The Study of Religion

What is Religion?

Merriam Webster defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (Merriam Webster, 2016).  However, this is neither a complete nor accurate definition of religion.

Religion could be said to contain some or all of the following eight elements: belief system; community; central myths; ritual; ethics; characteristic emotional experiences; material expression; and sacredness. A belief system is where several beliefs about the universe and humans place in the world fit together to form a worldview. This belief system or worldview is shared by several people in a community, and its ideals are practiced by this community. Religions contain myths or stories about the creator of the universe or about the human helper the creator sent to Earth. It should be noted that myth does not necessarily mean the stories are untrue, just that they are a part of that specific religion. Religions contain rituals or ceremonies that are practiced by the community, such as baptism in Christianity. Religions provide rules or ethics about how people should act and how they should treat others. These rituals and ceremonies usually bring a characteristic emotional experience with them, such as awe, or inner peace, maybe even fear. Religions use material expressions, such as paintings, and statues to depict the lives of the deities or saints that form the religious belief system. Religions carry with a feeling of sacredness by using special clothing, different languages, or places, in the community to shares in this sacredness (Molloy, 2013). Regardless of what religion one believes in and follows, all religions have certain elements in common.

Patterns in World Religions

All religions are different, but all religions are also the same in some ways. All religions have three major patterns that can be seen across cultures, and those patterns are views of the world and life, focus on beliefs and practices, and views on males and females (Molloy, 2013).

All religions attempt to answer one of the most profound questions known to humankind – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?  How did the universe come into existence; will it ever end? How do we reach fulfillment or salvation? What is or should be our relationship with nature? What is or what should be our relationship with the sacred or the holy?  All religions answer these questions in different ways (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions define the sacred or “God” as transcendent, living in a realm beyond our ability to reach. Other religions represent sacred as being within humans and nature and can be experienced as energy or a feeling of peace. Sometimes it is seen as having personal attributes, much like humans, and sometimes it is viewed as an impersonal entity, who has not care about humans (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions see the creator of the universe as a personal, caring entity that has a master plan for the cosmos, and that he or she is guiding the world along on an ultimate path that leads to his or her ultimate goal for life. Other religions view the universe as eternal, having neither a beginning nor end. If the religion sees the universe as having been created by a creator, then that religion worships that creator. If, however, the religion views the universe as eternal, with no creator, then the universe becomes the center of that religion (Molloy, 2013).

The human attitude toward nature is also something all religions address. Some religions believe that nature was put here to be the tools for man. Some religions preach that nature is evil and must be overcome. Some religions say that nature is sacred and needs no alterations. And, some religions teach that nature is or was created by a divine being for humans to shape (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions time is considered linear, moving in a straight line from the beginning to the end; the end of everything as we know it. In these religions time is important because it is limited and unrepeatable. In other religions time is cylindrical, moving in an endless pattern of changes that repeat themselves over and over again on a grand scale. In these religions time is not so important, the universe is not moving towards an ultimate ending, and enjoying the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions, humans have a purpose and are part of a great divine plan. Individual meaning comes from within and from the divine in the context of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. In these religions human actions are of great importance and therefore, their actions are prescribed by a righteous moral code. In other religions, however, human life and their actions are not viewed as important, and the individual person is only part of a much larger reality. In these religions, humans are not seen as a small part of a larger plan; they are seen as part of a family, society, and the universe as a whole; placing more importance on how one may achieve harmony with the universe, as opposed to their individual salvation. Human action is not guided by a divine moral code, but by the family and society of the individual (Molloy, 2013).

Different Approaches to Studying Religions

            The study of religion was, at one time, divided among different academic fields. Fields such as psychology, theology, and philosophy would study different aspects of religions. Now, the study of religion is unified into one academic field, but all the different fields still study religion as part of their curriculum.

