The Question of Religion (2/2)

Think of the violence and wars that religions have caused—the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, genocide against the Cathars (see video), the wars between Catholics and Protestants, and the persecution of Jews by both Muslims and Christians.

Then there are Islamic fundamentalists and the suffering and death caused by their religious beliefs.

Although most people in China are not religious, religions have caused uprising and wars in China too.

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1643) came about due to a rebellion against the Mongol Yuan Dynasty led by a religious sect known as the “Red Turbans” or “Red Scarves”, which included elements from “White Lotus”, a Buddhist sect from the late Southern Song Dynasty. Source: New World Encyclopedia

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when the Manchu minority ruled China, there were a number of religious uprisings.

There was the White Lotus Rebellion (1796-1804) in the mountain region that separates Sichuan province from Hubei and Shaanxi provinces. The White Lotus was a secret religious society promising salvation to its followers similar to the Falun Gong today.

A Christian convert claiming to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ led the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) and more than 20 million died.

The Panthay Rebellion (1856-1873) was a separatist movement led by the Hui people and Chinese Muslims.

There was also the Dungan revolt (1862-1877), led by Muslims in China’s Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang provinces. Chinese historians and officials believed that Islam played a role in causing that uprising.

Maybe the reason China survived for thousands of years without collapsing as Western civilization did when Rome fell was the absence of a major religious movement in China stirring the peoples’ emotions.

Instead of listening to God from the mouths of Popes, prophets and priests, the Chinese had a blend of Confucianism and Taoism, which the family taught by example.

Return to The Question of Religion – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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6 Responses to The Question of Religion (2/2)

  1. NN says:

    Poor guy, he should not wear that thing on his neck. It’s so very easy to talk, but yet not give in to what’s around his corner as pagan. He wears it the right way, unknowingly they use his head for the very opposite. Same thing with the cross. Drop that, I don’t want any more war lords !

  2. Peter says:

    On the subject of China, why not come into the modern age and highlight the most egregious butchery of the atheist Maoists (est 30M people during the cultural revolution). Politics and power struggles kill people, and, back then, religion was central to power and government. I believe your thesis on religion is seriously flawed without taking into your calculus the power hungry nature of humanity and unchecked accumulation of power.
    The simplicity of it all is, some people are compulsively driven to dominate others and sometimes religion was a means to that ends.

    • I agree that power-hungry individuals have used religion to dominate others. However, it takes many gullible believers to support these corrupted religous or cult leaders. Organized religion with leaders like Popes or individuals who claim to have talked to God or an angel saying they are the voice of God have caused a great deal of suffering and death. If one religious leader called for a Crusade and everyone in that religion stayed home and ignored him, there would have been no Crusade. Without support from the people, corrupt leaders will do little or no harm.

      Once a religion or cult attracts followers, power will eventually corrupt some of the men or women at the top. History shows this has happened many times. Leaders of nations are not the only ones who fall vicitm to the corruption of power and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      As for the Cultural Revolution in China, that was similar to a religious movement, and the god was Mao. The Red Guard – mostly teens – worshiped him as if he were a god. We could call Maoism a cult during that last decade and the bible of that cult was Mao’s Little Red Book. There are posts here about The Cultural Revolution and Mao.

      Do not forget, when Mao started the Cultural Revolution, he was in his 70s, and Chiang Kai-shek, a Christian convert was also a brutal dictator who had many noncombatants killed while he was supported by the United States.

      Maoism and Marxism does not rule China today and several religions are allowed to practice in China as long as they stay out of politics. Under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, the Constitution of China was rewritten so one man would not have the absolute power Mao had for his last decade, which is when the Cultural Revolution took place. It is estimated that there are a hundred million Buddhists and Christian religions are the fastest growing although more than 800 million still say they do not belong to any religion.

      The President of China is no longer a dictator. He may serve only two, five-year terms and there is an age limit of sixty-seven where he must step down. The revised Chinese Constitution also has a clause where the ruling body may impeach a president if he steps outside his limits. Since Mao’s time, the presidents of China have not had the kind of power that led to the Cultural Revolution.

      In the meantime, Christian nations have conducted unnecessary wars around the world killing millions. Germany under Hitler was a Christian nation. After coming to power and starting World War II, Hitler made a deal and sought approval from the Roman Catholic Church and got it.

