Thursday 1 April 2010

Early Education and Exposure to Religion

AC Grayling writes wonderful books about philosophy and human values. He’s also an engaging speaker who clearly has a rational mind. In a recent interview down under in Melbourne, where he attended the Global Atheist Convention: “The Rise of Atheism”, Grayling mentioned a good observation about China and Chinese society.

AC Grayling interviewed by Greg Clarke part 1 of 2

In part 1, at about 8:20 AC Grayling talks about early exposure to beliefs and the rise of Christianity in China.

AC Graying On Being Exposed to Certain Beliefs During Childhood (transcript)
The Chinese society is not a religious society but a superstitious one. Of course there are Christians and Falun Gong and others in China, but generally speaking and traditionally, it’s not a religious society. As I say, it does have superstitions. But the major dominating influences in Chinese thought have been philosophies as opposed to religions. So Buddhism in its original form (of course it secretes a lot of superstitious elements), but in its original form it has no deity or deities, it has no supernatural elements. And Confucianism is also a philosophy, and so the educated people throughout the Chinese tradition have been brought up in one or the other of those philosophies. And because they have not been exposed to what we would regard as traditional characteristic religious beliefs, they just don’t have them. This is a very good example of how education makes a difference in these respects

AC Graying On the Rise of Christianity in China (transcript)
What explains what’s happening in China is allied rather closely to what’s happening elsewhere in the world, not in growth of numbers elsewhere in the world, but an increase in volume in the degree to which people are prepared to avow their faith or take a stand now that we’ve got this division opening up between the religious and the non-religious. And that is, when something, anything, is under pressure, any ideology is under pressure (as the Chinese communist ideology is) it opens a gap into which people fall if they don’t have something else to clutch on to. And people do have a propensity to look for the ready-made, the ready-to-hand set of answers, which is one reason for example of why people recur to religious belief.

What Grayling says about the rise of Christianity in China is sensible and insightful. The evidence for this (as he alludes to) is the rise of religious belief among peoples of the former Eastern Bloc in Europe, where communism collapsed.

AC Grayling interviewed by Greg Clarke part 2 of 2

Also, China Droll has posted some interesting thoughts about religion. Recent favourites include:
Muslims are Slaves

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