Inventing a Religion
by Dr. M.D. Magee
The following was originally published on the web site AskWhy! and is part of a longer article explaining how Judaism was deliberately created for political purposes. This article is copyright © Dr. M.D. Magee and republished with permission.
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In modern times, remarkable instances of utterly artificial religions are quite common. Scientology is perhaps the main example, starting as a wager and continuing to this day as a joke taken seriously by many Americans, often wealthy ones.
Voltaire and the other eighteenth-century philosophers, who held religions to be inventions, had been scorned as superficial, yet Rousseau did it, fulfilling the aspiration of French society for something simpler, juster, more true to nature, more logical than what they had. In the middle of the eighteenth century, he preached a doctrine that took the world by storm, and soon left it in the ruins from which the modern world grew. How did he discover his gospel? He tells us:
Buried in the forest, I sought, I found there the image of primitive ages, whose history I boldly traced. I made havoc of men’s petty lies; I dared to unveil and strip naked man’s true nature, to follow up the course of time and of the circumstances that had disfigured it, and, comparing man as men had made him with man as nature made him, to demonstrate that the so-called improvements [of civilisation] had been the source of all his woes.
Rousseau had invented a pseudo-history which he fervently believed, and persuaded other people to believe too. Taken up as a religion, it inspired heroes, and enabled a barefoot rabble to beat the finest regular armies in the world. He gave what was needed at that time, what seemed self-evident and therefore needing no proof. People at once recognized his statements on the “state of nature” and the “social contract,” as eternal truths. Further investigation was superfluous.
What Christians and Jews do not or will not accept is that their own religions were no less phony. These pages have aimed to show that Judaism was invented by the Persians as an instrument of their national policy, and Christianity was invented by the Ron Hubbards of their day, beginning with Paul, a Roman spy and agent provocateur seeking to weaken Jewish nationalism and the distinctions between Jew and gentile to ease the tension in the near east. How did they do it?Japan was an exampleanother case of religion building and on a national scale. Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850-1935), Emeritus Professor of Japanese and Philology at the Imperial university of Tokyo, Japan in 1912 wrote a pamphlet, The Invention of a New Religion (The Project Gutenberg [Etext #2510]), showing how the Japanese ruling class was building a new religion for the Japanese. This interesting pamphlet reveals a lot about how the religions of Judaism and Christianity were formed.
Up to the year 1888, everything foreign in Japan was hailed as perfecteverything old and national was condemned. Sentiment grew democratic. Love of country seemed likely to yield to foreign models. Officialdom took fright at this loss of national pride. Something had to be done.
In the nineteenth century, the Japanese were an irreligious people and admitted it themselves. Fukuzawa wrote: “I lack a religious nature, and had never believed in any religion.” Educated Japanese saw the educated European as superstitious, and preoccupied with other-worldly matters. Japanese could not comprehend how supposed spiritual leaders like the Pope, or the Archbishop of Canterbury, could be so revered and important. Yet the bureaucrats saw some advantage in it. They manufactured a religion from the turn of the twentieth century to serve the purposes of their rulersMikado-worship.
It was a new religion of loyalty and patriotism, consciously put together by the official class, to serve the interests of that class. Patriotic sentiment was appealed to through Japan’s throne, supposedly of hoary antiquity, a unique line of absolute monarchs compared with the short-lived dynasties of China.
Shinto, a nature cult which had fallen into discredit, was taken as a basis with sound Japanese credentials. The governing class insisted on the Shinto doctrine that the Mikado descends in direct succession from the native Goddess of the Sun, and that he was a living god on earth who claimed the absolute fealty of his subjects. Laws and constitutions were but free gifts on his part, not in any sense popular rights. The practice was established in all schools of bowing down several times yearly before the Emperor’s picture.
Shinto, because connected with the Imperial Family, was to be alone honoured. Ministers and officials who carried on the Mikado’s government, were not just public servants, but executives of the supernatural authority. The attendance of officials at certain Shinto services was required. The Japanese bureaucracy became like the priesthood in later Judaea, and to some extent like the Egyptian and Indian priesthoods, not only governing, but aspiring to lead in cultural matters, and to have the people kow tow to it in exaggerated respect. The right of burial, never before possessed by Shinto, was granted to its priests. Then the right of marriage was granted likewisean entirely novel departure in a land where marriage had never been more than a civil contract. Thus the Shinto priesthood was encouraged to penetrate into the intimacy of family life, while in another direction it encroached on the field of ethics by borrowing bits here and there from Confucian and even from Christian sources.