Psychology means soul study in Greek, and encompasses the study of human mental states, emotions, and behaviors. Psychology takes a special interest in religions because of its rich material in human experiences. Mythology is the study of myths, which is the study of religious stories, texts, and arts that reveal universal commonalities. Philosophy means the love of wisdom in Greek, and encompasses the study of human life and their purpose. Theology means the study of the divine in Greek, and encompasses the study of one particular religious belief, usually the religion of the theologies who is doing the studying in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own religion (Molloy, 2013).

Critical Issues in Studying Religion

The academic study of religion has, in the past, been carried out by individuals seeking to find further knowledge in their own religion. However, in recent decades, there has been a shift in this cycle where now people are wanting to study religion academically without promoting the beliefs of one religion over another. The great questions of religions were once studied as a philosophy course in colleges, while other aspects of religious beliefs were found scattered in such academic departments as anthropology, history, or psychology. The study of religion then was very fragmented, scattered all over the college campus, and no unified course could be found.

In the recent past, all of this has changed and now most campuses have a department for studying religion as a whole. However, the academic study of religion brings problems and questions, as well as clarity, insight, and answers. Some concerns include the rights and obligations that professionals hold towards the practitioners of each religion, the truthfulness of informants or interpreters, the objectivity of the professional, and how, and in what way do researchers change indigenous communities.



Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.merriam



Shintoism is an ancient Japanese religion that is still practiced today in Japan. Shinto can be translated as meaning “the way of the gods,” and those gods in Shintoism are called the Kami. There are many Kami’s, and they are usually related to natural elements, such as the Sun, the Moon, the forests, the rivers, and the mountains. Shinto is a nature religion, with elements of ancestral worship, as Shintoists believe that loved ones who have passed away become Kami as well, and they, much like the Chinese, will have shrines dedicated to certain Kami, including loved ones (Molloy, 2013).

Shintoism is not a religion that has a sacred text, but it is a religion that preaches that there is not one moralistic God who gives commands, but rather that humans are essentially good, and so is this earth, and life in general. Shintoists believe that this Earth is the heavenly realm that most religions preach one can only reach through death. Shintoists believe that individuals should strive to live up to the expectations that are placed on them in this “heavenly realm” here on Earth (Molloy, 2013).

With this heavenly realm in mind, Shintoists believe that cleanliness is at the core of those expectations. One should strive to keep one’s body, mind, house, clothes, etc. as clean as possible, and when they become dirty they must be washed and blessed by a Shinto priest. This cleanliness also applies to one’s character, and Shintoist are expected to keep one’s reputation “clean” by having sincerity. Humans maintain their sincerity by repaying debts, fulfilling obligations, and apologizing for misdeeds (Molloy, 2013).

Today, Shinto temples can be found throughout Japan. Shinto practitioners visit these temples to pray for the health and wellbeing of their family members, for success, and for good health for their selves. The priests of the Shinto temples can be found saying blessings over those praying, while waving a white wand of paper streamers. White is very important in Shinto as it represents the cleanliness and purity of the Kami. The priests, who perform the blessings, and they perform many throughout Japan, include blessings to drive out evil spirits in cars, can always be found wearing white and carrying those white wands (Molloy, 2013).

In the Shinto religion, New Years is a very important celebration, and Shinto practitioners will clean their houses from top to bottom, and adorn the front door with a kadomatsu or entry pine, symbolizing human virtue. During the New Year’s celebration, which takes several days, individuals visit family members, eating special rice balls called mochi, which is adorned with tangerines, signifying wealth and fertility, and the planting of rice in the spring. The whole holiday is representative of cleansing and the renewal of life (Molloy, 2013).

Traditional Shinto practices once put great importance upon the changing of the seasons, especially in regards to the planting and harvesting of rice. These traditional practices are becoming less important in the modern land of Japan, but there are still practices seen in Japan that can be linked to these traditional practices. One such practice is the finding of small shrines found in forests, fields, and mountains. One may find many practices related to the purification elements of water, as even individual practitioners will wash their hands with water before entering a temple. Individuals can also still be found practices the ancient art of misogi, where an individual stand under a waterfall, letting the water purify his mind and body. The practitioner must perform a series of calisthenics and deep breathing exercise before entering the waterfall, and be cleansed with a bit of salt. Misogi combines the ritual element of cleanliness and the Shinto ideal of self-discipline (Molloy, 2013).




Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and

Change (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Daoism and the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching)

The Daodejing is generally considered to be one of the world’s greatest books; next to the Bible, it is the most published book in the world. The Daodejing is dated to about 350 BCE, and is said to be written by Laozi, and contains the teachings on Daoism. It is said that Laozi was forced to write his teachings down before he could leave the country of China. The book is considered to be more poetry than pose, and is considered to have no clear order and a lack of clarity. Suggesting that the book has no clear author, but is instead a collection of works gathered over time (Molloy, 2013).

The Daodejing contains elements of early shamanistic teachings, including instructions on meditation and obtaining a trance like state. It also has been considered to be a political handbook, a religious guidebook, or as a guide to living in harmony with the universe. Whatever its original purpose, the Daodejing teaches that the Dao is not a thing, not like a god or a tree or even a human, but more of a presence that cannot be named. The Dao is the origin of everything, and all individuals are manifestations of the Dao (Molloy, 2013).

Although the Dao is something that cannot be named, it is something that can be felt. To experience the Dao, one must leave behind their appetite for physical things, our desires, and wants. That one must become like nature, moving with the flow of change in one’s life, much like the water flows and assists the obstacles it faces. Accepting that one is different, neither resisting nor competing (Molloy, 2013).

The Principles of Yang and Yin

Yang and Yin developed about 1000BCE, and contains the principle notion that the world expresses itself in complementary elements, light and dark, day and night, bad and good, the list goes on and on (Molloy, 2013).

These principles are not the same as good and evil. One is not expected to “win out” over the other. Instead, the notion is that everything contains it’s opposite and will eventually become its opposite. Both elements are in perfect balance, like energy or pulsations, breathing in and out (Molloy, 2013).

The Principle of Wu Wei

Wu wei is the ideal of effortlessness, or the ability to “go with the flow.” The ideal recommends a way of avoiding unnecessary action. Working only as hard as one must to accomplish what is necessary, much like nature, and no more (Molloy, 2013).

For example, one may be the recipient of a viscous rumor. One may think that confronting those who started the rumor may be the best course of action. However, a Daoist would see things differently. A Daoist would believe that the best course of action would be to do nothing. To let the rumor run its course and to not worry about it, but to just accept it.

An example of when following the way of the wu wei would be ill advised is if one was in serious trouble with the law, and was facing jail time. (I don’t know this by experience, it’s just an example I could come up with.) I would think in a situation where one is accused of a serious crime the best course of action, if one is innocent, is to fight and try to find as much evidence as possible to prove one’s innocence.


Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and

Change (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


I started a new class about two weeks ago – Physiological Psychology, a.k.a. Behavioral Neuroscience. That means, that about every five words or so, I have to stop reading and google what it is that I just read. My brain has too many tabs open… I saw that, somewhere. Facebook, I think. I can’t think, so, I’m writing. Probably a bad idea, but let’s see where it goes.

In light of trying to keep up with homework, family, this blog, and all other social media sites that one has to appear on every day, I have resorted to posting prior papers I have written in the past. I, personally, do not see an issue with this, as I did write the papers; I just wrote them for school.

I am a firm believer that education can stamp out ignorance, and I have attempted to spread some knowledge by posting a link to this blog on a few groups in Facebook. I do not think people read the papers, and truly, that’s okay. But, if you do not read them, why fight me about it? I am not promoting any one religion over another, or saying that you have to believe anything I say. Please feel free to do your own research.

I would like to address a couple of things. First, my intent is to spread knowledge about religions in the hopes of bringing about some understanding and peace. If there is one thing that ALL religions have in common, it is the belief that one should love their fellow man, and this beautiful earth that we all live upon.

