Tominaga and Nietzsche’s efforts to question religion

The 19th Century was an era of questioning. Around the world people were wondering why things are the way they are, and what can one do to change them. Before change can be made, however; a new goal must be set. Two men on opposite sides of the world set to answer the questions of; what is wrong with society, and how can we fix it. Tominaga Nakamoto and Friedrich Nietzsche have very similar views on what ills their respective societies face, and what solutions they advocate. Both criticize the established religions of their societies for a purpose.

Tominaga and Nietzsche’s efforts to question religion within their respective countries were both due to a desire to free people from the constraints of religion, and to bring about a more open and free society. Nietzsche is known for stating “God is Dead”, this statement reflects his belief that God was created by man, and as soon as an individual no longer believes in God then he ceases to exist for that purpose. Nietzsche believed that faith made people reliant on an outside force, and this conflicted with his idea that happiness must come from within. “I am that which must always overcome itself.

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Only where there is life is there also will: not will to life but – thus I teach you – will to power. ” (Zarathustra, 115) Nietzsche advocated his will to power, this philosophy was one were all actions you take you are responsible for, and no one can control you but yourself. It is the ultimate statement of freedom. One of the major constraints that Nietzsche sought to destroy is the idea of good and evil. He believed that by making things black and white, and emphasizing the duality of morality Christianity was restricting people from achieving true power or happiness.

The self-enjoyment of such bodies and souls calls itself “virtue”. With its words about good and bad, such self-enjoyment screens itself as with sacred groves; with the names of its happiness it banishes from its presence whatever is contemptible; it says: bad – that is cowardly. Contemptible to its mind is anyone who always worries, sighs, is miserable. (Zarathustra, 190) Nietzsche means here that good and bad are labels that are a form of cowardice, that the true person will reject such dualism, and instead embrace the freedom of life. One of Nietzsche’s main criticisms of Christianity is with the idea of forgiveness or redemption.

He sees the idea as requiring the aid or a higher being to achieve moral sanctity and this crutch of God simply serves to belittle a being’s own sense of right and wrong. “He who they call Redeemer has put them in fetters: in fetters of false values and delusive words. Would that someone would yet redeem them from their Redeemer! ” (Zarathustra, 91) Nietzsche aims to redeem us from the redeemer, to free mankind from Jesus, God, and the need for forgiveness. Instead of guilt Nietzsche wants you to exalt in your deeds, and to never look back and question your actions. This is certainly not a freedom that Christianity allows.

One can easily see what Nietzsche disapproves of, but what is more difficult is to find what he admires. Nietzsche is not a nihilist, in that he doesn’t destroy without a goal. His goal is for everyone to achieve the will to power. “And may everything be broken that cannot brook our truths! There are yet many houses to be built! ” (Zarathustra, 116) This concept of will to power is difficult to grasp, but at its core is the freedom of the individual. “I am that which must always overcome itself. Only where there is life is there also will: not will to life but – thus I teach you – will to power. (Zarathustra, 115)

Nietzsche wants individuals to reject the widely accepted notion of morality, and instead overcome that which obstructs one’s happiness, and anything that stands in the way of that happiness ought to be destroyed. An aspect of freedom that people often miss when reading Nietzsche is the idea of freedom from regret. This is a main point within his work that revolves around the idea of the eternal reoccurrence. The eternal reoccurrence is a challenge Nietzsche issues to everyone to live their lives and accept their choices, so that if necessary they are willing to live their lives again and again for all of eternity.

Look inside and into the most world-renouncing of all possible modes of thought beyond good and evil, and no longer like Buddha and Schopenhauer, under the dominion and delusion of morality, – – whoever has done this, has perhaps just thereby, without really desiring it, opened his eyes to behold the opposite ideal: the ideal of the most world-approving, exuberant, and vivacious man, who has not only learnt to compromise and arrange with that which was and is, but wishes to have it again AS IT WAS AND IS, for all eternity, insatiably calling out de capo. BGE, 56) This is a statement of full acceptance and exuberance for life that few Christians could match. Nietzsche, by fully accepting his life and never regretting, is freeing himself from all that which could lead to his unhappiness. He lives by his own moral code, and he has the will to power that is necessary to refute the constraints of Christianity, and embrace personal freedom. Tominaga Nakamoto questioned all three of the major religions of his society. Within Japan religion consisted of three main schools. These were Shinto, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

The people of Japan believed in all three faiths simultaneously. Tominaga’s main criticism is of Buddhism, but he also touches on Shinto and Confucianism. He once stated; “I am not a follower of Confucianism, nor of Shinto, nor of Buddhism. I watch their words and deeds from the side and then privately debate. ” (Tominaga, 47) Tominaga clearly saw benefit in not adhering to one religion, he found freedom outside the confines of religion. Tominaga had two main arguments refuting the validity of Buddhism, and they both relate to the validity of the sutras.

