© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

Dazed and confused

confuciusErin (12) is in the middle of a nice comparative religion curriculum in her social sciences class. Looks to be much better than the usual slapdash.

The units are tied in with geography and culture. They’re currently on Southwest Asia, so at the moment it’s the three Abrahamic monotheisms. As usual, minority religions — Bahá’í, Gnosticism, Druze, Zoroastrianism, et al. — get the short straw, with no mention that I can see. I’d especially like to see Zoroastrianism covered, if only for all the yummy Christian parallels.) But three is ever so much better than one.

I know from Connor’s middle school years that they’ll get into the other two of the Big Five as they move east, and I told Erin as much.

“So what religion is in China?” she asked. She’s taking introductory Mandarin at the moment, so it’s a natural first place for her mind to go.

“All of them,” I said. It’s an annoying answer that happens to be true. I try to resist the tendency to paint countries with a single religion, a practice as misleading as Red and Blue states.

Most people equate China with Buddhism, but the country has a long history of pluralism of belief. Buddhism, Taoism, and various folk religions account for about half the population combined. Christians and Muslims are estimated at 2-4 percent each, with a metric smattering of Jews, Hindus, and others.

And the rest? I told Erin the largest single belief group in China is the nonreligious, clocking in at 40-50 percent — not a consequence of Mao, but a strong tradition going back 2200 years.

“A lot of those follow a philosophy you might hear about next year when you study China,” I told her. “It’s called Confucianism.”

She puzzled on the word a moment.

“Is that because they don’t really know what they believe?”



This was written on Tuesday, 12. October 2010 at 12:37 and was filed under belief and believers, diversity, humor, My kids, nonbelief and nonbelievers, Parenting, schools. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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  1. I LOVE it…I seriously laughed out loud! Destined to become a classic.

    Comment: ErinM – 12. October 2010 @ 5:01 pm

  2. I laughed, too–my kids just looked at me weird:))

    And kudos to you for not saying “China is (X), Japan is (Y)”, but letting her know that enormous China is a nation of religious pluralism.

    Comment: yokohamamama – 12. October 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  3. While I’m not sure about modern forms of Confucianism, ancient Confucianism practically had a god-figure in the concept of Tian (“Heaven”, roughly) and Tianming (“Heaven’s will”). Even though he wasn’t focused on it, Confucius supported about as much woo as his contemporaries. And even Mencius had some pretty wacky stuff once he got to talking about floodlike qi 😛

    Comment: banjaloupe – 12. October 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  4. (of course once you start trying to draw the line between religion and philosophy and lifestyle in Chinese thought, it starts getting so fuzzy as to not be worth the effort…)

    Comment: banjaloupe – 12. October 2010 @ 6:45 pm

  5. Exactly so.

    Comment: Dale – 12. October 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  6. That… is… awesome!

    Comment: Andrew – 13. October 2010 @ 9:49 am

  7. Heard you on Peter Werbe, wonderful, if I’d known I’d have called in 🙂

    You should have mentioned the whole science teacher/letter thing, maybe? or is that in flux?

    That’s another interaction issue.

    Comment: Marion Delgado – 18. October 2010 @ 12:39 am

  8. @Marion: It hadn’t happened yet. Peter must have re-run our interview from June 2007.

    Comment: Dale – 18. October 2010 @ 7:35 am

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