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In the Spotlight, China Re-Finding Religion
July 23, 2010 2:19 PM   Subscribe

This week NPR featured a five part series of stories entitled, "New Believers: A religious revolution in China" that explores the growth and status of religion in China today.

posted by Atreides (65 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is interesting. I think the history of religion in China, including modern history, is bound to be fraught with contention, especially in a country with so many different cultures. I shared a house once with a family from Wuhan who were all Buddhists. One time me and a friend were in the kitchen chatting. He had with him, on the table, a book with the yin and yang symbol on it. The mother in the Chinese family came into the kitchen, took one look at that symbol, and tried explaining to us that it was "bad". Her English wasn't too great and neither one of us spoke any Chinese, so I still don't know what animosity Buddhists might have towards Taoism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:25 PM on July 23, 2010


This book talks about the religion renewal in China (amongst other contemporary issues in religion). It's a great book, by the way.
posted by falameufilho at 3:48 PM on July 23, 2010


The great leap backwards.
posted by pianomover at 3:58 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The great leap backwards.

I'm pretty sure that an increase in religious freedom is a step forward.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:02 PM on July 23, 2010 [19 favorites]


I think Westerners keep looking for the growth of religion in China because we want to see something there that we think we can recognize. Yes, Christianity is probably much bigger than it was previously in China under the CCP, but at 4.5% of the population it's still dwarfed by Buddhism, Daoism, and other Chinese indigenous religions. Christianity is only slightly ahead of Islam in China. And all of these are in turn dwarfed by the figures of Chinese who have little or no interest in religion, or at least no particular affiliations. Based on the best estimates available, there are more declared atheists in China than there are Christians.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2010


Her English wasn't too great and neither one of us spoke any Chinese, so I still don't know what animosity Buddhists might have towards Taoism.

In Journey to the West, the Taoist monks are generally the "bad" guys at certain points in the story. I can't recall the specific criticisms between the two, however.
posted by Atreides at 4:04 PM on July 23, 2010


Atreides: "In Journey to the West, the Taoist monks are generally the "bad" guys at certain points in the story. I can't recall the specific criticisms between the two, however."

If there is any animosity between the two it can't be too serious... in Shaolin Gong Fu we happily combine Buddhist meditation practice with Taoist techniques and principles.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:10 PM on July 23, 2010


Christianity is pretty fraught even for Chinese people in America.

There is a huge division on college campuses, for example, between Chinese-American kids who believe in Jesus and the ones who don't. I have family friends who yanked their son out of an Ivy League school because he fell in with the Chinese evangelicals through the campus fellowship office. They had sent him to a Jesuit high school for the academics, but man. Even though he Achieved the Dream and went to an Ivy, once he actually started going to meetings and talking about how he wanted to become a pastor, they yanked him out of school so fast your head spun. He bused tables with illegal immigrants at the local Chinese suburban eatery until his parents felt that he was cured.

And they're not alone. My fiercely anti-Communist father, for example, makes no bones about the fact that he thinks Han Chinese who sign up for monotheism are betraying their culture. To him, they're buying into the white man/other man's origin stories and cultural narratives. In terms of intensity and the magnitude of betrayal that he feels, the closest analogy I can find in American culture is the way that some African-Americans feel about other blacks who have gone "Uncle Tom."
posted by joyceanmachine at 4:15 PM on July 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution, joyceanmachine.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2010


It appears to me, as an outsider, that Christianity is huge among large swaths of the Asian-American culture. There is a section of highway over in the East Bay that is an Asian church counterpart to the big box-store area in Emoryville, just church after church. What I can glean from acquaintances is that churches in the states serve to hold together communities that are a bit more nebulous than that of the local culture. I think of it as similar to the role played by churches and their secular grange counterparts in the rural American culture of yore. Based on the huge network of Asian churches in the states, there is naturally an immense outpouring of missionaries to Asian countries.

One really big mostly Christian nation is scary enough, so on this one I'm happily confident in the efficacy of the Chinese government's ability to repress.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2010


One really big mostly Christian nation is scary enough, so on this one I'm happily confident in the efficacy of the Chinese government's ability to repress.