All military successes were ascribed to the miraculous influence of the Emperor’s virtue, and to the virtues of His Imperial and divine ancestorsformer Emperors and Shinto deities. Imperial envoys were regularly sent after each great victory to carry the good tidings to the Sun Goddess at her great shrine at Ise. The new legend was encouraged by means of a new set of festivals celebrating Imperial official events.
The schools were the great strongholds of the new propaganda. History was so taught to the young as to focus everything upon the new truths, and to diminish as far as possible the contrast between ancient and modern conditions. Army and navy recruits were taught the same. The traditional mythology of Shinto was played down. Instead a new mythology was presented as “historical facts,” such as the alleged foundation of the monarchy in 660 BC. Only what passes for history in the Judaeo-Christian bible, where Moses, David, Solomon, and so on, are accepted as authentic people, is as absurd.
The true origins of Japanese history were as recent as that of European countries. The first glimmer of genuine Japanese history dates from the fifth century AD, and even the accounts of what happened in the sixth century must be received with caution. Japanese scholars knew this, but the Japanese bureaucracy would not hear it and exacted belief in every iota of the national historic myth, characterised by miraculous impossibilities.
The chronology was palpably fraudulent and the speeches put into the mouths of ancient Mikados were from the Chinese classics. Some of their names were also from Chinese sources. (Here, some scholars in the eighties were declaring what earlier scholars had ignoredthat clear elements of the Greek classics could be found in the Jewish scriptures.) The earliest Japanese historical narratives, the earliest known social usages, and even the centralized Imperial form of Government itself, were all adapted from classical China. Moral ideals from the teaching of the Chinese sages, like loyalty and filial piety, the virtues on which, in the Far-Eastern world, all the others rest, were attributed to Imperial Ancestors. Beneficent sovereigns had always been in perfect concord with the gratefully loyal people, who had never been disobedient and rebellious. The Japanese nation had been blessed by a high-minded chivalry called Bushido, a supernatural virtue of its rulers.
Bushido was unknown until the end of the nineteenth century! The word appears in no dictionary before the year 1900. It was never once alluded to it in the voluminous writings of Kaempfer, Siebold, Satow, nor Reinall men who knew Japan by heart. Japan had its chivalrous people but Bushido, as an institution or a code of rules, had never existed. In a short lifetime, the new Japanese religion of loyalty and patriotism emerged into the light of day, and the feats accomplished during the last war show that the simple ideal which it offered was capable of inspiring heroic deedsand foul ones too.
Medieval Japanese history shows that the great feudal houses, far from showing fealty to one emperor, one lord, or one party, had evolved the eminently practical plan of letting their different members take different sides, so that the family as a whole might come out as winner in any event, and avoid the confiscation of its lands. From the beginning of authentic history down to within the memory of living men, emperors had been deposed, assassinated, exiled and murdered in exile, and for centuries every succession to the throne was the signal for intrigues and sanguinary broils. For centuries, the government was in the hands of mayors of the palace, who substituted one infant sovereign for another, generally forcing each to abdicate as soon as he approached man’s estate. In the fourteenth century, two rival Imperial lines defied each other for fifty-eight years.
The new Japanese religion consisted of worship of the sacrosanct Emperor and his Divine Ancestors, of obedience to him as head of the armya position contrary to all former Japanese ideas, for the court was civilianof a belief that Japan was superior to the other nations just as the Mikado was divinely superior to other kings and emperors. Japan was created first, the “Land of the Gods,” while all other countries came from the drops that fell from the creator’s spear when he had finished his main work.
The Reverend Dr Ebina, one of the leading lights of the Protestant pastorate in Japan when Chamberlain wrote his brochure, accepted the doctrine that the whole Japanese nation were gods:
Though the encouragement of ancestor-worship cannot be regarded as part of the essential teaching of Christianity, [Christianity] was not opposed to the notion that, when the Japanese Empire was founded, its early rulers were in communication with the Great Spirit that rules the universe. Christians, according to this theory, without doing violence to their creed, may acknowledge that the Japanese nation has a divine origin. It was only when we realize that the Imperial Ancestors were in close communion with God (or the Gods), that we understand how sacred was the country in which we live.
If Japanese Christians could think like this, the non-Christian majority must have been devout Emperor-worshippers and Japan-worshippers. The peasantry continued to prefer Buddhism. Popular festivals were Buddhist. Buddhist also were the temples where they buried their dead. The common people clung to the Buddhist beliefs of their fathers but they could not resist the propaganda of the state.
