This paper proposes a new approach to Max Weber’s Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism, which is to make the development of Confucianism, rather than the development of modern capitalism, the dependent variable in our analysis of Chinese society. In this light, Weber’s treatment of Confucianism and Daoism as an interconnected whole (the orthodoxy and heterodoxy of Chinese society) may be seen as a promising step in understanding the ecological dynamics of the Chinese religious system. In this system, diverse religious traditions coexist and are often interdependent, forming a rich tapestry of practices, beliefs, and ethics that give meaning to people in their everyday lives.
This chapter treats transnational Confucianism as a case study of religious identity in the 21st century. Confucianism has long had a strong hold in East Asia and Southeast Asia. Today, with global mobility, there are further developments of Confucianism in various regions of the world. However, survey data show consistently that very few people identify themselves as Confucians. The case of global Confucianism raises the sociological question of religious identity: What factors contribute to the dearth of self-avowed religious identifications in some societies, and to the proliferation of such identifications in others? I suggest that contemporary Confucianism is a case of the potential transformation of implicit religious identity into explicit religious identity under new social and political conditions of transnational religious practice.
In this interview, the late Robert Bellah outlines his thoughts on and academic contributions to the study of religion in Chinese Society. Drawing on his extensive experience and knowledge, Dr. Bellah answers a wide range of questions from the role China played in his intellectual endeavors to the role of Confucianism in China, to Sheilaism and civil religion as universal phenomena.