Er ... what?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:02 PM on July 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


You mean other than the Communist religion? Mao and his red book had notable similarities to [insert prophet / God] and [insert religious book]. It is interesting but a good many movements of people for a spiritual, economic or social cause have a way of looking alike at some point. Of course I am speaking more about religion and power vs spirituality. Although I'm sure some party faithful may have felt Mao's methods lead to something like spiritual fulfullment.
posted by Rashomon at 5:07 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh religious freedom: cover your face, back in the closet, clitoris be gone, keep getting pregnant till you drop, marriage for you and you but not you and on and on. On your knees sinner!
posted by pianomover at 5:08 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If there is any animosity between the two it can't be too serious... in Shaolin Gong Fu we happily combine Buddhist meditation practice with Taoist techniques and principles.

You mean like how Christians are all good with Paganism with their Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox Christmas and Easter festivals?

It can go anywhere from "mix it all, it's all good" to "THIS IS THE ONE WAY" depending on the practice and lineage. In practice, most of the division for the layperson is that Buddhism loves guilt like Catholicism does, while Taoism has more range (which isn't to say there aren't hardcore self-deprivation practices in some lineages as well).

Most lineages of practice I've seen usually have smaller, but strong divisions based on who's lineage is "the real true teaching", sometimes under a living cult of personality, sometimes under who's lineage has the more awesome stories of what the founders did with their supernatural powers.
posted by yeloson at 5:13 PM on July 23, 2010


It appears to me, as an outsider, that Christianity is huge among large swaths of the Asian-American culture.

You can thank colonialism and imperialism for that. I have many friends who's families were sponsored over by missionaries on the condition that they all converted - people escaping from Cambodia and Laos during the wars and genocide, etc. Koreans in general, etc.

For folks who've been here longer, say, the 30's or 40's, there were issues around getting your marriages recognized if it wasn't done by a Christian priest.

So, that has less to do with China's repression and more to do with American repression why you're seeing that.
posted by yeloson at 5:18 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is no contradiction between being against religion and for religious freedom.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:21 PM on July 23, 2010 [17 favorites]


Pope Guilty wrote: "I'm pretty sure that an increase in religious freedom is a step forward."

I'm pretty sure that the spread of the brain worm is a step backwards.

Religion is not unmitigated evil, and in this case it may foster the spread of further freedoms to the Chinese people, but that doesn't mean I have to like religion or think it's a good thing.
posted by wierdo at 5:26 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Er ... what?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:02 PM on July 23


OK, I will clarify that statement. I find it an ironic upside of a repressive regime that is able to repress another ideology that I and many others would consider repressive. But maybe you were just disagreeing with me.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 5:28 PM on July 23, 2010


I've been studying Mandarin recently, which has brought me in contact with many landed Chinese immigrants. For many Chinese that I've met, spiritual beliefs and culture seem intertwined.

My most recent teacher is a doctor who left China because he wanted a second child. One particular lesson we touched on feng shui. He explained that he specifically chose his new house, which is situated on the crest of a ridge in our small town, because it had good feng shui - the crest being 'the top of the dragon's back'.

"Because I chose a house with good feng shui I am lucky and my new baby is a son."

I asked if feng shui was like a religion and he said no. I wish I could convey the look he had in his eye when he told me that good feng shui brought him a son...he really believed it. I couldn't honestly say that I understand the connection between Chinese culture and spirituality/superstition/whatever you want to call it. But there's something there.
posted by teSiren at 5:31 PM on July 23, 2010


I find it an ironic upside of a repressive regime that is able to repress another ideology that I and many others would consider repressive.

Imperialism in general, spends a lot of energy at rooting out the competition.
posted by yeloson at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have mentioned before that I have had the privilege of meeting Chinese who are members of the Underground church. No matter how you personally feel about Christianity I would hope you would at least feel a wee bit bad for people who are thrown in prison simply for meeting together to worship.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:34 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the spread of the brain worm is a step backwards.