Second, I am not a “religious freak,” (sic.), as anyone who knows me will tell you. I do have a particular interest in religions, but it is an educational interest only. I am a scientist. I believe in the Big Bang and Evolution. I will not fight anyone about this. There is loads and loads of evidence proving the existence of both. If you do not believe all that evidence, you will not believe me, and I will not waste my time.

I do not adhere to any one religion, and I do not follow any one religion. I have studied many religions, and I personally believe that they all have elements of truth in them. I am a believer in a Universal Consciousness that, I like to call, love. If I had to pick a “religion” it would be love. I am very spiritual, and I find my “god” in nature. I probably do not believe in god the way you do, and that’s okay. We can still be friends.


Islam is an ancient religion that developed around six hundred AD, in the central Arabian desert and eventually spread to Asia, Central Europe and Northern Africa. The religion started with the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 AD, at a time when Allah, or God, was seen as a supreme being that is disassociated with the world of people; all-powerful, and all-knowing, but absent from human life. Islam means to surrender or submit to God wholly and completely, and the words Muslim and Islam relate to many different sayings for peace (Molloy, 2013).

Common Characteristics among Religions

The Islamic religion has many similarities and differences with the other two major religions in the world; Christianity and Judaism. The most significant similarity is that Muslims, Christians, and Jews all believe that the Old Testament of the Christian Bible is the truth about creation and the origins of man. Both Islam and Judaism practitioners believe that Abraham is the father of their people. All three religions believe that God tested Abraham, by having him sacrifice his son, only to stop him at the last-minute. Only one difference is taught between the religions on the story of Abraham and God, and that is the son is a different son in Islam, then in Judaism, and Christianity (Molloy, 2013).

Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all believe in good deeds and charity towards the poor and destitute. Islam and Christianity believe in donating a percentage of their income, but Islam donates to the poor and Christianity gives a tithe to the church, who, in turn, helps the poor. Muslims, Christians and Jews believe in prayer, and humbling oneself before God. However, Muslims believe in praying five times a day, and will often prostrate themselves on the ground or floor in order to worship God, or Allah (Molloy, 2013).

The most obvious similarity between the three religions is a monotheistic viewpoint of the world. The general belief among the three religions is the belief that God is a kind and merciful God, who wants all of his children, or humanity, to seek the light. Christians and Muslims believe in Jesus Christ, however, Muslims believe that Jesus, like Muhammad, is a prophet of God, and Christians believe that the only way to God and salvation is Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jews do not believe in Jesus at all Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet of God, and follow his doctrine to the letter (Molloy, 2013).

Islam and the Modern World

Modern life presents many challenges for Islam. In traditional Islam, women play minor, or no roles at all, in religion or business world. Education is hard for women, and so is working outside the home. Women were required to cover themselves from head to toe whenever they were out in public, and they were not allowed outside unless they were in the company of men. Women were severely repressed in ancient Arabia, where the killing of females babies was acceptable, and women were treated as property, to be bought and sold, as, first their fathers, and then their husbands, were given property rights over them. Women did not have a say in who they married, often being married to a man who has multiple wives, and women did not have the right to initiate divorce, or own land or have money. Today, however, what was once seen as protection towards women, is now viewed as repression of women (Molloy, 2013).

Women today have seen a great variance in their treatment depending on which Islamic country they live in. In some countries women still cover themselves from head to toe, including complete head coverings, with mesh over mouth and eyes, and gloves. Whereas in other countries, women are not required to wear any type of veil. Women today are permitted to have an education and to work outside of the home, in some countries. Women all over the Muslim nation have started to rebel, seeking reform in the way that they are treated, the clothing that they are required to wear, and for the rights to own their own bodies. In some countries great reform has taken place. In these countries women have begun to pray in the Mosque with the men, and some women have even been given the opportunity to pray formally for the Mosque; something that never would have happened in traditional Islam (Molloy, 2013). Reform is often a slow process, but as long as there are women fighting for their basic human rights, great reform will continue to blossom.

