'Religion' is a Western word and concept. There's only one "Religion" -this category. Naturally the West will generously promote "religious freedom" as long as terms and conditions apply: We are all living in the year A.D. 2014 - the Year of our Lord Christ, no?
Christopher Columbus once famously remarked: “I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion”. He went on and christened the first few islands he conquered Los Santos (The Saints), Saint Kitts, Saint Fustativs, Saint Martin, and Saint Croix (Holy cross).
Of course, Columbus had not found India, as he intended, but had landed in the New World -the Bahamas and Cuba, to be exact. Yet, the way the famous discoverer arbitrary gave Christian names to foreign things and declared all people potential Christians repeated itself all over the world, in particular in China. In 1691, Randal Taylor in his The Morals of Confucius made the following crucial observation:
"Most of the missionaries who relate this are firmly persuaded, that CONFUCIUS foresaw the coming of the MESSIAH."
"Confucianism" in itself is a Western word and concept, too. It is a name given by the Europeans when they "discovered" China, so to speak. They were looking for a messiah figure, like Christ was for Christianity, and they found it in Kongzi. So, naturally for them, they named Kongzi's religion "Konfuzianism." The Chinese name for their tradition, however, is rujia. Rujia is a school of literati, or a teaching. It has nothing to do with "religion" in the Western sense of the word.
Buddhism, which was also named after its "messiah" figure, is not a "religion" either, but more a way of life or way of cultivation the self (the buddha-nature). In fact, most Westerners to this day erroneously believe there's just one Buddha, while in fact there are hundreds, if not thousands (the Dalai Lama being one of them, by the way).
To conclude, as long as Western names and categories are the only ones permissible, we are not going to see more pluralism in the world, but far more less.
Image credit: Alexander Tihonov/Shutterstock.com
This is a condensed version of a chapter on 'East-Asia Evangelized' from the manuscript Shengren.