Not sure if you’ve heard the news, but China has banned Western religious music. Well, technically, it was banned all along, but only now are the powers that be getting their red and yellow panties in a bunch.

The banning news hit the wire after The Messiah, as to be performed by Britian’s Academy of Ancient Music at the Beijing International Music Festival, was changed from a public performance to invite only.

Also shutout was Mozart’s Requiem, set to be performed in Dujiangyan, a city heavily hit by the tragic Sichuan earthquake this past spring.

According to an opinion piece in the Guardian by Catherine Sampson, the new ban signifies a step backwards by the Party in an attempt to regain control of the Christianity running rampantly through its friction-filled Middle Kingdom.

And though I think any sort of ban on music (Christian or otherwise) is completely ridiculous; rolling the issue into a ‘Lord be with us, the persecuted” message, which the largely Christian-run Western media is prone to do, is equally daft.

It’s no secret that religion is closely controlled and monitored in China, and as an atheist, I don’t necessarily disagree with it being so.

Now I know a lot of Christians are going to raise issue with this, but if there’s one thing that events past and present endlessly illustrate for us (with pop-pop-pop-up book simplicity no less), it’s that religion (particularly the branches involving the big guy upstairs) can quickly grab control of peoples and nations and make them do holy horrible things.

With NGOs of dubious intentions and missionaries disguised as ESL teachers sneaking their way into China, it’s hard to fault a government that is nothing if not cautious and apprehensive about the West’s witchy ways.

Granted, when most of us listen to the “Hallelujah” chorus of The Messiah, we aren’t really considering our devotion to the Lord Saviour Jesus Christ. We’re just thinking that it is beautiful. Which, of course, it is.

But when judging whether something should be allowed for public consumption (again, in a country that is not exactly shy about its censorship) it likely just comes down to hard-cold translations.

When making a decision on what passes and what doesn’t, we need to remember that the stuffy old comrade is sitting in a smoke-filled office sipping green tea with a Chinese translation of:

Provide me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
guiding me to Your right hand.

When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.

I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.

Mozart’s Requiem

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth / The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. / King of kings, and lord of lords.

– Handel’s The Messiah (“Hallelujah”)

It might not be right, but it certainly isn’t surprising. Well, no more so than yoga being banned from public schools because of its ties to Hinduism.

h/t Hao Hao Report

Discussion

14
  1. “It’s no secret that religion is closely controlled and monitored in China, and as an atheist, I don’t necessarily disagree with it being so.”

    “Now I know a lot of Christians are going to raise issue with this, but if there’s one thing that events past and present endlessly illustrate for us (with pop-pop-pop-up book simplicity no less), it’s that religion (particularly the branches involving the big guy upstairs) can quickly grab control of peoples and nations and make them do holy horrible things.”

    Pretty silly logic on the first statement, going along with the controlling and monitoring of a group simply because you’re not in it. That would be like me going along with racial profiling, since as a white guy, I’m not going to be affected.

    And the second paragraph has some logic issues as well. Looking at history, much evil has been done in the name of all sorts of things, including athiesm. Humanity is a species capable of evil, and quick to use ANY method to carry out such evil. Religion can be a tool for evil among many, including political ideology, race, nationalism, what have you. While evil has been done in the name of Allah, Christ, and others, there is a vast expanse of humanity with religion that is just as shocked at the evil carried out in history as the athiests. Blaming religion is a cop-out.

    Other than that, agree with you on the sillyness of the music ban.

  2. Let me draw a very distinct line here. I do not agree with the persecution of any people, as I am a member of that group.

    My meaning is that religion is often used as a form of mass control and mass mobilization. I can understand, from the point of view of a government of a country that has a 5,000 year history of bloody revolts and civil wars, it’s pretty understandable.

    You’re absolutely right that religion is most often just a vehicle by which evil people do evil things. Just as the lack of religion (Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia being too recent examples) has done the same.

    I’m not blaming religion for the world’s ills. Rather merely pointing out that I don’t disagree with a government – charged with the stability of a nation as large, volatile and diverse as China – seeing a need to keep tabs on what to them is a foreign-influenced load of mind-controlling mumbo-jumbo.

    And there-in lies the distinction. If being religious and believing in a higher power was simply a personal, internal thing (which I understand it is for a lot of modern, liberal Christians) – no bother. I believe in personal freedom 100%. However, organized religion is very much not this. It is influential, manipulative, power hungry and infectious.

    But now I’m a bit off topic. I wonder if DC Talk is also banned?

  3. I also find your logic hard to understand. The Chinese government’s belief system is atheism, this is what is taught in all schools.

    Your logic says that it is ok for the government to crack down on other religions in order to keep order in the great nation of China.

