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Theology History: Forms of Beliefs

Introduction

The human race even from prehistoric times has been fascinated by the spiritual and the mysterious factors that exist in their social and physical environment. Humans began to worship physical forms commonly seen around them in the form of oceans, mountains, the sun and the moon, animals, and even weather. As human societies as opposed to the nomadic ones evolved, these beliefs and practices became part of the social norm and were codified to form the principles of life in a society. The concept of God (and Gods) also came into existence. Many ancient and modern religions evolved over a period of time and they include Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. A practice of deep study (Theology) of the principles of these religions also evolved, primarily to interpret them for the benefit of the common man and also to compare the different religions. This paper is a comparative study of the fundamental principles of Confucianism, Taoism, and Wicca.

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Confucianism

As with the case of many Eastern religious beliefs, Confucianism was never a religion in the sense that it did not have a headquarters, churches (or temples), or priests. “In fact, what is meant by ‘Confucianism’ is more a tradition generally rooted in Chinese culture and nurtured by Confucius and Confucians rather than a new religion created, or a new value system initiated, by Confucius himself alone.” (Yao, 2000, p.17). This tradition referred to as ‘ru’ in the region was a way of life based on six classics known as the Books of Poetry, History, Rites, Music, Changes and the book called the ‘Spring and Autumn Annals’. The core belief of Confucianism is to teach the way of the ‘virtuous gentlemen’ to its followers. It spells out the right way by which a gentleman (and woman) should have goodness, nobility, altruism, righteousness, pity, and other noble virtues. Kings should be benevolent and subjects respectful.

Taoism

Taoism like Confucianism can also be called a way of life even though it incorporates rituals, gods, and worship amongst its practices and teachings. “Taoism has neither date nor place of birth. It has never stopped moving, transforming and absorbing.” (Robinet, Isabelle., & Brooks, 1997). So, it can be said that there is no single founder responsible for its birth and subsequent growth unlike Confucianism. Unlike Confucianism, it has diverse schools of thought, some which pursue pure religion and others that pursue in alchemy, immortality, longevity, and philosophy. Another major difference is that Taoism is closely linked with nature and its ways and includes flow of elements like water, gas, and fire. The point of similarity between the two, apart from the fact that both are a way of life, is that many of its principles can be followed by people even today irrespective of religious affiliations.

Wicca

Wicca is radically different from the above two theological beliefs in many ways. Firstly it is said to have been founded by a single individual called Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant as late as in 1954 in England. It is said to be based on the practice of witchcraft prevalent in ancient England and hence the name Wicca. Another point of variance with Confucianism is that Wiccans (as its followers are known) follow duotheism through the worship of a god and goddess. This concept is similar to the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy and is “seen as complementary polarities.” (Wicca: The god and the goddess, 2002). Wiccans also believe that the god and goddess have the power to manifest in this world in the form of priests and priestesses. Even though Taoism has god worship, the concept of manifestation does not exist, while Confucianism does not have god worship as a principle. Again unlike both the schools of thought above, Wiccans (not universally) believe in the concept of reincarnation and in many cases, is convinced that many of their witches are reincarnated souls of previous generations. Wicca like Taoism also takes to the five elements of nature (air, fire, water, earth, and spirit) and are a part of their magic rituals.

Conclusion

It is extremely difficult to compare two ancient and vast schools of thought and even the relatively modern belief of Wiccans into such a short space. Only the core concepts of these theological beliefs can be compared. There are a lot of similarities between Taoism and Confucianism in the sense that both are believed to be ways of life. Both do not have an organized administration or structure. Both have evolved over a period of years and are based on the teachings and beliefs that existed up to that point of time. Additions have been made to both throughout their evolution. The main difference among the two is that Confucianism is founded by one single person and developed by his followers whereas Taoism does not claim the right to have a single founder. The former also does not have worship of gods like in Taoism. Wicca is a very young religion, that is, neo-pagan in nature. It was founded (not evolved like the others) by a single person based on the practice of ancient witchcraft in England. This religion believes in reincarnation and has duotheism as its core belief. A female god is worshipped unlike the worship seen in Taoism. It can be said that Taoism and Confucianism have more similarities with each other when compared to the Wicca religion.

References

Robinet, Isabelle., & Brooks, Phyllis. (1997). Taoism: Growth of a religion. 1, Stanford, University Press.

Wicca: The god and the goddess. (2002).

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Yao, Xinzhong. (2000). An introduction to confucianism. 17, Cambridge University Press.

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