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Confucianism....a Religion?

Man-is-good
Posts: 6,871
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2/19/2012 5:19:09 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm often confused as to why Confucianism is often classified as a religion.

Based on my own (limited) knowledge, it appears to be primarily a system of ethics and guidance of moral behavior as well as governing. Confucianism does accept the existence of spirits and heaven ("Life and death are the Mandate of Heaven," i.e. beyond our control [Analects XII:5]) but apparently did not base his philosophy on spiritual aspects. The focus on the philosophy (before its revival as Neo-confucianism, which incorporated aspects of Taoism and Buddhism in a general Confucian framework) appeared to be socially and politically: domestic affairs (relationships within the family as well as strengthening of the patriarchy, while a sense of obedience to the ruler (as well as respect in return) dominates. (Remember that I am generalizing here...)

Now, this would call for the exact definition of a religion. Most would agree that Confucianism is non-theistic and it is most concerned with the human model. There have been contentions that many of the practices shared by other religions--ancestor worship and ritual--make Confucianism a religion, though one must remember that a) they were advocated to maintain social harmony, as tradition, whether in religion, political model, and so forth, was valued and b) other more full-fledged schools of thought--Daoism and even early Chinese folk religion practiced such customs.

So, is Confucianism a religion or is the answer dependent on what defines a religion? And if so, then what is the definition of religion, or rather commonly-agreed characteristics of religion in spite of varying delineations?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
mattrodstrom
Posts: 12,028
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2/19/2012 8:03:03 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/19/2012 5:19:09 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
I'm often confused as to why Confucianism is often classified as a religion.

Based on my own (limited) knowledge, it appears to be primarily a system of ethics and guidance of moral behavior as well as governing. Confucianism does accept the existence of spirits and heaven ("Life and death are the Mandate of Heaven," i.e. beyond our control [Analects XII:5]) but apparently did not base his philosophy on spiritual aspects. The focus on the philosophy (before its revival as Neo-confucianism, which incorporated aspects of Taoism and Buddhism in a general Confucian framework) appeared to be socially and politically: domestic affairs (relationships within the family as well as strengthening of the patriarchy, while a sense of obedience to the ruler (as well as respect in return) dominates. (Remember that I am generalizing here...)

Now, this would call for the exact definition of a religion. Most would agree that Confucianism is non-theistic and it is most concerned with the human model. There have been contentions that many of the practices shared by other religions--ancestor worship and ritual--make Confucianism a religion, though one must remember that a) they were advocated to maintain social harmony, as tradition, whether in religion, political model, and so forth, was valued and b) other more full-fledged schools of thought--Daoism and even early Chinese folk religion practiced such customs.

So, is Confucianism a religion or is the answer dependent on what defines a religion? And if so, then what is the definition of religion, or rather commonly-agreed characteristics of religion in spite of varying delineations?

I agree on the whole it's more a cultural outlook kind of thing than a 'religion'...

However, there are suggestions of an underlying Mystical order in The Analects upon which, if "confucianism" is held to be thoughts in line with the outlook of Confucius, one could argue that it's got religious undertones

For example.. Confucius suggests that if just one person followed "the way" the Entire World would be righted through that... All things would fall into place and be perfect.

Right action draws forth right action.. So much so that it'll make Everything right.
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."
mattrodstrom
Posts: 12,028
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2/19/2012 8:15:31 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Mencius was a full fledged philosopher...

Confucius, not so much..

that's why I'd also hesitate before calling confucianism a "philosophy".. I suppose it is if by that you mean it's an understanding of the world :/

But Confucius didn't really offer Arguments.. he said how he saw it... and didn't really explain. (at least not from what people today can tell)
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."
mattrodstrom
Posts: 12,028
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2/19/2012 8:23:49 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 2/19/2012 8:15:31 PM, mattrodstrom wrote:
But Confucius didn't really offer Arguments.. he said how he saw it... and didn't really explain. (at least not from what people today can tell)

well... at the very least (in the Analects) his positions weren't argued for in as straightforward, and clear, a manner as you would expect from someone who was explaining why they think something (like mencius' outlook is explained in the mencius)

That could be due to the Analects being a Posthumous collection of things he said.. or it could be due to a lack of his delivering a clear, holistic, explanation for his views.
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."