On twitter and elsewhere, there has been some confusion about the name “denbutsu”, so I’d like to clear this up right from the get go.
I originally started using the name on the message board Pro Sports Daily, where I primarily posted about the Denver Nuggets and all things NBA, as well as the Denver Broncos. My original user name over there was JesusBong, which I had chosen for its irreverence and because I just loved this picture, which I used as my avatar. But as my involvement on that site got heavier, I spent more and more time there during my lunch breaks at an office where I worked at the time. The fear of someone looking over my shoulder and seeing something that could potentially get me into trouble led me to request a name change.
I chose “denbutsu” as a combination of the two places I call home: Colorado, where I was born, and Japan, where I’ve spent most of my adult life. The “den” is for Denver, and the “-butsu” comes from the Japanese word daibutsu, which means Great Buddha. One of Japan’s most famous cultural icons is the Great Buddha in Kamakura, which is just a stone’s throw away from where I live in southern Yokohama. I chose that image for my avatar because a) it represents where I live, b) it looks “person-like” so it works for an avvy, and c) I just think it looks cool. And it just stuck. I’ve been using it for a long time now.
I’m an atheist, so for me it has no meaning beyond the aesthetic and cultural. And while I do consider Buddhism to be among the more innocuous of the world’s religions, especially here in Japan where it takes on a largely secular form, I myself am not a Buddhist.
I actually did consider a name and avatar change before launching this blog, but then I decided, well, fuck that. Just as believers are allowed to benefit from the creations and discoveries of science (even as they have historically and con temporarily attempted to hiinder them), we non-believers are likewise allowed to appreciate the beauty of religious art and the impressiveness of religious cultural artifacts, and enjoy them in whatever way we see fit.
And so, I remain denbutsu with the daibutsu avvy, and beyond this post I’ll no longer worry about any confusion that might cause.
One final word, however, about the fact that I’m not using my real name. In my personal life, I’m very outspoken about my beliefs. And I have no reservations about letting people know I’m an atheist, generally speaking. In terms of work, however, I am in a somewhat public position as a teacher, and I do have slight concerns that if the first word a quick google search of my named turned up was “ATHEIST”, it could hamper some future employment opportunities. I’m probably being overly cautious, but work is work.
That said, for anybody who contacts me via e-mail or twitter who has some particular (and valid) reason to know who I am, I will let you know. I’m not trying to hide behind that stone statue, but I do prefer to keep my profile low. And I’ll extend this in advance to anybody who I may end up criticizing or whose beliefs I end up ridiculing or attacking: I think it’s perfectly fair if you want to know who you’re dealing with, and I will tell you.
Okay, this went long. I’m out. Sayonara.