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Many modern scholars understand Confucianism and the Analects to a philosophy of State and societal order that includes personal attention to rituals of propriety and bearing. The question whether Confucianism is religion or philosophy is a byproduct of the Western Enlightenment, or Cartesian thinking lacking, historical embeddedness. Confucianism, therefore, is thought by many to have been a secular formula for statecraft, grounded in Confucius’s spurning the overtly religious in favor of a this-worldly policy platform, which gestured respectfully, but perfunctorily, toward Heaven, while focusing efforts on cultivating the ideal citizen on earth. Coupled with the historical, textual, and archaeological record of ancient and classical China, recent scholarship provides evidence that calls this view into question. This chapter follows the lead of new scholarship to view the Confucian junzi (gentleman) as an exemplary synthesis of the great idea of religion and freedom. It defends the claim that Confucius considered freedom to be greatness in concert with Heaven and that the ideal of greatness in concert with Heaven is the great idea of religion and freedom in classical Chinese history and thought and as understood by Mortimer J. Adler.

In: The Great Ideas of Religion and Freedom