All-consuming religion

In the generally confused condition of society at that time, many diverse and some dubious enterprises were linked with the cause of religion. One electrical appliance dealer founded a sect called Denshin-kyô (Religion of the Electricity God), dedicated to the worship of its eponymous deity and Thomas Alva Edison. Another sect, called Kôdôji-kyô, was organized specifically for the purpose of tax evasion. The founder, a man knowledgeable in the law, saw an opportunity under the then existing legislation to register any business enterprise as a religious juridical person and thus gain exemption from the payment of income taxes. For instance, the owner of a restaurant could call his business a church and could say that its purpose was to propagate the teaching that “life is religion.” His customers would be devotees. The satisfaction of hunger would be salvation. Money received would be offerings made by the faithful in gratitude for salvation. Ergo, the restaurateur really would receive no income, hence he need not pay income taxes. This idea proved so attractive to business proprietors that for about two years (1947-1948), the founder was the head of a thriving organization that licensed as churches a wide range of enterprises, including restaurants, dress shops, art shops, beauty salons, and even brothels. Needless to say, the law was amended to close these loopholes.

H. Neill McFarland, The Rush Hour of the Gods: A Study of the New Religious Movements in Japan (Harper, 1967)

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