I'm pretty sure that screeching hyperbole and demonization is a step backwards.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:00 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm agreeing with PG in a religion post. Wow.
Too often I see anti-religious sentiment accompanied by totalitarian thinking. More freedom = good. Even if it is freedom to do something you think is stupid.
posted by charred husk at 6:26 PM on July 23, 2010 [6 favorites]


For as much as Christianity is pervasive in the world, it's interesting to me to learn about those Christians who live in societies where their religion is not allowed or under strict governmental oversight. I have cousins who were lifelong missionaries and lived much of their lives overseas. One such spot was Hong Kong, where at least on one occasion, they worked to smuggle bibles into China.

The lives of the underground Christians somewhat offer a modern day reflection of what it might have been a little like for the Christians who lived in the Roman empire before the general acceptance of that religion. One group that has always fascinated me are the Kakure Kirishitan of Japan, who went underground and remained their for centuries.

Also relevant to Chinese history and Christianity is the Taiping Rebellion, which at one point had wrestled away nearly half of the Qing Dynasty before it was suppressed. The leader of the rebellion believed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus.

Even more interesting is the fact that Nestorian Christians had reached China by the 8th century and were there until an Emperor decided to ban the religion. Christianity returned later and there were Christians in China when Marco Polo visited. It isn't natural to think that Christianity and China have a long relationship, one that goes back farther than some areas of Europe even.
posted by Atreides at 6:27 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that the spread of the brain worm is a step backwards.

Incredibly trite sentiments are, it has been my understanding, the surest sign of an open mind. I'm sure the sheeple will wake up if you just keep raging against that machine. Stupid machine, making people rage-y.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:32 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, I will clarify that statement. I find it an ironic upside of a repressive regime that is able to repress another ideology that I and many others would consider repressive. But maybe you were just disagreeing with me.

Alright. I can't see an upside to repression.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:35 PM on July 23, 2010


Man, let's keep it healthy and respectful, people. Can we talk about the links?

I thought the piece on Chinese women's mosques was really interesting. The photos were beautiful. For all that NPR seems to be trying to focus the series on "new religion," the long history of Islam in China is really fascinating. It seems like they have unique art on the walls of the mosque, with Arabic script and other stylized decorations that I don't recognize.
posted by a sourceless light at 6:39 PM on July 23, 2010


fleetmouse wrote: "I'm pretty sure that screeching hyperbole and demonization is a step backwards."

Yeah, there wasn't any screeching hyperbole or even demonization in my comment. FFS, there was half a compliment towards religion. I could begin demonizing if you like.

Your having the freedom to worship (as you well should; it's not my business what you believe) does not mean I have to think it's something that should be in this world.
posted by wierdo at 7:12 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It appears to me, as an outsider, that Christianity is huge among large swaths of the Asian-American culture.

There's a huge pragmatic reason for that. Sure, the American laws guarantee freedom of religion, but the unspoken cultural truth is that converting to Christianity is basically necessary to be accepted into American society. Asian-Americans could have never achieved "model minority" status if they didn't have a reputation as being well-behaved, church-going folk.
posted by PsychoKick at 7:19 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Somehow I doubt that most people choose a faith for pragmatic reasons.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:23 PM on July 23, 2010


Getting back more on topic, I really wonder why it is that so many totalitarian regimes insist on atheism for their people. I'm no communist but one would think that someone who was could see some commonality between Christianity, at least, and socialism.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:26 PM on July 23, 2010


St. Alia of the Bunnies wrote: "Getting back more on topic, I really wonder why it is that so many totalitarian regimes insist on atheism for their people. I'm no communist but one would think that someone who was could see some commonality between Christianity, at least, and socialism."

Historically, religion has been in competition with government as the ultimate authority. Allegiance to religious authority undermines state authority. It's the same reason you get state sanctioned religions, much as religions usurped pagan holidays and rituals.
posted by wierdo at 7:34 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I thought the piece on Chinese women's mosques was really interesting.

Ditto. Women who are imams - yeah, it was fascinating.
posted by rtha at 7:38 PM on July 23, 2010


Somehow I doubt that most people choose a faith for pragmatic reasons.

