As I followed the story of the Japan earthquake and the tsunami that swept the Pacific my thoughts were both with the people caught in this tragedy and the temples and shrines of the Shinto faith. Maybe that sounds callous, but I am a religious person and my mind tends towards religious things. I know that Vodou has had struggles in Haiti since their earthquake over a year ago, and from Katrina we know that some folks will pounce on any perceived deviance from the Abrahamic norm to push their agenda.
Yet Japan is a strong nation, well-prepared for disaster and Shinto is an integral part of the culture there, so much that some don’t consider it a religion so much as a “folk-practice.” I have no doubt shrines and temples will be rebuilt and Shinto will survive this disaster without incident. Indigenous religion will survive.
Since Shinto and Buddhism are so strong in Japan, and Vodou is so important to Haiti, then why did disaster happen to good “Pagans?” If we pray to the Gods, make offerings and live according to our principles we do bad things happen? Overwhelming, catastrophic, disastrous things? We don’t believe in “divine wrath” causing natural disasters, but how do we explain it from a religious perspective?
When I initially posted about the disaster yesterday I posted the Homeric hymn to Poseidon. It just felt right. Yet later, I wondered about that. Is Poseidon the instigator of earthquakes as the ancients believed? Is this his work? Are the Gods of the ocean angry? Were they angry thousands of years ago at Pompeii? At Mt. St. Helens? Was Eyjafjallajökull’s ash cloud a sign of Asgard’s displeasure?
I feel I don’t have an answer to this from a religious standpoint. I knew the tsunami was going towards Hawaii and Guam. I prayed. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Was that my prayer? Or cold science? I believe the earth needed to move and Japan just happened to be in the way. I know this is science at work, and that the earth will move as she will without regard to us, and there is no moral judgment on that. I know the Gods love and protect those who serve them. Yet, even as I light incense for Amaterasu asking her protection and blessing for her people, my distant spiritual cousins, I still wonder at her place in this disaster.
Maybe that’s impious of me. I think as a human and not as a God. My vision is more constrained. My understanding less comprehensive. Maybe I am looking at this from a monotheistic angle without realizing it. Maybe I need to adjust my thinking. As my heart goes out to the people of the Pacific Rim, I doubt. I worry. My heart is troubled.
In my spiritual unrest I do the only thing I know to bring me understanding and peace. I light incense. I meditate. I pray.