China and Religious Diversity

Some Critical Reflections
  • Gregor Paul


One of the almost paradoxical positions often found in philosophy, sociology, and the historical analysis of religion may be expressed as follows: Since (1) it is impossible to arrive at a generally accepted notion of “religion” and (2) equally impossible to (clearly) distinguish religious from nonreligious beliefs, convictions, motives, and/or actions, (3) reference to and arguments about religion and religiosity should employ general and vague notions of religion and avoid any attempt of isolating religious features. In my opinion, the second and third propositions are wrong and even politically dangerous. The second one is mistaken, since we can easily distinguish between beliefs in superhuman and supernatural beings such as gods, ghosts, and spirits and respective disbeliefs. We can even narrow the discourse by confining it to god-beliefs. This definition would still cover Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and even some Buddhist, so-called Confucian, 1 and certain versions of Daoist beliefs, 2 thus ensuring the relevance of our choice, namely reference to widespread and influential beliefs that are generally regarded as religions. Although the notion of god-beliefs needs further qualification, we would nevertheless employ a clear notion of “religion” or “religious belief” in the debate about “religious violence.” For instance, humans who think that they had to exterminate others because their god orders them to do so would doubtless follow a “religious” motive.


Religious Belief Human Dignity Religious Diversity Religious Freedom Chinese History 
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  1. 1.
    The word “Confucianism” is extremely misleading for it refers to traditions, schools, teachings, and ideas that even basically contradict each other. The corresponding Chinese word rujia (儒家) is more adequately translated by “schools of literati(-officials)” or “schools of scholars.” What I have in mind here are forms of Confucianism that deify Confucius. Cf. Gregor Paul, Konfuzius und Konfuzianismus (Darmstadt: WBG, 2010).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Respective references in: Gregor Paul, “Buddhistische Philosophie in Japan,” in Dō gen als Philosoph, ed. Christian Steineck, Guido Rappe, and Kō gaku Arifuku (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2002), 97–127.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    As is famously argued in various scriptures of the tathāgatagharba tradition (e.g., in the influential Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra or the Aṅgulimālīya Sūtra). Cf. Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Transformation by Integration (London: SCM, 2009), 21f.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Wolfgang Kubin, Konfuzius: Gespräche, ausgewählt,übersetzt und kommentiert von Wolfang Kubin (Freiburg: Herder, 2011).Google Scholar
  5. 13.
    Cf. Ian Johnston, The Mozi: A Complete Translation, translated and annotated by Ian Johnston (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2010). Includes an edition of the Chinese text.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    Cf. Roger Ames, Sun-Tzu: The Art of Warfare, translated, with an introduction and commentary, by Roger T. Ames (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993). Includes an edition of the Chinese text. Cf. further A. C. Graham, The Seven Inner Chapters and Other Writings from the Book “Chuang-tzu”, translated by A. C. Graham (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    Cf. J. J. L. Duyvendak, The Book of Lord Shang, translated from the Chinese with introduction and notes by J. J. L. Duyvendak (London: Arthur Probsthain, 1928). Reprint San Francisco, 1974; W. K. Liao, The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu, translated from the Chinese with Introduction and Notes by W. K. Liao, 2 vols. (London: Arthur Probsthain, 1959); John Knoblock, Xunzi, A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, 3 vols. (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988–1994).Google Scholar
  8. 17.
    Cf. Gregor Paul, Philosophie in Japan (München: Iudicium, 1993), and Das Śāstra der zwölf Tore und dessen Kritik an Gottesvorstellungen, in Hō rin 2 (München: Iudicium, 1995), 93–111.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    The last argument was put forward by the Chinese Buddhist Jizang (吉蔵; 549–623). Cf. Cheng Hsueh-li, Nāgārjuna’sTwelve Gates Treatise,” translated by Hsueh-Li, with introductory essays, comments, and notes (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1982), 18–26.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    William Theodore de Bary, ed. and trans., The Buddhist Tradition in India, China and Japan (New York: Vintage Books, 1972). Buddhists more or less repeated the critique that so-called Confucians had voiced against Buddhism, namely that a sovereign must be regarded as more powerful than a Buddha or god.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    Trans. George Elison, Deus Destroyed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), 282.Google Scholar
  12. 24.
    Cf. Shen Weirong, “Magic Power, Sorcery and Evil Spirit: The Image of Tibetan Monks in Chinese Literature during the Yuan Dynasty,” in The Relationship Between Religion and State (chos srid zung ’brel) in Traditional Tibet, ed. Cristoph Cüppers (Lumbini, Nepal: Lumbini International Research Institute, 2004), 189–227.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    Cf. Gregor Paul, ed., Das Große Lexikon des Buddhismus: Zeittafeln und Karten: Tibet—Kambodscha—Thailand—Vietnam—Korea (München: Iudicium, 2012).Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Cf., for example, Gregor Paul, Einführung in die Interkulturelle Philosophie (Darmstadt: WBG, 2008).Google Scholar

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© Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Joachim Gentz 2013

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  • Gregor Paul

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