Bertrand Russell, Fu Tong, and the Emergence of Scientific Secularism in Early 1920s China


In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
Jan Vrhovski Department of Asian studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana Ljubljana Slovenia

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In the May Fourth period (1917–1921), the Chinese intellectual world saw the emergence of various forms of secularism, which culminated around the year 1922, when a nationwide non-religious movement was formed. The Western-educated philosopher Fu Tong influenced and contributed to the discourse on science and religion in the early 1920s, and his philosophy of religion served as a conduit for the introduction of Bertrand Russell’s ideas about religion into Chinese public and intellectual discourses. This article establishes a connection between Fu and the lectures on religious belief that Russell delivered in Peking in January 1921 and documents the transfer of ideas from Russell to Fu’s philosophical writings on religion between 1921 and 1922. In its central analysis, the article focuses on Fu’s philosophy of religion and his theory of scientific secularism, which he developed as a critique of the Marxist-led non-religious movement from 1922 onward. The discussion also sheds light on the network of intellectual connections underlying the emergence of the notion of scientific secularism in 1920s China.

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