The spread of the new ideas was easy, as it always is when a large class derived power from their diffusion, while no one in particular opposed them. The disinterested love of truth for its own sake was rare, and the patience to unearth it was rarer still. Patriotism worked in the interests of credulity. How could men not believe in a system that produced such excellent practical results, a system which united all the scattered elements of national feeling into one focus, and thus created a powerful instrument for the attainment of national aims? Thus a generation grew up not suspecting that its cherished beliefs were mere inventions.
The new religion lacked one important itema sacred book. Imperial Rescripts raised to that rank, accompanied doubtless by an authoritative commentary, as their style was too abstruse to be understanded of the people, would suffice. A volume on the whole duty of Japanese man, with selected Imperial poems as texts, duly appeared.
The West in the twentieth-century found its moral and political Eldorado in distant Japan, a land of fabulous antiquity and incredible virtues. The Japanese officials obliged and the national pride they were inculcating took over. Lectures were delivered, books were written in English, French and German, periodicals were brought out, minute care was lavished on concealment, patching-up, and glossing-over. How could a foreigner imagine that people who made such positive statements about their own country were merely exploiting the stranger’s credulity? Onlookers had no reason to suspect, and even if they did, original sources were out of their reach.
The position of Western investigators vis-a-vis Japan differed entirely from that of Japanese vis-a-vis the West. The Japanese had every facility for studying and understanding Europe and the US. Westerners were warded off by well-nigh insuperable obstacles from understanding Japan. Japan lies in the shadow, away on the rim of the world. Visitors were never left to form their own opinion of things.
Japan’s speech, marvellously intricate, almost defied acquisition. Having mastered this difficult vernacular, the student discovered that literary works, even newspapers and ordinary correspondence, were not composed in it, but in another dialect, partly antiquated, partly artificial, differing as widely from the colloquial speech as Latin is from Italian. Finally, Japanese thought barricaded itself behind the walls of an extraordinarily complicated system of writing. Yet the foreigner had to learn this too. Only a missionary or a consular official with a life appointment ever could. The Japanese knew everything there was to know about us, but Europeans could know little about them. Thus the neo-Japanese myths of dates, Emperors, heroes, and astonishing national virtues found their way into popular English books, current literature, and even reference books.
Japanese officialdom acted naturally in not allowing the light to be let in, because the roots of the faith it has planted need darkness in which to grow and spread. Few religions can survive a birth subjected to critical scrutiny. Thus also were explained the rigours of the Japanese bureaucracy against the native liberals, who, in its eyes, appeared, not simply as political opponents, but as traitors to the chosen peoplesacrilegious heretics defying the authority of the One and Only True Church.
Judaism and Christianity
What happened in Japan was not exceptional. Normal religious and political change proceeds thus.
The classic instance of the invention of a new national religion was furnished in Yehud of the post-exilic period. The piecing together, then, of a brand-new system under an ancient name is now so well understood, and has been so closely described on these pages, that little need be said here. Works which every critic can now see to be relatively modern were ascribed to Moses, David, or Daniel; intricate laws and ordinances that had never been practisedcould never have been practisedwere represented as ancient institutions; a whole new way of thinking and acting was set in motion on the assumption that it was old. Yet, so far as was known, no one in or out of Palestine ever saw through the illusion for over two thousand years. Nineteenth and twentieth century scholars had to draw aside the veil hiding the facts.
In Yehud, a revolutionized and unhappy present required a changed attitude towards the past. Substitute the Persians for the Japanese bureaucracy and the prallels are clear. Oral tradition and the scraps of written records that had survived the wreckage of the kingdom, elements of Assyrian lists of kings, Mesopotamian myth and a subset of the Zoroastrian monotheistic religion were arranged into a new order. A few gifted individuals applied literary methods of pseudepigraphy which would now be branded as fraudulent if they were not holy writings. The pressing need of building a national polity for their present on their chosen basisYahouah worshipobliged them into falsifying the past to make it fit.
The kaleidoscope having been turned, the pattern would change of its own accord. People can always believe that which it was greatly to their interest to believe. The question was one of life and death for the Jewish colonists. Thousands of people in our own society cling to the doctrine of a future life on no strong evidence. It was enormously important to the Japanese ruling class, like the Jewish one, that the mental attitude sketched above should become universal among their countrymen. Accordingly, they achieved the impossible.
We believe in it, although we know that it is not true.
Tertullian said nearly the same thing, and no Christian ever doubted his sincerity.