Shinto ethics Unit

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Shinto (or kannagara no michi) which literally translates into “theway of the deities” is a Japanese indigenous religion thatcomprises of a collection of localized traditional beliefs. Thereligion is one of the major religions in Japan and coexists withConfucianism and Buddhism making it hard for one to separate thethree. Originally, Shinto as a religion has no absolute morals buttoday the religion has a place for ethics and morals. This stand ormorality is largely borrowed from other religions and has beenincorporated into Shintoism.

Unlike other religions, the deities or the Kamis that the religionrecognizes are portrayed as near-humans in their imperfect naturecharacterized by making mistakes (Bernard 1998). This means thattheir actions are not perceived as absolute right. Thus, the religionassesses the good or bad based on context, circumstances, intention,and purpose. As such no action is deemed as absolute bad or goodunless such issues such as context are put into place. This outlookis largely borrowed from Confucianism which teaches that humans havean innate moral sense. However, evil spirits can enter them anddistort this innate moral sense. Thus human beings always have afeeling or inner knowledge that tells them whether an action is goodor bad but the presence of evil spirits mute this voice or distortadvice. To motivate humans to be or do good, shaming wrong deeds isrecommended. Under Shintoism, shaming is common which is followed bycleansing or purification (Patheos n.d.).

Again, evil deeds are equitable to pollution and sin. The human bodyis perceived as pure and a vessel that should be filled with gooddeeds. Sin or bad deeds pollute the purity of the body therebyhindering the flow of life and blessings from the Kamis (BBC n.d).Therefore, Shinto as a religion has based its morality outlook onConfucianism which is acceptable as the two religions agree on manythings and have coexisted for many years.


BBC (2009). Ethicsin Shinto. Retrieved from,

Bernad, R. (1998).Shinto and ecology. Earth Ethics 10(1). Retrieved from,

Patheos Library.(n.d.). Ethics and community. Retrieved from