The minority experience is not the experience of "most people". You know, because they're the minority?

/don't want to derail thread any more, so I'll just leave it at that.
posted by PsychoKick at 7:50 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm no communist but one would think that someone who was could see some commonality between Christianity, at least, and socialism.

That's no surprise, given that like most conservatives you seem to associate liberalism with socialism.

Let me quote some Marx:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.

The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked.

Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.
Short version: religion makes the intolerable tolerable. It makes it easier to keep your head down and suffer through, succored by fantasies and the promise of a better world after this one; in so doing it provides an excuse for this world to be terrible and awful. Socialism has historically been against religion because religion has historically willing or not, consciously or not, been an accomplice to repression and tyranny.

(See also Moses the raven in Orwell's Animal Farm.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:04 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


The U.S. chose to back Chiang Kai-shek over Mao. Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Wellesley College graduate with a Southern accent in English, had the support of Time Magazine's senior editor and co-founder Henry Luce, who frequently tried to rally money from the American public for the Republic of China, mainly because she promised to convert China to Christianity if she and her husband prevailed. That didn't happen.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:04 PM on July 23, 2010


It appears to me, as an outsider, that Christianity is huge among large swaths of the Asian-American culture.

There's a huge pragmatic reason for that.


You know there are a fair number of countries in East Asia where Christianity has been popular for many centuries - Korea, for example, or Vietnam. Immigrants from those areas might in fact have brought their religious traditions with them as well.

Asian-Americans could have never achieved "model minority" status if they didn't have a reputation as being well-behaved, church-going folk

I've never in my life run into a stereotype of Asian-Americans (and boy, have I run into a fair number of 'em, usually offensive) which included "church-going." Have other people encountered this on a regular basis? Honest question.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:32 PM on July 23, 2010


so many totalitarian regimes insist on atheism for their people

Not all that many, actually. Communism did - thus, "so many" regimes which use Communism as an official ideology did so (not all forms of socialism do, however). Fascism seemed to get along with Christianity (Catholicism, specifically) rather well in Spain and Austria before the Anschluss, as I recall. Greek and various Balkan dictatorships actively encouraged sectarian identities. And the Nazis didn't outright ban Christianity, although they ruthlessly suppressed specific sects and individuals who wouldn't toe their line.

I'm not sure if I'd call Ataturk's regime "totalitarian," but it's the only other dictatorship/ideological state that I can think of that really hammered the anti-religious thing home. Basically, if religion can be made to serve/justify the state, it will be encouraged. If not, it will be attacked and, if not strong enough to resist, suppressed.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:40 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've never in my life run into a stereotype of Asian-Americans (and boy, have I run into a fair number of 'em, usually offensive) which included "church-going." Have other people encountered this on a regular basis? Honest question

If by "stereotype" you mean, image portrayed in the media, no. After all, the media is still trying to get it's head around the fact we might speak without an accent, don't eat pets, and aren't all full of magical kung fu powers.

If by stereotype, you mean, there's actually a lot of asian americans who are church going to some fashion of Christianity? Yes. You find more of this usually with people who are at least 2nd generation or more and who have more money, though refugee/refugee descendants tend to also have a lot of this as well.

I've got a major portion of family who are strong Chinese Baptists. I run into a wide variety of folks from my friends - Catholics (lao/thai), Jehovah's Witness (around the board), "born again" Christians (also around the board), and this isn't counting expected "givens" like Christian Koreans or Catholic Filipinos (and yeah, whether you count Pacific Islanders as asian or not...)

