Kung Fu Tzu, better known as Confucius, was a Chinese philosopher of the sixth century B.C.E. Confucius taught a philosophy for bringing harmony to individuals and to society as a whole. Though sometimes viewed as a religion, Confucianism, which does not have a god figure, is generally considered a social and philosophical way of life rather than a religious belief system. As such, many east Asians follow Confucian teachings while professing belief in religions such as Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. Approximately six million people around the world follow Confucianism, primarily in China and East Asia.
Confucianism and God
There is no god in Confucianism, but rather a force called the Tao, also known as the Great Ultimate. Confucius believed that the Tao was the impetus for creation and that this force flows through all life, enabling change and betterment. Though Confucianism does not have a being-based god, Confucius spoke of the notion of heaven as another positive force. Unlike the concept of heaven found in theistic religions, Confucius believed heaven was a guiding force of the universe and judge of right and wrong.
The Role of Confucius
Confucius is not considered divine or a god himself, but rather a teacher. He taught principles for bettering society through knowledge, reciprocity, family and benevolent government. After his death, Confucius’s principles were carried on by his disciples Mencius, Xun Zi and others who worked to flesh out societal and political applications of the original teachings. As Confucianism gained acceptance, it became the state philosophy of China for centuries.
Creation in Confucianism
Despite the lack of a god figure in Confucianism, Confucius believed that the universe was initiated by the Tao force. From the Tao come the complementary Yin and Yang forces, tension and energy, which Confucius believed to be the cause of all there is in the universe. Confucianism is a humanistic view, and Confucius believed that our creation and purpose was to discover our true selves and improve our lives and society as a whole.
Compatibility with Religion
Most Chinese people and other East Asians do not consider Confucianism a religion, and many Confucianists follow a religion as well. Confucian teachings comfort followers and help explain the world and add a completeness to life, without contradicting any religions. Religions, such as Christianity and Islam, hold the ethical teachings of Confucius in high regard and find compatibilities between their scriptures and Confucius’s philosophies, allowing for compatibility between religious and Confucian beliefs.