One of the major harbingers behind this push for reform from Islamic women is the western world, and the view that Muslim women see of the western world on TV, through the internet, and other mainstream media sources, to include the internet, and social media sites. Most Islamic countries also now allow their women to travel, with or without the company of a man, and women are seeing a different type of lifestyle they have been excluded from for centuries. These introductions to the modern female world has initiated great changes among Muslim women (Molloy, 2013).

One major issue Islam has with the modern world is the choice of most governments to practice secularism. Traditionally, Islam has had great influence on the local governments, where religion and government were intermingled to the point where one could not tell where one ended and the other begin. The current trend to practice law or governmental institutions without a moral or religious view is a great challenge to Muslims. Islamic viewpoint on secularism is that to create governmental institutions without God is to live without God, something that Islamic practitioners have a difficult time with (Molloy, 2013).


Although Islam is an ancient religion, that became and stayed a world super religion, it is currently facing some major changes with government, and women rights. Through the perseverance of reformers, Islam is currently working on ways to combine secularism and religious beliefs into one cohesive package. Interfaith dialogue, where Christian leaders, Jewish leaders, and Muslim leaders gather to discuss points of similarities between the three religions will probably increase in the future contributing to the reform of Islam and their inclusion into the modern world. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, being the three most popular religions in the modern world, all have roots steaming form the same God, and same belief system, if they can see past the details, they could have a great influence upon the world and world peace.




Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


Hinduism is an ancient religion that has spread throughout the Asian continent and influenced many other religions along its path. Hinduism has multiple gods and goddess, but has one main reality that is Brahman, in which all the gods and goddess are a part of. Hinduism basic beliefs are that people are trapped here in on Earth, through ignorance and illusion. However, people can overcome their current incarnation by being born higher in the reincarnation system. Thus, animals can be reincarnated into humans and vice versa. One may change their status by practices yoga, meditation, and by living according to ones dharma or purpose or role in life (Molloy, 2013).

Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism

There are similarities to be found in Hinduism that link many different religions together. For instance, Buddhism arose and evolved in India as well, and the similarities between the two religions are more numerous than not. For example, both religions believe in Karma, and reincarnation. However, Buddhist do not believe that the human body has a soul, whereas Hinduisms believe that every human has a soul that can be trapped in an animal body and be reborn into a human body based on one’s karma (Molloy, 2013).

In both Buddhism and Hinduism, there is not a “set in stone” ethical or moral code one must follow. Instead both religions believe that ethics are created by the individual or social class in which one grows up. The differences in the religions, however is what marks them as different. Hinduism is greatly concerned with ones caste or social position in this life, and how to bring greater wealth upon one’s soul so that one may rise to a higher caste system in their next life. Buddhists, on the other hand, do not concern themselves with the things of this world. Buddhism focuses on a release of suffering, and attaining Nirvana (Redmond, 2004).

Hinduism also has points of similarity with Confucianism. Both religions belief that humans play a large part in other humans lives, and they look to the social actions of individuals, their role in society and the societal hierarchy in general. Both religions look for the common good that will promote peace and brotherhood among its followers. Both religions also believe in a class system, where one may rise above their class if they have earned the right to do so. Both religious belief system have achieved a social hierarchy, but through different means. Hinduism has used the caste system, whereas Confucianism has used education and social pressure (Tu, & Daisaku, 2011).

Hinduism Today

One of the biggest problems facing Hinduism today is the practice of the caste system in Indian society. Some Hinduisms today believe that maintaining the caste system especially that of the untouchables is acceptable and keeping with traditional Hinduistic believes. However, the untouchables in modern India have made great strides towards equality or eliminating the caste system. Untouchables or Dalits are now able to enter Hindu temples, all of them, and they are gaining ground in the jobs and education department. That is what is happening in big cities, but in villages, the untouchables are still required to live away from the rest of the village, and to mostly tend for themselves (Molloy, 2013). The traditional caste system is rooted in traditional Hinduism, and although the Indian government is attempting to change tradition, all too often this can be a long and arduous journey, and many who have suffered in the past continue to suffer today (Javaid; Majid; & Zahid, 2014).