      Thirty million may have died during the Cultural Revolution due to the chaos and anarchy of that time, but a century earlier more died in three major religious revolutions caused by a converted Christian and Muslim uprisings. The Taiping Rebellion caused at least 20 million deaths (some historians believe the death count may have been closer to 100 million) and the two Muslim rebellions another 14 million.

      Then there are the two Opium Wars started by two Christian nations, England and France–millions of Chinese lives were ruined due to that drug being imported to China.

      Belonging to an organized religion is not a requirement to believe in God. The only thing I recall Jesus Christ saying about that was “Wherever two or more gather in my name.”

      • Peter says:

        I don’t believe that Mao’s flavor of Marxism was in any way a “religion”. It is instead a political philosophy and framework. To listen to you above, one would have to consider atheism, a vital component of communism, a “religion” (not true… it is instead an unsubstantiated metaphysical assertion).

        All organized groups of people are subject to power corruption, including governments. This was the genius of our founding fathers in the USA. They understood that, to borrow a tired phrase, absolute power corrupts absolutely and tried to partition power and organized our Constitution around the principle that no one man or group can be trusted with total reigns of power.
        Needless to say, Communism will always lead to mass murder and subjugating individual liberties to the collective (whatever that is).

        “Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
        Maoism only concerns the latter. Nazism (national socialism) was a plague by a man who professed to be a Christian but who never cracked the Good Book nor understood it (I challenge you to find any justification for mass murder in the NT). We as Christians have historically waged wars in spite of our Book, not because of it.
        As for modern wars, our opponents have ruled by rape and murder as the norm, have we? (careful… I was in these wars and saw nothing but honor amongst my fellow soldiers).
        Atheist or religious, it’s HUMANITY, not religion that causes war. Atheists make it easier to kill because they have no reckoning in the end in their own minds so have not hesitated to mass murder. To the faithless, the ends justify the means. To the faithful, the ends have to justify themselves.

        Overall, I’ve heard the tired arguments above in this blog over and over and over again and they always fail to impress. You will always blame religion because you believe that without it, the world will be better place and that these wars would not have happened. The fact remains that even if all religion were eradicated, any difference in beliefs or culture would trigger wars just the same. Religion or not no five people can agree on the color of crap and that would be cause enough to organize mayhem. 😉

      • Interesting but your fancy language doesn’t negate the fact that organized religion has been the same blight any other organized movement has been in history. It doesn’t matter if it is an atheist cult that worships one individual or is a pagan religion that worships many gods. If you check, you will notice that when I referred to Mao as a god, I did not capitalize the word “god”.

        Individuals have been deified before.

        Also, check history for what the Christians did to Christians during one of the Crusades where Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire of a Christian nation, was raped and pillaged.

        Then there are the wars between Catholics and Protestants–both Christian religions and the persecution of the Jews for more than two thousand years by Christians.

        As for your (careful… I was in these wars and saw nothing but honor amongst my fellow soldiers) — what you see is limited by your individual perceptions. When millions of men go to war, there will be those who will cross the line and do crime. Honor is an individual trait and not one that controls millions of men and women who wear the uniform.

        When I was in Vietnam in 1966, the armorer for my battalion sold weapons to the Vietcong on the black market. He forgot to remove some serial numbers and some of the weapons were used in an ambush against one of our patrols but the Vietcong lost in that assault. The weapons were traced back to him. He was arrested. They found the paperwork he had used to acquire the same weapons under the subterfuge that they would be used by our forces. He was sentences to twenty years to life in a military prison.

        A supply sergeant in our battalion in Vietnam was buying TVs, appliances and furniture at prices that wren supposed to be just for US troops in the war zone. He was, having them shipped to the US where his parents and siblings were selling them from a warehouse. After an investigation, he was caught and the good were confiscated. He was shipped back to the states for his court-martial so I don’t know the outcome of that trial.

        In the communications platoon I was in, we had a wireman (the soldier who runs wires for field phones) who left the camp one day and went into the fields. He found a teenage Vietnamese woman working alone in the rice paddies and he raped her.

        She told her family who complained to the PR officer for our battalion. In a line up, she identified him as her rapist and he was court martial and went off to a military prison the same as the armorer did who sold weapons to the enemy.

