Religion as a Means of State Control

NOTE: This is an ongoing original fiction story that I’m currently writing. I started writing this fictional story back at the beginning of October 2020 and contribute ~500 words to it every day on this blog. I didn’t outline the story at all going into it but it’s slowly evolved into a tale about a data scientist in his mid-thirties from America who finds himself summoned to China where’s he’s been offered a job to work for the Chinese Communist Party on a project monitoring the Uyghurs in the Chinese “autonomous region” of Xinjiang. In China, the story’s protagonist, Dexter Fletcher, meets other professionals who’ve also been brought in from abroad to help consult on the project. My story takes place several decades in the future and explores human rights, privacy in an age of ever-increasing state-surveillance, and differences between competing dichotomies: democracy vs communism, eastern vs western political philosophies, and individual liberties vs collective security. If this sounds interesting and you’d like to read more, my fiction story starts here.

Chapter Five – Passage Seven

Never before has anyone ever in the history of nation-building gone into the enterprise a humble man.  But once you actually get into the nitty-gritty, and are knee-deep in all the gory details, then the inevitable humility rapidly sets in.  What I slowly realize over the days and weeks that follow as we discuss and debate for hours on end was that there existed a chasm the width of the Milky Way between the Uyghur and the Chinese populations.  Essentially, Alan and Van gave us a very quick crash course covering all of China in just several days.  It was certainly an education.

For instance, here’s an easy but illuminating example:  Religion.

China is officially an atheist state but has informally made an exception for two religions:  Buddhism and Taoism.  One main reason is that the CCP considers Buddhism and Taoism to be “Asians religions” and a global check on “foreign religions” such as Christianity and Islam.  But the second big reason was that Buddhism and Taoism prominently champion the idea of reincarnation whereas in Christianity and Islam, there exist very-well defined notions of an “afterlife” that is distinctly different than the corporeal life that we’re all living now.  This is a massive contrast and makes a world of difference when it comes to how a state controls and manages its people.

As Van put succinctly one morning:  “In Buddhism and Taoism, if you do bad things and die, you’ll come back into this world as a dung beetle.  There are no 72 virgin maidens in paradise awaiting you if you die a martyr.  Nor is there a heaven or hell.  There’s simply this human life that we all come back to and nothing else.”

Furthermore, Buddhism and Taoism heavily emphasize good deeds like Judeo-strain of Christianity as opposed to the Protestant-strain where “belief alone” is sufficient for salvation.

In the Protestant version of Christianity, in the New Testament, Jesus is nailed up between two thieves— Dismas the Repentant and Gestas the Not.  Even as he died, bolts driven through his two hands to the Rosewood, the “good thief,” Dismas repents his criminal ways and pastors commonly teach that Dismas follows Christ into heaven.  (Gestas, I guess, is ostensibly condemned to the depths of hell and never seen again.  Sunday School often left that part out.)

In Buddhism and Taoism though– there is no repentance for salvation.  Belief as a card to heaven simply doesn’t even exist.  Instead, these two CCP-approved religions solely emphasize that your fate in the great cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth is solely defined by your character.  If you do bad things, you are simply doomed.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  It’s simply game over.  And, conveniently for the CCP, “good character” largely follows Confucianism– an ancient Chinese philosophical school of thought dating back to 2070 BCE that primary champions obedience.

Well, of course, Xinjiang is a Muslim-majority population.

So… great.  Now we essentially have two populations– the Uyghurs in Xinjiang on one side.  And the Buddhists/Taoists/Atheists of China on the other.  What divides them, religious belief, is not a matter that can be empirically decided or proved in this material world.  Yet, this monumental schism exists.  How the hell are we supposed to solve this?

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