases, death, dying, and human struggles in general. Even if some decision were justified by several factors, it would not be made if it contradicts with confession’s principles and teachings. For example, a person may not decide to end their suffering with euthanasia if, for instance, Christianity does not view it as acceptable. Therefore, each religious person has to deal with certain limitations that arguably make their decision-making more challenging. However, certain hardships are easier to accept when there are certain guidelines in a religion teaching people to deal with them. The focus of this paper will be Christianity and Shintoism. From the standpoint of these beliefs, George’s struggles will be analyzed.

Christianity and Shintoism

There is a significant difference in how each religion presents its principles and its nature. Castleberry (2015) determines the fifteen most important principles that each Christian must follow and worship. These principles include perspectives on what is the prime reality, the nature of the world around the humankind, humans themselves, and many others.

The prime reality must be understood as God’s creation. Therefore, each element of this reality has a purpose and differs from every other. God created light, Earth, nature, and the human race. This also describes the nature of the world surrounding people. The world must be seen as a place that God created for women and men and other creatures of all kinds to inhabit. Humans are considered as the kind created in God’s image. As it is known from the Bible, God created women and men to bear his image and to be similar to him, although not having supernatural powers.

However, each person has a soul that is transcendent and influenced by a person’s decisions and actions. Even so much as thinking about certain actions may affect a person’s soul. People’s actions and thoughts predetermine what happens to them after they pass away. If a person was following Christian teachings and stayed loyal to God, they will go to a place called Heaven. This ethereal plane of existence is something that each woman and man will find perfect in every way. There are no sorrows, no pain, and everybody will live there happily until the end of eternity.

On the other hand, if a person led a sinful life and did not recognize Christian God as their Heavenly Father, they will be sent to Hell. This place, in turn, is something made of pain, anger, fear, and every possible torture that a human may not even imagine. This is the place where everybody is punished for transgressions against Christianity and God. As it is for Heaven, one cannot escape from Hell, nor can they bargain their way out by any means. Thus, the Christian model of the afterlife is pretty straightforward to grasp. If a person sinned, they will suffer eternally; if they were true Christians, they would live happily in other life.

In Christianity, it is possible to know anything because God created people to live in the world created for them and, therefore, each thing has a purpose and must be understood. This is why people have progressed. Also, rights and wrongs are learned from the Bible, which was written by a human that could speak directly with God. The meaning behind the history of humankind, then, is to live up to Adam and Eve’s original sin. Since God viewed his creations as his image-bearers, he was disappointed and angered by Eve’s decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which was worsened even more by the fact that she made Adam eat from it as well. Thus, people that are the offspring of Adam and Eve are viewed as sinners in their nature; the world around is a place where their sinful nature may be proven or denied.

In turn, Shintoism, as described by Sivanada (2017), has a more complicated system of principles and perspectives. Since this religion is of Eastern descent, it has a lot of differences from European beliefs. For example, Christianity has strictly determined concepts of right and wrong, which are not determined in Shinto. Each person must decide whether they are doing good or evil things for themselves.

According to Shinto teachings, the prime reality is a circle, in which everything (alive or not) has a soul (kami – 神). Even if an object is traditionally viewed as not alive (for example, a rock or a feather), in Shinto it is still believed to possess a soul similar to every living thing’s one. These souls are ever-changing, they reborn and come to life again – each time in different forms. A dog’s kami may be reborn into a human or a tree. Thus, the nature of the world in Shinto teachings is fluent, everything in it comes to an end, and nothing is forever, not even the world itself. Therefore, a human being is not viewed as a dominant kind; rather, people are just bearers of kami like everything that surrounds them. Each person determines whether they are good or evil according to the customs and norms of their time and culture.

After a human passes away, their kami leaves the body in search of another material form. The reality and knowledge are preserved in kami and, therefore, evolves and progresses. This is why people can learn from their surroundings. The meaning of humanity’s existence and history is to live in agreement with their kind and the world that surrounds them.

Disease’s Interpretation

In Christianity, there is a “why” to every kind of suffering. Each struggle is considered to be justified by the original sin, which affected the human race for all of eternity. Therefore, George’s disease is understood as his struggle to overcome the transgression of his ancestors. Any illness or challenge that a person faces is viewed as deserved. Thus, George must accept his suffering and experience it, while being thankful to God for this chance to redeem his sinful nature to live a happy life eternally in Heaven. Although this may seem somewhat unfair and excessive to any non-Christian person, Christians will not agree that any disease is undeserved.

On the other hand, Shinto’s perspective on diseases is not as simple. It is believed by Shinto’s adherents that every hardship that a person goes through is a result of their previous life’s nature. This means that a person led a life of evil and after they were reborn, they are suffering because of their doings. Therefore, George’s disease is viewed as deserved by none other than himself. Had he walked a path of righteousness in his previous life, there would be no pain and suffering in his current life. However, since this iteration of life is filled with struggle, George has a chance to accept his punishment to deserve a good life in his next form.

Value of George’s Life

Both Christianity and Shintoism view life as a valuable and significant thing. However, in Christianity, only the lives of humans are perceived as something of utmost importance and value. In turn, Shintoism’s teachings place equal value on each thing and creature. Everything is important, and nothing is viewed as more or less valuable as something else. Therefore, George’s life – regardless of his disease – is important in both religions. The difference is its significance concerning other lives. Furthermore, the cause of illness is also viewed differently as well as its purpose.

Issues of Euthanasia

As stated by Biggar (2014), “medical science [cannot] tell us under what conditions it is permissible to kill a person: that is an ethical question” (p. 229). This means that religion has a lot of importance when it comes to deciding whether a person must be relieved of their suffering.

In the case of confessions analyzed in this paper, both Christianity and Shintoism would suggest that is important for George to experience this struggle to purify his soul. However, Christianity views euthanasia and other means of forceful life’s discontinuations as prohibited and sinful in nature. Furthermore, if others decide that euthanasia must be implemented, they will necessarily commit murder, which is also explicitly forbidden by Christian teachings. Therefore, the primary value of George’s disease is that it will help him to cleanse his soul.

In turn, Shintoism includes other people by not explicitly preventing them from ending George’s life. It is up his close ones to decide, and their decisions will only influence their lives without any impact on that of George. There is no clear answer to the question of whether or not George must end his life and stop his struggle. His decision can only be judged from the perspective of each person’s beliefs and principles.

George’s Options

In Christianity, George only has one option – enduring his suffering. This is his only chance to relieve his soul of the original sin and his only way to ascend to Heaven. From Shinto’s standpoint, it is up to George to decide. However, his struggle would be viewed as something of great purpose and significance, since his disease is his punishment, which he must accept.

Personal View and Conclusion

Shintoism’s perspective seems to be more reasonable. It allows George to decide for himself and does not place any judgment on his choice. Christianity, on the other hand, seems to overestimate the significance of the original sin. Its importance and value seem to be vague, and the fact that every person should live up to it is fundamentally unjustified. However, despite any opinion, it is up to George and his close ones to decide whether or not his illness is deserved and has any value at all. It will heavily depend on any person’s beliefs, opinion, and perception of this particular situation. All in all, nobody should experience something as terrible as George’s condition or any other in the first place.

References

Biggar, N. (2014). Why religion deserves a place in secular medicine. Journal of Medical Ethics, 41(1), 229-233.

Castleberry, G. (2015). Web.

Sivanada, S. S. (2017). Web.

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