Why is Christianity growing in China?
If you were hoping that China would be immune from faith-pimps because of their long history of non-belief, then I apologize in advance for shattering your delusion. Not only is there a strong tendency for superstition in the country, they appear just as vulnerable as the rest of us to religious nonsense. How else can you explain the rise of Christianity in the East?
It is impossible to say how many Christians there are in China today, but no-one denies the numbers are exploding.
The government says 25 million, 18 million Protestants and six million Catholics. Independent estimates all agree this is a vast underestimate. A conservative figure is 60 million. There are already more Chinese at church on a Sunday than in the whole of Europe.
Keep in mind that everything in China is just ‘larger’ because of their huge population difference, so while 60 million sounds like an impressive figure to us, it represents a tiny fraction of their population. Still, I won’t deny that religion is growing, and this may have more to do with a lost sense of community than anything else. In countries with a lot of corruption, it’s difficult to trust any institution. Religions have always done a good job of providing that assurance and trust where none exists. Why should we be surprised the poor and indigent – increasingly ignored by their government – would turn to the comfort of religious dogma to escape their sorrow and connect with others like them?
What can our rational unbelief offer these people? We need to do more if we’re to win the hearts and minds of people. Merely disproving the tenets of faith doesn’t diminish the feelings of community, hope and certainty that religion offers. If we had to debate which side had the better argument to win over people, then we’d be all set. Unfortunately for us, humans aren’t rational. They don’t make up their minds after careful consideration of all the facts. Instead, they rely on intuition, feelings, and emotions to make their decisions for them, and only later intellectually justify these beliefs (we still want to THINK we’re rational, after all).
Education isn’t enough. We need to stop being gigantic pussies about it and take the ‘institutional’ plunge. We need to develop international support networks of the same complexity and devotion as our religious counterparts. We need to offer more than cold comfort, and we certainly can’t ignore all the roles filled by religion. If we truly want religion gone, then we’ll need to stop ignoring what works well for them, and instead embrace the positive attribute and appropriate them for ourselves (with a rational twist, of course).