The unhappy truth behind Happy Science
Happy Science — a fast growing new religious movement — has arrived in Uganda, among many other nations. We are indebted to Rodgers Atwebembeire, a graduate of African Bible University and a researcher for the Africa Centre for Apologetics Research (www.acfar.org) for writing this article.
On Rubaga Road, near the Hotel Sojovalo, is one of the first African outposts of a Japanese sect that expects to one day rule the world.
Happy Science entered Uganda in 2008. It has since spread beyond Kampala to Lira, Karuma, Tororo and Entebbe. It has recently been engaged in an aggressive and expensive promotional campaign heralding the appearance of its founder at Namboole Stadium.
That founder is Ryuho Okawa, a 55-year-old former businessman who was born as Takashi Nakagawa on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s main islands.
Okawa claims that in 1981 he experienced ‘Buddha enlightenment’, which led him to organize the kofuku no kagaku (‘science of happiness’) in October 1986, to offer ‘salvation for all humankind’. Okawa has gained a wide audience through publishing and films. Today he is one of Japan’s wealthiest men.
Happy Science is one of the new religions that have sprouted in Japan since World War II. It advertises itself as ‘a universal religion open to people of all religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds’.
But more than this, Okawa claims to be the most important person in the world today — El Cantare, the literal reincarnation of the original Buddha and ‘supreme God of Earth’. In 1991, the Associated Press quoted Okawa as boasting that ‘I came here as more than the Messiah … This universe, this world, were based on my words and my teachings’.
Moreover Okawa has claimed, ‘It is I who possess the highest authority on earth. It is I who have all authority from the beginning of the earth until the end. For I am not human, but am the law itself’.
How did Okawa come to such stunning delusions of grandeur? One reason is that he is a practising occultist — a spirit medium. And like Alice Lakwena, Credonia Mwerinde and Joseph Kony, he confounds and controls his followers by claiming to speak for the dead.
The Japan Times explains that before founding Happy Science, Okawa ‘wrote books in which he channelled the spirits of Muhammad, Christ, Buddha, and Confucius’, among others.
Strangely, these long-departed religious leaders and geniuses have, according to Okawa, much the same message: ‘Japan is the world’s greatest power and should ditch its constitution, rearm and lead the world’.
Indeed, in 1991, the Associated Press described Okawa’s passionate sermon at a giant rally where he declared the Japanese as a ‘chosen people’, who are destined to ‘destroy the United States and the Soviet Union’, making China a ‘slave’ and Korea a ‘prostitute’.
But what does all this mean to Christians in Uganda [and elsewhere]? Scripture commands followers of Jesus to ‘test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1).
Christians will find the vast doctrine of Happy Science neither happy nor scientific. It’s a bizarre, complex combination of New Age and eastern mysticism, mixed with Okawa’s sci-fi fantasies of lost civilisations and multi-dimensional beings.
And it conflicts violently with the Bible in almost every major category of belief. Okawa denies the Trinity, the unique deity and incarnation of Jesus Christ, Christ’s atonement for sin and resurrection, and the doctrine of everlasting punishment.
In his books Okawa shamelessly makes Moses, Peter, Paul, and even Jesus, his spirit puppets to mouth his occultic messages.
At a time when many are seeking hope, longing for answers and hungry for something ‘new’, Ugandans need to know that Happy Science is a hollow substitute for the good news that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
Curious churchgoers who are tempted by Okawa’s pride and pageantry should beware lest, ‘as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ’.
‘No wonder’, the apostle Paul continues, ‘for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds’ (2 Corinthians 11:3, 14-15).