        In our unit, there were Marines who bought drugs in the villages and sold them to the troops who used them. I knew of one, a trucker who took our dirty laundry to a nearby village where it was washed and pressed. He bought the drugs while in the village and returned to sell them to whoever wanted them. He was never caught.
        Although most of the troops in my communication platoon were honorable, some weren’t and when caught, they paid the price. Any large group of humans be it military, religion, an atheist movement like Communism, a religious cult like the Falun Gong or a pagan religion are made up of humans and humans are flawed and eventually some will cross the line.

        You defend the term “religion” as if that word is God. The word “religion” is nothing but a word. And yes, the congregation or members of a religion are human. However, God and religions are not the same. God would exist without an organized religion and there would be individuals who would live by God’s words the best they could.

        The danger of an organized group be it a religion, an atheist group, a pagan group or a cult, once there is a leader and devout followers who will listen and do what that leader says, it is not the fault of the word “religion” that the organized group has been corrupted by power. Large, organized groups of people that follow leaders blindly will usually become corrupted by the group power.

        Where did God or Jesus Christ say man must belong to an organized religion and blindly follow the leaders of that group? Careful, God didn’t write the Bible, and I reject the claim that I have heard that he guided the hands that did.

        The same person who told me that said because the New Testament had survived and has guided billions of people is proof that the Bible is the word of God. If that were true, then what Confucius wrote for the Chinese would be more powerful since the writing of Confucius is older than the New Testament and billions of people have also followed the teaching of Confucius, and no one in China claims that Confucius was the son of God or God. He was just another human who attempted to do something good for his people and according to history was never corrupted.

        By the way, what kind of evidence do you have that the teachings of Confucius were taken by an organized group like a religion and used to do wrong in his name by the followers of religions as Christian and Muslim religions have done.

      • Peter,

        I’ve had more time to think about your second comment. Mao was not a Marxist. He was a Nationalist who joined the Communist Party in China since the KMT supported only the wealthy.

        Back to the formation of the United States.

        “All organized groups of people are subject to power corruption, including governments. This was the genus of our founding fathers in the USA. They understood that, to borrow a tired phrase, absolute power corrupts absolutely and tried to partition power and organized our Constitution around the principle that one man or group can be trusted with total reins of power.”

        True. However, the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence did not write that paper or the Constitution. Individuals wrote the documents and committees revised and the entire body voted then signed but not before compromises or there would have been no United States.
        The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence, which was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, was Thomas Jefferson at the suggestion of the other members of the Continental Congress.

        Jefferson wrote the first draft and his fellow committee members made changes in wording and added additional charges against King George.
        The document listed the “self-evident truths” and “unalienable rights” of Americans that Thomas Jefferson based on the philosophy of John Locke, and it provided the reasons why the colonies are seeking independence.

        The Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified by the 13 states in March of 1789. The Constitution served as the fundamental law of the United States and established the foundation for a republican form of government with three separate branches: the judicial, executive and legislative.
        The Constitution was influenced by the United States’ experience under the Articles of Confederation, which was the country’s first written constitution.
        Individual states had been granted too many rights, weakening the federal government.

        The Constitution strengthened the central government while still maintaining individual liberties. The first ten amendments to the constitution are known as the Bill of Rights, and they became part of the Constitution on December 15, 1791. The Bill of Rights guarantees Americans the rights to freedom of speech, assembly and religion, among others.

        Since Jefferson was the original author of the Declaration of Independence, let’s look at his religion. Sorry, there is no religion to look at. Jefferson was a Deist. He did not believe in or belong to a religion.

        There is significant evidence that George Washington was of a like mind.

        Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Adams and Thomas Paine were also Deists. Thomas Paine had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. However, his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.

        They were all men who studied the Bible and believed in God but did not join religions. Since his father was a Quakers and his mother an Anglican, Thomas Paine had the Bible memorized and often quoted it but he was of one mind that was religion was wrong. When he was dying, local pastors tried to get into his house to baptize him so his soul would go to the Heaven and not Hell that religions use to scare people to join, behave, and of course donate. Payne’s friends and servants had been given instructions not to let those men into the house.

        Paine became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793–94), his book advocating deism, promoting reason and freethinking, and arguing against institutionalized religion and Christian doctrines. His encounters with the natives of the Americas made a deep impression. The ability of the Iroquois to live in harmony with nature while achieving a democratic decision making process, helped him refine his thinking on how to organize society.

        One of the compromises that Jefferson had to make was the one about slavery. He was a firm believer against slavery yet he owned slaves and left no provisions in his will for their emancipation at his death.

