Religion in China

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The People's Republic of China is officially an atheist state, but the government formally recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam.


  • When Protestant missionaries set up shop in China, they discovered that a native term roughly meaning “God” was Shangdi, so they appropriated this term as name of the Christian God. (Catholics preferred Tianzhu, the “Heavenly Boss”.) What they did not know, is that the Chinese language mostly does without the separate category of a plural, so the same word can be both plural and singular. Shangdi does not so much mean “the Sovereign on High”, as rather “the Powers on High”. In Chinese, even the grammar militates against the contrast between one and many. To monotheists this numerical matter is all-important, worthy of the iconoclastic destruction of all the “false gods”; but to regular people such as Hindus or Confucians and Daoists, it is just not an issue.
    • The idea of God, Dr. Elst, K. 3 September 2016 [1]
  • China seems to have been very much similar to the West, both in the production of new religious movements and in attracting to them figures from the political left who were officially promoting the struggle against “superstition.” Reconstructions of “Chinese traditional culture” as “non-religious,” and of the rich Chinese religious pluralism as mere “folk religion” should be viewed as propaganda rather than history.

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