China's 100 million religious believers must banish their 'superstitions', says official

 

China is struggling to get its estimated 100 million religious believers to banish superstitious beliefs about things like sickness and death, the country's top religious affairs official told a state-run newspaper.

Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said there had been an explosion of religious belief in China along with the nation's economic boom, which he attributed to a desire for reassurance in an increasingly complex world.

While religion could be a force for good in officially atheist China, it was important to ensure people were not mislead, he told the Study Times, a newspaper published by the Central Party School which trains rising officials.

"For a ruling party which follows Marxism, we need to help people establish a correct world view and to scientifically deal with birth, ageing, sickness and death, as well as fortune and misfortune, via popularising scientific knowledge," he said, in rare public comments on the government's religious policy.

"But we must realise that this is a long process and we need to be patient and work hard to achieve it," Wang added in the latest issue of the Study Times, which reached subscribers on Sunday.

"Religion has been around for a very long time, and if we rush to try to push for results and want to immediately 'liberate' people from the influence of religion, then it will have the opposite effect and push people in the opposite direction."

About half of China's religious followers are Christians or Muslims, with the other half Buddhists or Daoists, he said, admitting the real total number of believers was probably much higher than the official estimate of 100 million.

Wang did not address specific issues, such as what happens after the exiled spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama dies, testy relations with the Vatican or controls on Muslims in the restive Xinjiang region in the west.

Rights groups say that despite a constitutional guarantee of freedom of belief, the government exercises tight control, especially over Tibetans, Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and Christians, many of whom worship in underground churches.

Beijing also takes a hard line on what it calls "evil cults", like banned spiritual group Falun Gong, who it accuses of spreading dangerous superstition.

Still, while religion was savagely repressed during the chaos of the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, the government has taken a much more relaxed approach since embarking on landmark economic reforms some three decades ago.

The ruling Communist Party, which values stability above all else, has even tried to co-opt religion in recent years as a force for social harmony in a country where few believe in communism any more.

China had avoided the religious extremism which happened in some places with the collapse of the Soviet Union or the religious problems seen with immigrants in Europe and the United States, Wang added, something to be proud of.

Still, China could not rest on its laurels.

"Religion basically upholds peace, reconciliation and harmony ... and can play its role in society," Wang said.

"But due to various complex factors, religion can become a lure for unrest and antagonism. Looking at the state of religion in the world today, we must be very clear on this point."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor