Saturday, August 7, 2010

World Religions -- Confucianism

Another little thing I wrote for my brother for his World Religions class. I apologize for the poor writing in these things, as well as any inaccuracies that result from my lack of research.

The thing I find most interesting about Confucianism, especially as it is regarded in the reading, is the fact that its classification as a religion is somewhat debatable. Confucianism may be regarded as a religion because of the importance placed on ritual and ancestor worship. However, ethics, loyalty, and education could be considered more important, thus making Confucianism less a religion and more a philosophy.

It is true that ritual and ancestor worship are staples of Confucianism. While these are common amongst religions, and though they would support the argument that Confucianism is in fact a religion, their inclusion alone is not enough to define Confucianism as a religion. Ancestor worship was not a novel concept when Confucius gained popularity. Chinese folk religion included ancestor worship long before the birth of the famed philosopher. Also, while ritual is often a defining aspect of religion, it is not solely a religious concept. Ritual is important to secular culture. It has often been especially important to education, which is another aspect stressed in Confucianism.

Confucius put great stress on concepts such as ethics, loyalty, education, and respect. One of the most important aspects of Confucianism is the idea that everyone should strive to be a perfect person. These core concepts of Confucianism, taken together, are similar to --if not the same as-- the Greek concept of Virtue. In this sense, Confucianism is in fact not a religion, but a philosophy. It is a school of thought, or an ethical system.

The root of this problem lies in how one defines “religion”. While Confucianism fails as a religion according to a definition held by many western thinkers, teachers, and students, it may not fail according to eastern definitions. This is because eastern thought rarely makes a distinction between philosophy and religion. There is no reason that Confucianism should be any different.

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