Confucianism is the most recent religion I read about in Smith’s survey of world religions. At the end of the chapter, he addresses the question of whether Confucianism is a religion or an ethic. Basically, although there are some metaphysical beliefs that is a part of Confucianism, it is primarily about how to live and how to view the world.
It reminds me of a discussion Pat & I had about a book by Brian McClaren she is reading with our adult Sunday School class. The question was do you see faith more as a way of life or a belief system. The book suggested a scatter graph with four quadrants. Way of Life-Strong/Belief System Weak; Way of Life & Belief System Strong; Way of Life-Weak/Belief System Strong; Way of Life & Belief System Weak. Confucianism, according to Smith and the primary texts he provides, falls neatly into the Way of Life-Strong/Belief System-Weak. I think this is where a lot of Christians are as well. To be Christian means to be charitable and kind. It means to be forgiving and faithful in your marriage. It is about the way you live. I think as we get into shouting matches about the age of the Earth, these Christians may take a side, but it isn’t that important to them. I wonder if these Christians are often forgotten in the debate I provide here.
I want to see my faith as a Way of Life faith. And indeed, I have made efforts to live consistent with my faith. Furthermore, my belief system is at odds with the belief system who see faith primarily as a belief system. The Fundamentalists who will shout that gays are going to spend eternity in hell because God is a fair judge, will receive intense scorn for me. I will shout at them that they are missing everything and that there hate filled world view is absence from God. They don’t see that they are in hell now. I will say to them, “Don’t you understand, the Kingdom of God is not some far away place, it is at hand?” But all this just means my belief system is different than theirs.
To give Confucianism at least some of its due, this was the idea Smith presented that seemed to crystallize this civility code. If you have a good heart, you’ll be a good person. Good people will have good families. Good families will yield good nations. Good nations will lead to a peaceful world.
Perhaps a code of civility that starts with engendering good-heartedness is more effective at changing the world, that an exquisitely crafted metaphysics.