Women in Hinduism Today

Women have a debated place in Hinduism, as some scholars say that women at one time might have played a large part in Indian society due to the importance of female deities in Hinduism and that there have many female gurus or wise women, throughout the history of Hinduism (Molloy, 2013).

However, over the years, women have fell out of their role of importance and have been moved to a lower caste, regardless of the social caste they were born into. Just as other religions have canonized their religious doctrines to mostly favor the male, so too did Hinduism during the Vedic period. By the code of Manu, women were, in general, subservient to males, and a wife was supposed to be subservient to her husband. Women were expected to treat their husbands as gods, regardless of their treatment of her. Women were not taught to read or write because it would distract from their duties as a wife and mother (Molloy, 2013).

Today, while many Indian women are educated and may go on to hold high positions in their choice of career, have things really improved for women? Education is only half the battle, albeit a very important part of equality, but still only half. Today, Indian women are expected to take on dual roles of both bread winner and mother and wife, however, it would appear that her male counterparts will do anything to impede her progress (Position of women in India today, 2014).

Today’s modern Indian woman is plagued by rapes, sexual harassment, threats and violence by her husband, and honor killings. She can hardly go into the street to get to work without being harassed by a male individual on her way. Rural women have hardly made any progress, as she is usually confined to the four walls of her own home by her husband who holds the ties to everything she is allowed or not allowed to do. Young girls are still married and sold to older, sometimes much older, men quite commonly in rural India, even though the Indian government have outlawed child marriages (Position of women in India today, 2014).

The traditional view of women within the Hindu religion may be coming back around, as women are once again allowed to become gurus. One such example of a modern female guru is one woman by the name of         Amma the hugging saint (Dhruvarajan, 2010). Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma, is a current guru in India, and she is known for her selfless love and compassion for all living beings. She has never asked anyone to change their religion, but has only shown love and compassion for all those she has an encounter with. Even though she is Hindu, she says her religion is love, and she has dedicated her life to helping the poor and elevating pain from all those who need elevation (, 2016).


Although Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, it has also undergone multiple changes throughout the centuries being influenced by oppressors and lovers alike. Today, Hinduism is struggling to bring their traditional values into a more modern world. Deep rooted traditions, regardless of religion, however, take a long time to change, and Hinduism is just recently started its journey towards equality among the castes and the sexes.







Redmond, G. P. (2004). Eugenics and Religious Law: IV. Hinduism and Buddhism. In S. G. Post

(Ed.), Encyclopedia of Bioethics (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 866-870). New York: Macmillan

Reference USA. Retrieved from



Tu, W., & Daisaku, I. (2011). New Horizons in Eastern Humanism : Buddhism, Confucianism

and the Quest for Global Peace (1). London, US: I.B.Tauris. Retrieved from

Javaid, U., Majid, A., & Zahid, S. F. (2014). Low caste in India (untouchables). South Asian

Studies, 29(1), 7-21. Retrieved from

Position of women in India today. (2014, Dec 15). The Assam Tribune Retrieved from

Dhruvarajan, V. (2010). Women as leaders in Hinduism. In K. O’Connor Gender and women’s

Leadership: A reference handbook (Vol. 2, pp. 496-503). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Publications Ltd. doi: 10.4135/9781412979344.n52 (2016). Mata Amritanandamayi, also known as Amma. Retrieved from

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and

Change (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.


The Five Great Relationships

In Confucianism, relationships are more important and real than any other tangible object. Confusions take their role in relationships very seriously and strive to show the proper amount of respect and adoration in each relationship that they have. However, not all relationships are equal, as some are considered more important than others (Molloy, 2013).

