Confucianism- Religion or Not? Religion has always played a key aspect to societies, ancient or not. Whether to unify a group of people, or to provide a common thought to ensure that the civilization not fail, there is no argument as to the importance of religion. However, in every ancient society, religions share common characteristics which define the term religion itself. There are certain forms to which each religion has to mold to in order to be considered a religion in itself. Certain thought processes or beliefs are exempt from being considered religion.
A prime example of this would be Confucianism- Confucianism cannot be considered a religion, but a thought process. Confucianism is not considered a religion for many reasons. First off, one must define the term religion as it pertains to ancient societies. The Princeton Dictionary defines religion as- “A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that controls human destiny” From ancient societies, one could also tack on that with religion comes holidays or celebrations. After settling on a definition, one can then proceed to pick apart the parts of the definition, and identify as to whether or not Confucianism adheres to these parts.
A religion is a strong belief in a supernatural power. In virtually every other dominant ancient religion this holds true. In the lands of Egypt, the belief in a great many Gods, all in charge of a specific task, was the religion accepted by the community. For a small time, the religion even was changed by the Pharaoh to monotheism, before switching back into polytheism. In the ancient lands of India, the belief of Hinduism was the accepted religion. Despite the fact that Hinduism is considered a way of life, a Dharma, there were still many Hindu Gods, such as Ganesha, that Hindus trusted and believed in.
However, when one considers Confucianism, one would find no belief in any higher being or God. There is no higher force in Confucianism, which conflicts with a part of the definition of a religion. Looking further, we can see that with every religion follows with it certain celebrations and holidays. In the Hebrew religion, there are many holidays, such as Purim. In the ancient Egyptian religion, there were numerous holidays as well, all in honor of their many Gods. Each of these religions also had religions ceremonies held in temples, such as festivals performed by priests in the Hindu religion.
However, Confucianism does not contain either of these practices. There are no holidays in Confucianism, and there are no religious ceremonies to be performed. Although ancient religions differed in viewpoints, there were many redeeming similarities between the religions. It is from these similarities that a definition of what a religion is was formulated from, and how to classify a thought system as a religion. Because Confucianism simply does not contain the bare necessities of other religions, it is not possible to classify Confucianism as a religion on its own.