And, if you go to a lot of the older Japanese American Buddhist churches, you'll notice they're set up like Christian Churches in terms of decor.
posted by yeloson at 9:02 PM on July 23, 2010


After Chinese Re-education, Monk Regrets Action
posted by homunculus at 9:03 PM on July 23, 2010


Asian-Americans could have never achieved "model minority" status if they didn't have a reputation as being well-behaved, church-going folk

Yeah man, you should've seen the look on my father's face when I told him I was spending the summer after freshman year on overseas missions instead of interning at a Fortune 500 company. He said, "Son, I am so thrilled you are becoming more like bai ren, a true model minority in this country. When you return to Liberal Ivy League Campus in the fall, you will surely be better liked by your wealthier peers and their parents." My Asian-American classmates with investment banking internships that summer were so jealous.
posted by chalbe at 9:07 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure, the American laws guarantee freedom of religion, but the unspoken cultural truth is that converting to Christianity is basically necessary to be accepted into American society.

Yeah, exactly what the forefathers of the 5+ million Jews who now live in the U.S. did as soon as they stepped out of the boat in Ellis Island: they immediately converted to Christianity.

What appalls me is how some on this thread are unable to see how, even though they might dislike to the overall effects of religion in society, on a personal level religion is more often than not a very positive thing that most people have in their lives for reasons that have nothing to do with personal gain. This line of thinking "oh there are a lot of Asian churches around, it must be because the evil American missionaries conned them into joining" is ridiculous.
posted by falameufilho at 9:07 PM on July 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


If by "stereotype" you mean, image portrayed in the media, no

That'd be what I meant. I don't doubt that lots of Asian-Americans are church going to some fashion of Christianity. I tend to define stereotype as perception rather than reality.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:08 PM on July 23, 2010


I've never in my life run into a stereotype of Asian-Americans (and boy, have I run into a fair number of 'em, usually offensive) which included "church-going." Have other people encountered this on a regular basis? Honest question.

Well, first of all, "yes, kind of" as far as I've personally witnessed.

Second of all, I was reading a gossipy thing recently about an impending reality show centering on Korean-Americans, and a bunch of user comments joked about how after the show participants spent a night at the bar, they'd be getting up and going to church with their families, ha ha, yeah, that's how it was in my family, hurf durf consecrated-host-eater. Which upon reading that, reminded me of my "first of all", where most of the Asian-American kids I grew up with were from very church-active families, and those families were unanimously Christian.

So it might be a thing, despite you never having encountered it, at least in some regions of the US.
posted by padraigin at 9:09 PM on July 23, 2010


You know there are a fair number of countries in East Asia where Christianity has been popular for many centuries - Korea, for example, or Vietnam. Immigrants from those areas might in fact have brought their religious traditions with them as well.

Christianity in Korea was pretty minor until post-WWII and during the Korean War, when Western efforts and attention on the peninsula increased dramatically in response to the godless commie boogeyman. Vietnam and other areas are outside my knowledge, but an earlier post here already mentioned effects on other East Asian nations.

I've never in my life run into a stereotype of Asian-Americans (and boy, have I run into a fair number of 'em, usually offensive) which included "church-going." Have other people encountered this on a regular basis? Honest question.

See, that's not the way religious stereotypes work in America. If a minority is stereotyped as Christian, it's never explicitly mentioned at all because Christianity is subconsciously accepted as the "norm" in America. If you're Christian, then all other perceived faults of race and/or character are negotiable; it's one of those unspoken cultural rules. In contrast, any minority or group that has been saddled with a non-Christian stereotype is branded as irredeemably alien.

So basically, if you're building a new life in America and want society to accept you and your children, then you're going to convert the family to Christianity even if you don't really want to. Otherwise your family will always suffer under a huge handicap; look at the Jews, who are still not trusted and accepted in America even though they have a reputation for being rich, highly-educated and respectable.

/this topic isn't good for my stress, so now I'll really leave it at that.
posted by PsychoKick at 9:19 PM on July 23, 2010


* "Your having the freedom to worship (as you well should; it's not my business what you believe) does not mean I have to think it's something that should be in this world."

See - there's something that really bothers me on that line of thinking right there, and is the impression that you're trying to have it both ways. You are, on one hand, saying that something should not "be in this world", i.e. should not exist, therefore putting religion in the same category as, say, hunger, injustice or genocide. At the same time you say that people have the freedom to be involved on this evil thing (i.e. worship) because, hey, it's not your business.