He questions their origins and the competitive nature of the differing schools. Buddhism teaches that the sutras came directly from the mouth of the Buddha, and Tominaga easily dismisses this as false. The scholars of later generations vainly say that all the teachings came directly from the golden mouth <if the Buddha> and were intimately transmitted by those who heard him frequently. They do not realize that, on the contrary, there are many gaps and connections. Is this not foolish? (Tominaga, 81)

Tominaga also talks how the records of the time of the writing of the sutras conflict, and they were certainly written no earlier than thirty years after Sakamuni’s death. The main argument against the validity of the sutras is the way in which they conflict and combat each other. Throughout the Buddhist world the argument persists over which sutra came when, and which is the greatest. The true purpose of this argument, Tominaga points out, is only to increase the pride of one particular sect over another.

He talks about the number of different sutras, and how not all of them can be considered to be the word of the Buddha. “First Kasyapa assembled the three sets of teaching but then the Mahasamghikas assembled three sets of teaching. So the following was divided into two. Later on it split up into eighteen divisions. ” (Tominaga, 74) Tominaga continues to describe the number of divisions, which eventually number in the hundreds. Clearly not all of these sutras are correct, and Tominaga would argue that none of them are.

In his criticisms of all three major religions of Japan, Tominaga is very specific in what he views as harmful to the people of his country. “The propensity of Buddhism is magic… ” (Tominaga, 68) Tominaga states that Buddhism requires people to believe in magical abilities that go against nature, such as walking on water, or flying. Since magic is not rational it harms the ability of people to think rationally if they are required to go against reason. “The propensity of Confucianism is high-flown language… ” (Tominaga, 69) Tominaga criticizes Confucianism for being to verbose.

He argues that the flowery language of confucianist texts serve only to confuse people, and to increase the pride of those who can understand the flowery language. This propagates people feeling superior to others due to intellect, and is clearly harmful to a harmonious society. “As to the propensity of Shinto, it is mysteriousness, esotericism and secret transmission, the bad habit of simply concealing things. ” (Tominaga, 70) Tominaga is hardest on Shinto, since he sees it as being simple witch-craft and silliness.

He believes Shinto is a religion passed on from the days of tribal society, which has no place in a modern society. Interestingly enough, many of the readers of Tominaga during the Meiji Restoration used Tominaga to attack Buddhism, in order to have Shinto as the national religion. Tominaga would certainly have been appalled to see his arguments used in such a way. While Tominaga certainly had many criticisms of Buddhism, Shinto, and Confucianism he also saw much in these religions that he found useful.

In one of his three blessings he included ‘filial devotion to parents, respectful service to teachers and elders. He also taught, ‘avoid all bad deeds, respect and practice everything good, purify your own mind; this is the teaching of the Buddhas. Confucius also taught “filial piety, brotherliness, loyalty, and trust’ and ‘loyalty, faithfulness, kindness and respect’. The Shinto people also teach purity, simplicity, and honesty. These are all wise sayings in accordance with the way of truth, all approximately the same and with nothing wrong in them. Tominaga, 60-61) Tominaga sees a type of universal morality that transcends religion, and in fact is hindered by the organized religion usually attached to it. He believes that people can be freed from the bonds of organized religion, while at the same time maintaining the morals normally attributed with them. Tominaga talks of the way of truth. This true way is what he has found within all three of these religions. He believes that if one adheres to basic morality, and maintains the customs fitting to the day, then true happiness will be yours.

Maintaining ritual, practicing the culture of other countries, and adhering to the mystical promises of religion serve only to trap people in ignorance, and ultimately lead to unhappiness. Tominaga tells us to live today as today ought to be lived. To write with today’s script, use language, eat today’s food, wear today’s clothes, use today’s utensils, live in today’s buildings, follow today’s customs, observe today’s regulations, mingle with today’s people, to avoid all the bad things and do the good things, – this may be called the way of truth, and it is the way which should be practiced in present-day Japan. Tominaga, 59) So if one adheres to the basic morality taught by all major religions, and practices today’s practices, then one will be free to live a happy life. Tominaga and Nietzsche each deal with very different societies, but they both address the same problems, and have similar solutions. Both want to break down the constrictions placed on people be the dominant religions within their society. Both attempt to setup a world were an individual can live a happy and free life. By destroying the entrapments of their societies, both these men are freeing future generations to adhere to reason and their own desires.