Confucianism, No Need for a God

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Confucianism
February 22, 2013

Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism – there are so many different forms and varieties for an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that connect together humanity, spirituality, and even sometimes morality. There are different narratives, symbols, traditions and histories that serve various purposes. However, Confucianism stands out from many others because of its extensive emphasis on humanism. Confucianism is straight forward and simple – examine the world using the logic of humanity. This paper claims Confucius’ idea of developing society through the externalization of self-reflection and self-cultivation eliminates the need to utilize immanence or the presence of a divine entity in religion. In Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, Otto describes the entity known as the transcendent which refers to the aspect of God such as moral values, goodness or lightness, but clearly in a sense where God is wholly independent of the existing universe. The transcendent in every religion has its own nature and Confucianism without a doubt, has its own as well. It is important to distinguish that there is no god in Confucianism and the idea of heaven differs greatly from the heaven portrayed in other religions such as Christianity. Stated in Centrality and Commonality, “heaven in Confucian tradition is not a personal God or an omnipotent creator, it not devoid of transcendent reference.” “What heaven imparts to man is called human nature. To follow human nature is called the Way. Cultivating the way is called teaching.” Confucius believed that the transcendent or heavenly principles were imbued in human nature and could be realized through human practice. This is, in essence, what makes Confucianism so interesting. The idea that men “by nature are similar; but by practice men are wide apart,” and that through self-cultivation, one is able to externalize the internalization of their thoughts to create a collective society. There is no need and rarely any mention of the numinous or any divine being. Everything is utilized through humanism and self examination. Another important aspect for the human to reach the transcendent is the idea of sincerity or cheng. First, to attain the status of “being true to oneself,” one also must be conditioned by the understanding of goodness. In essence, “if one does not understand goodness, he cannot be true to himself.” Goodness also represents the idea of human’s good nature given by the Mandate of Heaven. “Sincerity is the way of heaven, to be sincere is the way of man” reinforces the idea that heaven, which has been passed down to man can be achieved by following ren, yi and li and because “only those who are absolutely sincere can fully develop their nature,” those who are sincere work towards being the profound man. In the Analects, there are two types of people that are different in terms of their developed potential. They are junzi and xiaoren. The junzi, or profound person “seeks to manifest the ultimate meaning of ordinary human existence” which means the profound person is the one who can always manifest the quality of ren. The profound person is “characterized in terms of a process toward an ever-deepening subjectivity.” Confucianism doesn’t exalt faithfulness to divine will or higher law but rather focuses on five virtues: ren, yi, li, zhi, and xin. It’s through these virtues that Confucius believes harmonious order can be achieved. Confucius strongly emphasizes Li as the system of norms which dictates etiquette in daily life. Instead of sacred rituals such as communion in Christianity, in Confucianism, the everyday acts are considered rituals. They aren’t specific practices but rather common routines and when an individual is vigilant and diligent the end result is a content and healthy content person which leads to a healthy and content society. This idea that the transcendent is...
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