The Five Great Relationships in Confucianism, in the order of importance, are:

  1. Father – Son. The father-son relationship is considered to be the most significant relationship in Confucianism society. But, the father –son relationship can be regarded as that of all parents and their children, and may even extend to boss and employee. In Confucianism, parents are responsible for the education and moral formation of their children. The children, in return, must be obedient and respectful towards their parents, and take care of them in their old age. This responsibility does not end at death, as children are obligated to look after their parents after death by maintaining their graves, and hanging pictures of them on home altars. The relationship obligations are mutual, however, as children and parents are expected to show care for each other.
  2. Elder brother – younger brother. The role of males in traditional Chinese culture is extensive. Elder boys are not only expected to take care of their parents but also to take care of their younger siblings, especially should something happen to The younger siblings are supposed to show obedience and compliance to their elder brother, mush as he would his father.
  3. Husband – wife. Both participants in this relationship are expected to care for each other. However, the roles they both play are entirely different. Men are expected to be the provider and protector, while the wife is supposed to care for the home and family. These relationships are not expected to be romantic, and often women can become motherly towards their husbands.
  4. Elder – younger. In Confucianism, all seniors are expected to teach, train, care, and help with the moral and character formation of the younger generation. In return, the younger generation is expected to show respect and be open to the elder’s advice.
  5. Ruler – subject. In Confucianism, the ruler is expected to act as a wise father, to care and assuming responsibility for his subjects (Molloy, 2013).

The Ideal Person

If social responsibility, in Confucianism, comes from living out the Five Great Relationships, then personal greatness and accountability come from living out the five great virtues. However, personal importance is expected to be considerate of others, muted, and subtle. Confusionists do value an interest in art, education, but those are not the virtues that one is speaking of when they talk of the five virtues of Confucianism. The five virtues are, ren, li, shu, xiao, and wen, and the practicing of these five virtues is what makes up the Confusionists idea of an ideal person.

Ren is translated into many words, such as, empathy, sympathy, benevolence, kindness, thoughtfulness, and human-heartedness, but can be thought of as just being a good and kind person, who shows compassion in one’s dealing with others (Molloy, 2013).

Li is translated into “doing what is appropriate” or “doing what is suitable for the situation.” Confusionists are expected to act appropriately during social situations, speaking the right words, and acting in the appropriate manner (Molloy, 2013).

Shu translated means “reciprocity” and usually answers the question, in Confucianism, “How will my actions affect the other person?” Shu can be thought of like the Golden Rule but in reverse. Instead of saying, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Confusionists states instead, “do not do unto others and as you would not have done unto you” (Molloy, 2013).

Xiao is usually translated as “filial piety” and means the devotion of a son or daughter towards a parent. In Confucianism, children are expected to care for their parents, their ancestors, and their entire family’s welfare (Molloy, 2013).

Wen is translated into the word “culture” and usually encompasses all arts that are associated with civilization. Confusionsits have a profound respect for poetry, literature, and calligraphy. An ideal person learns calligraphy and has respect for education, poetry, and literature, while at the same time practices their role in the Five Great Relationships, and practicing the five virtues for becoming a better person (Molloy, 2013).

Confucianism in the Modern World

Confucianism today is a mixture of approval and disapproval by governments, especially government sponsored or funded institutes. Confucianism’s ideals have always seen education as a form of character building, and that has not changed. However, some leaders in Confuionists countries are horrified by the extreme individualism and violence seen in some Western countries and therefore, they have encouraged a return to Confusion ways, but with a healthy dose of science, mathematics, and computer technology added to the Confusion curriculum. Children are taught modern subjects as well as the five virtues and the Five Great Relationships (Molloy, 2013).

Women are faring better in modern ideals of Confucianism, then they had in the past, and greater latitude is now being given to individual personalities and talents. Instead of experiencing a decline in Confucianism, members have increased, and there has been a renewed interest. One reason may be because Confucianism focuses on correct behavior, yet it is, at its core, a religion that focuses on social harmony and a connection to, and harmony with the universe (Molloy, 2013).




Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and

Change (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.