The word that comes to mind to describe the marriage of these two ideas is "sociopathic".
posted by falameufilho at 9:29 PM on July 23, 2010


Look at the Jews, who are still not trusted and accepted in America even though they have a reputation for being rich, highly-educated and respectable.

*What*? American Jews are the most successful minority in the history of minorities, like ever ever, anywhere. Please qualify what do you mean by not being "trusted" or "accepted". Examples would help.
posted by falameufilho at 9:35 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that screeching hyperbole and demonization is a step backwards.

Nah, that's definitely the brainworm talking.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:41 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


One really big mostly Christian nation is scary enough, so on this one I'm happily confident in the efficacy of the Chinese government's ability to repress.

Remember kids, oppression is only bad when it's turned on something you like!

*What*? American Jews are the most successful minority in the history of minorities, like ever ever, anywhere. Please qualify what do you mean by not being "trusted" or "accepted". Examples would help.

Troll?

/cause I loled.
posted by codswallop at 11:25 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


falameufilho: See - there's something that really bothers me on that line of thinking right there, and is the impression that you're trying to have it both ways. You are, on one hand, saying that something should not "be in this world", i.e. should not exist, therefore putting religion in the same category as, say, hunger, injustice or genocide. At the same time you say that people have the freedom to be involved on this evil thing (i.e. worship) because, hey, it's not your business.

The word that comes to mind to describe the marriage of these two ideas is "sociopathic".


No, he's not saying that it "isn't my business". Confront, challenge and take it on as much as you feel is appropriate. But you DO NOT use the inherent power of the state to coerce people to believe or not believe something, even if you can point at religion and say, "But they did this, too!"

Honestly, I'm hearing what sounds like a number of people who would round up my friends and family into prisons for thoughtcrime. That makes me really fucking twitchy.
posted by charred husk at 11:33 PM on July 23, 2010


So basically, if you're building a new life in America and want society to accept you and your children, then you're going to convert the family to Christianity even if you don't really want to. Otherwise your family will always suffer under a huge handicap;

What the? My family's from mainland China and we know lots of other mainland Chinese families, and very few are Christian. I've encountered lots of racism, sure, but I can barely think of any religious discrimination. Hell, a lot of kids my generation like me (who were born in China but immigrated young) don't even have "American" names, but we're doing just fine, thank you. (That only causes a problem when I order out and don't want to bother with spelling my name out. That's when I'm "Marcus".)

I do know a lot of Asian-Americans who are Christian, but your sweeping generalizations are not true amongst different countries of origin and different generations.
posted by kmz at 11:49 PM on July 23, 2010


falameufilho wrote: "You are, on one hand, saying that something should not "be in this world", i.e. should not exist, therefore putting religion in the same category as, say, hunger, injustice or genocide. At the same time you say that people have the freedom to be involved on this evil thing (i.e. worship) because, hey, it's not your business. "

I'm going to reverse Godwin here. Hitler was fine right up until the point he murdered people, illegally took over the state, and started committing genocide. It's not my place to force you to say or not say something or believe or not believe something. I can believe in your right to say or believe something no matter how despicable I find the message to be.

Religious belief should not be influenced by the state and the state should not be influenced by religious belief.
posted by wierdo at 12:27 AM on July 24, 2010


I'd rather people weren't religious, but a world in which people are not allowed to be religious and they are not is a far more terrible world than one in which they are allowed to be religious and are.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:33 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


During my last trip to Hong Kong, I was struck by the number of churches and religious schools visible from the freeways. It made me wonder what the numbers would be in ChongQing or Beijing, if there was religious freedom. It's unlikely that they will ever match the numbers in most US cities though. Sigh.
posted by LURK at 1:52 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really wonder why it is that so many totalitarian regimes insist on atheism for their people.

They don't want anything higher than "the state," is why. In totalitarianism (communism etc), the state is IT. The state is your God(s), and we can't have anything interfering with what they say.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 2:13 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religious belief should not be influenced by the state and the state should not be influenced by religious belief.

