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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:20 PM   #1

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Oda Nobunaga and Religion


In another thread, the topic of Oda Nobunaga's religion was brought up. More specifically, the notion that Nobunaga converted to Christianity was mentioned as a real possibility.

I hope some of the quotes I provide below will show that Nobunaga not only never converted to Christianity, but he was, in the strictest sense, an atheist.

From Luis Frois:

Quote:
....despises the gods, the Buddhas, and all other kinds of idolatry and pagan superstition. Nominally, he professes to belong to the Lotus Sect, but openly declares that there is no creator of the universe, no immortality of the soul, or life after death....
From Lourenco Mexia:

Quote:
Nobunaga always entertained great doubts whether God and the soul really exist. He thought that perhaps the Fathers held something else in their hearts than what they preached - just as the Buddhist of his sect are wont to preach that another world and salvation do exist, but later reveal to those who penetrate the depths of their laws that everything they say is for the easy governance of the people, and that there really is no world or life other than this.
From Jeroen Lamers:

Quote:
Observers of various religious persuasions considered Nobunaga as the antithesis of themselves: to Takeda Shingen, Nobunaga was a manifestation of the devil, and to the Jesuits, in the end, he even surpassed Nebuchadnezzar in his "recklessness and insolence." It is tempting to conclude from such characterizations that Nobunaga must have been a godless man, or even an atheist.

What mattered to Nobunaga was the usefulness and cooperation of religious individuals, communities, or institutions, no matter the contents of their beliefs. His religious policies did not address religious issues or doctrinal questions but were simply aimed at imposing his control on religious bodies and organizations.....
From a Jesuit annual letter in 1581:

Quote:
It seems that God has chosen this man to prepare and clear the way for our holy law-without him understanding what he is doing-for not only does he have little esteem for and renounce the camis and Fottoques, to which the Japanese are much devoted, but he also is a cruel enemy and persecutor of the bonzes.
In the above, camis means kami, which were Japanese gods, Bonzes were Buddhist monks.

From the same letter as above:

Quote:
May it please our lord to enlighten him to know the truth, to which he occasionally listens with attention. On the one hand, if one considers Nobunaga's pride and conduct, it seems impossible that he would subject himself to the law of God.
From Lamers, again:

Quote:
It may not even be correct to say that Nobunaga rejected Christianity, for that would imply that he had seriously considered converting to it. Personal faith was not a motive for Nobunaga. Frois admitted as much when he wrote, in retrospect, that "although Nobunaga had very good inborn qualities, he nevertheless lacked the most important one-which was to know god."
Also, after the death of Nobunaga, Frois writes back home that he is now burning in hell for all eternity. Doesn't sound like a man that converted to their belief system to me.

Nobunaga used religious institutions to his political benefit. He would favor one religion over another only if it could better his situation. At times, he used Christian missionaries as intermediaries and others he used them as bait to entice a defector.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:26 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leakbrewergator View Post
In another thread, the topic of Oda Nobunaga's religion was brought up. More specifically, the notion that Nobunaga converted to Christianity was mentioned as a real possibility.

I hope some of the quotes I provide below will show that Nobunaga not only never converted to Christianity, but he was, in the strictest sense, an atheist.

From Luis Frois:

From Lourenco Mexia:

From Jeroen Lamers:

From a Jesuit annual letter in 1581:

In the above, camis means kami, which were Japanese gods, Bonzes were Buddhist monks.

From the same letter as above:

From Lamers, again:

Also, after the death of Nobunaga, Frois writes back home that he is now burning in hell for all eternity. Doesn't sound like a man that converted to their belief system to me.

Nobunaga used religious institutions to his political benefit. He would favor one religion over another only if it could better his situation. At times, he used Christian missionaries as intermediaries and others he used them as bait to entice a defector.
Thank you for the very informative post.

What I was getting at before was the political motives you alluded to, I thought it possible that he made a "conversion" in the sense that he openly supported the Christians for a time against the Buddhists, I didn't mean he literally "converted" to that religion, sorry for the miscommunication.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:29 PM   #3
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Sorry, maybe not clear again. The use of the word conversion is all wrong, what I mean is, the claim that he was baptized, maybe that was a claim he created to further a political end. Or, conversely, maybe it is something his Buddhist enemies made up to attack his "Japaneseness." (totally not a real word )
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:31 PM   #4

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It's all good.

He never really supported the Christians against the Buddhists, mainly because there was never really an open conflict between the two groups in Japan. I think the missionaries knew better than to have Nobunaga choose between the 2. As I mentioned, he did use the Christians for political purposes. Mainly as intermediaries with the Christian daimyo that he was attempting to bring under his control. Only to turn on them when he needed. This is best seen during the Araki Crisis.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:34 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parmenio View Post
Sorry, maybe not clear again. The use of the word conversion is all wrong, what I mean is, the claim that he was baptized, maybe that was a claim he created to further a political end. Or, conversely, maybe it is something his Buddhist enemies made up to attack his "Japaneseness." (totally not a real word )
No problem. I also find it hard to imagine that he was baptized. I don't recall ever hearing that claim from either side.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:34 PM   #6
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It's all good.

He never really supported the Christians against the Buddhists, mainly because there was never really an open conflict between the two groups in Japan. I think the missionaries knew better than to have Nobunaga choose between the 2. As I mentioned, he did use the Christians for political purposes. Mainly as intermediaries with the Christian daimyo that he was attempting to bring under his control. Only to turn on them when he needed. This is best seen during the Araki Crisis.

Thanks. I must say that Oda Nobunaga represents a large gap in my knowledge of Japan. I shall have to read of him more in the coming months.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:37 PM   #7

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Originally Posted by Parmenio View Post
Thanks. I must say that Oda Nobunaga represents a large gap in my knowledge of Japan. I shall have to read of him more in the coming months.
He's a fun guy to read about. That's for sure.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:39 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by leakbrewergator View Post
He's a fun guy to read about. That's for sure.
Seems quite interesting. Anyone who can simultaneously balance the titles "Fool of Owari" and "Demon King," MUST be interesting. I've always been more of a China guy tbh, just recently started to get into Japanese history. Any books you would suggest on Nobunaga? I've seen the title japonius tyrranus thrown around before.
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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:43 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parmenio View Post
Seems quite interesting. Anyone who can simultaneously balance the titles "Fool of Owari" and "Demon King," MUST be interesting. I've always been more of a China guy tbh, just recently started to get into Japanese history. Any books you would suggest on Nobunaga? I've seen the title japonius tyrranus thrown around before.
That's THE book to get on Nobunaga. Unfortunately, it's really pricey. A buddy of mine wrote a book a while back. It's not terribly great, but it's cheap. Plus, the guy is a Nobunaga freak!

Amazon.com: Oda Nobunaga: The Battle of Okehazama (9780979039744): Les Paterson: Books
Amazon.com: Oda Nobunaga: The Battle of Okehazama (9780979039744): Les Paterson: Books

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Old February 8th, 2011, 06:47 PM   #10
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Ah, thanks. I'll see about grabbing them both. Price is really not a concern for me, can't take it with ya, as they say. My wife gets angry because I spend so easily (except when it is on jewelry for her.) but, the way I see it, I can always make more, and more, and more, virtues of being a talented carpenter, someone is always looking for a new dresser, etc. and I'll always be here to make it
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