It’s not a RELIGION! It’s a WAY OF LIFE!!1!1
I’ve heard this said about Shinto, Hinduism, and increasingly of Buddhism as well. Implicit in this exclamation is the assumption that religions cannot be “ways of life.” This is a very unfortunate assumption that takes as default the entirely modern, Western mode of relating to spirituality, in which religion is totally divorced from all other areas of life.
In the US, “The Separation of Church and State” is in fact Federal Law…indeed, it a founding law, and I don’t think any reasonable human being would argue that this is for the best. The centuries of religious warfare in all corners of the globe are pretty solid evidence that theocracies are just not a very good idea.
However, I find it problematic that “Eastern” religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are so often dismissed, especially by Western pagans, as being “ways of life” rather than real religions, because – as stated earlier – it assumes as default that modern Western religions as they have been practiced in the past couple of centuries are how religion has to work.
Labeling Asian (as well as other non-Western) religions as lifestyles or ways of life frankly trivializes them, and also erases a vast swathe of European history when religion was very much a way of life. For better or worse, it has only been in the past few hundred years that it has become normal for religion to be stuffed away in private.