        Many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence owned slaves. In addition, women and children were chattel or the properly of the husband or father. Women would first seek the right to vote and an equal standing in the US in the 1848, when Gerrit Smith made woman suffrage a plank in the Liberty Party platform. Slavery would end with the Civil War but people of color would be treated horribly in both the South and the North for another century until the Civil Rights Movement where the Federal government had to exercise its power of the states to enact legislation against discrimination.

        Back to women. When first earned the right to vote in the territories of Wyoming and Utah but were disenfranchising in Utah by provisions of the federal Edmunds-Tucker Act enacted by the US Congress in 1887.

        By the end of the 19th century, women had been given the right to vote in four states: Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. However, as the 20th century got started, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote.

        Then there are children. Forms of child labor, including indentured servitude and child slavery, existed throughout most of American history. As industrialization moved workers from farms and home workshops into urban areas and factory work, children were often preferred, because factory owners viewed them as more manageable, cheaper, and less likely to strike. It wouldn’t be until 1838 that the Federal government would regulate child labor and achieve minimum wages of employment for children.

        The founding fathers were not geniuses—a few them were and those few compromised with the others to create a government, which wasn’t perfect but was set up so it could evolve and change. Without compromise, the Southern colonies may well have gone with England.

        Now, back to China and the Communist Party that rules China. Mao was never a diehard Communist. He was a Nationalist as his enemy Chiang Kai-shek was. Both were brutal men who had anyone that stood against them killed or locked up. It wasn’t the Communist Party that launched the Cultural Revolution. It was Mao and the Maoists—mostly the young people in China who made up the Red Guard.

        The Central Committee, the highest ruling body of the Communist Party in China was against Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Most were killed or ended in jail. Deng Xiaoping spoke out against Mao. To punish him, The Red Guard threw his son off a multi story building. He survived but was paralyzed from the neck down. Deng moved his family to Southeast China where he could live under the protection of a powerful Red Army General who had survived the Long March, which Deng also made. For all of its flaws, the Communist Party did not support the Cultural Revolution. Due to the failure of the Great Leap Forward, the Party had quietly forced Mao to retire. He staged a coup, returned to power as the Modern Emperor of China, and launched the Cultural Revolution and no one was safe from persecution.

        When Mao died, Deng Xiaoping, with help from the military, managed to take back the country from the Maoists and he and his allies rewrote the Chinese Constitution so no man would be able to hold the power that Mao did. During the Tiananmen Incident, Deng was caught on tape saying, Of course we want a democracy with more than one political party but the people are not ready for it yet. If we had a democracy today there would be chaos and anarchy again. What America has will not work in China. When a China becomes a democracy, it must fit the Chinese culture.”

        The father of China’s Republican movement was Sun Yat-sen and he said about the same thing—that it would take time to get the people ready to be part of a democracy with.

        You may find it interesting that Sun Yat-sen attended university in Hawaii and converted to Christianity. Sun died too soon. When he was the leader of the early Republican movement in Southern China, the Communists and the Nationalists united in one government under him in the South of China. After he died, Chiang Kai-shek became the leader of the Nationalists, declared war on the other political party of the Chinese Republic, and slaughtered the Communists and anyone belonging to labor unions breaking the coalition that had been designed by Sun Yat-sen to be the foundation of the future Republic.

        First America’s future ally killed as many Communists as he could in Southern China then he moved his army to the Communist Party’s stronghold in and around Shanghai where the Communist Party was, forming labor unions to combat the sweat shop factories owned by foreigners. The Nationalist army hunted down all the Communists they could find along with any workers who had joined the labor unions and killed them.

        Mao and a few others leaders of the Communists survived and fled. They gathered what was left of their forces and started the Long March to escape Chiang Kai-shek’s American supported army. Chiang Kai-shek was a Nationalist who supported the ruling class–the wealthy. Mao supported the peasants who were treated worse than slaves by the wealthy landowners. He gained their support and without them he would have never won the revolution. He was a great revolutionary but a lousy leader.

        As for the US, if the majority of the people do not educate themselves about American history and take part in the political process, the experiment started by Thomas Jefferson and the committee of deists who helped him write the Declaration of Independence will fail.

        We cannot allow ourselves to be led around by any group, guru, religious leaders or voices from talk radio.

        Most Americans must become educated similar to Jefferson and the others and make individual decisions when they enter the voting booth.

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