Not really feasible. "The state" is made up of people, right? And people are going to have their religious beliefs. And it is borderline impossible to insist that all people live their lives with no regards to their own religious beliefs.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 2:17 AM on July 24, 2010


Asian-Americans could have never achieved "model minority" status if they didn't have a reputation as being well-behaved, church-going folk

I think a lot of this has more to do with the "well-behaved" reputation as opposed to the "church-going." Hell, the two biggest minority groups in the US are Blacks and Hispanics, both of whom have a reputation for being very religious, but it hasn't helped them achieve any "model minority" status.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:17 AM on July 24, 2010


Religious belief should not be influenced by the state and the state should not be influenced by religious belief.

Not really feasible. "The state" is made up of people, right? And people are going to have their religious beliefs. And it is borderline impossible to insist that all people live their lives with no regards to their own religious beliefs.


You can live your own life according to religious principles without attempting to enforce them at the state level (i.e. making and enforcing laws rooted in sectarian religious principles), which is essentially what most religious people do in this country. Basically, you treat the public sphere and the government as neutral ground. And if you are committed to a certain national policy based on religion the onus is fully on you to find convincing arguments which don't boil down to "God wills it" to convince your fellow citizens that such a policy is, from a purely secular point of view, good for everyone.

It's similar to the situation in a courtroom. You can't just say "the defendant is an evil bastard and so should be locked away" even if he demonstrably is. The role of the courtroom is to enforce justice, and so you have to show that the defendant broke a law - the same if you're trying to exonerate him, you can't just note that he's a good father or a good husband or a lovely human being or whatever. The sole question in the courtroom is justice, and the sole question in government is the common good.*

*albeit this phrase is often and hotly debated.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:42 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If by "stereotype" you mean, image portrayed in the media, no.

Well, except pretty much any movie or TV show set on an American college campus in the past 10 years probably has an obligatory scene of an Asian kid handing a main character a flyer and asking "Do you love Jesus?"

*What*? American Jews are the most successful minority in the history of minorities, like ever ever, anywhere. Please qualify what do you mean by not being "trusted" or "accepted".

Success doesn't mean antisemitism and casual ugliness are dead. Phrases like "He tried to jew me down" aren't archaic. Bringing it back closer to the ostensible topic of this discussion, the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia is not unlike the Jewish diaspora in North America in that they've been materially successful but still resented and somewhat separated from the majority. Ancient cultures aren't easily soluble.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:13 AM on July 24, 2010


Well, except pretty much any movie or TV show set on an American college campus in the past 10 years probably has an obligatory scene of an Asian kid handing a main character a flyer and asking "Do you love Jesus?"

Now I really feel like I'm in an alternate universe. I don't think I've ever seen such a scene. I certainly haven't seen the entire college TV/movie canon, but I've watched plenty.
posted by kmz at 11:58 AM on July 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's an interesting look at religion in my homeland, though, interestingly enough, I don't believe I caught any real reference of how Judaism is doing in China?
posted by Han Tzu at 1:54 PM on July 24, 2010


Wikipedia has an interesting article on the topic of Judaism in China.

With the resurgence of much of traditional Chinese culture, one has to wonder to what extent will the practices and policies of Maoism/Communism will remain in the future. In the epic length that is Chinese history, 61 years is hardly a blip after all. I wonder if the Communist leaders believe that they can eternally keep a grip on the reigns of leadership or do they recognize that down the road they will eventually cease being the only political power with say to the governing of the nation.
posted by Atreides at 3:17 PM on July 24, 2010


They don't want anything higher than "the state," is why.
posted by deep thought sunstar


Deng Xiaoping quipped that, "it doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice." If religion works, they will eventually adopt it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2010


From Communism to Confucianism: China’s Alternative to Liberal Democracy
posted by homunculus at 9:17 AM on July 26, 2010


Given China's recent history with Christianity in the Taiping Rebellion (20 million dead, making the American Civil War look like a philosophical debate) I can see why the country would overall be pretty skeptical about taking another crack at it. Organized religion doesn't always bring out the best in people.
posted by mullingitover at 9:20 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


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