Is Confucianism A Religion?

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Introduction The question of whether or not Confucianism is a religion has been explored by many writers. Its religious status has been controversial in intellectual circles since the controversy of the Chinese rites of 17th century. There have been several attempts to define the religious character of Confucianism. The arguments by Matteo Ricci that the church should accommodate ancestor worship by Christians of Chinese origin because he considered it veneration and not a true worship was the beginning of Confucianism as a religious model (Tucker, 1998). Ricci and other missionaries searched for the word God as well as other forms of revelation in early Chinese scriptures. The major controversy was whether Shangdi (The High Lord) or Tian (The Heaven) could fit the bill and whether or not the natural philosophy of Chinese matched Christian revelation. The confirmation came in 1877 when James Legge, a missionary translator averred to the Shanghai Missionary Conference that Confucian scriptures were other ways of achieving ultimate truth (Tucker, 1998). Despite the fact that Confucianism may not qualify as a form of religion based on particular definitions of the term, the conceptions are tied closely to devotional practices and popular worship. From the beginning, Confucianism has had a strong religious dimension that was characterized by ritual practices, heavenly reverence, strong belief in moral order, and reverence for ancestors as the guiding providence. In its
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