Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Religion Is Returning to China


Don't look now, but religion is making a comeback in China. It's happening in two forms: Christianity and Taoism. Regarding the latter, an international Taoism conference concluded in China last week. Taoism is being put forward as an answer to the conflicts and inequalities of our world.

See, e.g., Ian Johnson's "Are China's Rulers Getting Religion?" in the recent New York Review of Books. Why the Taoist revival? Johnson writes: "One reason authorities are now embracing Daoism as a source of moral guidance is that, in contrast to Christianity—which sometimes runs afoul of authorities—Daoism is widely seen as an unthreatening, indigenous religion."

In spite of the growth of the Underground Church and the Taoist revival, religion faces an uphill battle in China. Government leaders, in their promotion of Taoism, are using religion for their own purposes.

For a good introduction to Taoism see the chapter on it in Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World. Prothero writes: "One reason Daoism is popular in the West is that Westerners know so little about it. This ignorance allows us to make it over in our own image, and because there are few card-carrying Daoists in Europe and the United States, these makeovers are hardly ever corrected by Daoists themselves." (284)