    If old fashioned organized Christianity were the governments chosen belief system, and everyone were taught follow that religion. Would you still think that it would be ok for the government crack down on other beliefs including atheism for the sake of stability?

    btw I am not a fan of religion politics mixing.

  4. If old fashioned organized Christianity were the governments chosen belief system, and everyone were taught follow that religion. Would you still think that it would be ok for the government crack down on other beliefs including atheism for the sake of stability?

    See the last link in the post.

    Atheism isn’t a religion any more than not believing in Santa Claus isn’t a religion.

  5. But it is still a belief system that is actively taught, has evangelists and many passionate followers.

    Just because they don’t follow lots of binding traditions/believe in a higher power doesn’t change the fact that people have the right to believe in it’s ideas.

    Would it be ok for a crackdown who actively promoted/argued for atheism in the name of stability?

  6. @Sir Stingley: As an exercise in semantics, let me change “as an atheist” to “as a nontheis”. To me they mean the same thing, but perhaps atheism has a connotation that I’m ignorant of that gives it “religious” like qualities. This is a falsity.

    Atheism doesn’t have followers. There is no doctrine. There is no organization. Atheism, at least to my definition, is simply the dis-belief in a god or gods playing puppetmaster to our world.

    It is a system of belief though, as much as not believing gremlins will steal my soul in the middle of the night is a system of belief.

    Now if not believing in a god or gods was cracked down upon (as most major religions have done for centuries, and continue to do today), of course I would disagree with it. As I disagree with the persecution of all people.

    But again, atheism isn’t a group – it’s not organized. It doesn’t tell massive parts of the population how to live, under punishment of fiery damnation.

    I don’t disagree with monitoring of the church because I don’t disagree with (at least passive) monitoring of cults, gangs and other large – undemocratic – societies.

    And here’s why – I’m a libertarian. I believe strongly in individual liberties and personal freedom. I realize this conversation is about China, and about crackdowns, which both seem contrary to libertarian ideals.

    However, though I believe allowing people to believe in whatever they choose is a basic human right, I also believe that people that organize and head religion are very much against libertarian methodology. Societies with largely religious populations are rarely free to think, act and do as they please.

    Near without exception, they have an iron-clad top-down hierarchy of control. No free will, and no democratic process, which assures free will.

    Bit of a long explanation there, but I hope I’ve clarified what my meaning was. Again, I’m not in support of crack downs (nor did I say I was), I am in support of (at least some) monitoring and controlling of religious organizations (for all the reasons above).

  7. Actually there are a great number of followers of atheism. They may not have an organized society, but I have met many people who would actively try to “convert” me from Christianity to their ways of thinking, without me even meaning to bring it up.

    There is no organized group. But in the same sense there is no “official” endorsed by God christian organization. It doesn’t take much reading of the bible to realize that this is the case.

    In fact you tend to find that with almost anything that people can have an opinion on there are active followers who try and convert people to their way of thinking. Take for example politics and listen to the arguments between republicans and democrats.

    While atheists don’t tell people what to do in their life, as in how to live, atheism is taught in most western schools as the “intelligent” persons way of thinking, and a great stigma is attached to those who choose not to follow. Is that still liberty?

    I’m sorry that I understood your article to mean that you weren’t against cracking down but as you rightly pointed out controlling and monitoring.

    But if people are to have freedom and liberty, to what level do you think the government should be able to control religious groups without compromising the liberty of the groups and the individuals within those groups?

  8. But if people are to have freedom and liberty, to what level do you think the government should be able to control religious groups without compromising the liberty of the groups and the individuals within those groups?

    That’s the multi-billion dollar question, isn’t it. Clearly it’s a balance, as government involvement in anything is. And, I suppose, if anyone had the answer, we’d all be living in a better world.

    Actually there are a great number of followers of atheism

    You’re still trying to lump atheists into a group like a religion. It just isn’t that simple. People don’t “follow” atheism, they just don’t follow a religion.

    And though I see this falling into a evolution vs. creationism debate – atheism is not taught in most Western schools. Science is taught in Western schools (as it is in Eastern schools). That science doesn’t include Christian beliefs is a shortcoming of Christianity, not failure to create a well-rounded curriculum.

    All Christianity need do to legitimize itself to the scientific community (which I assume you mean by “the ‘intelligent’ persons way of thinking”) is to produce evidence that holds up to scientific methodology.

    Christians proposing we replace (or even supplement) scientific learning with religious beliefs is (a) a gross disservice to humanity, and (b) a huge leap backwards in the evolution of our species.

  9. I think the trouble with the religion-science debate is that a select few from both sides try to pass Christianity as science (or decry it as being unscientific). While the vast majority (I hope) are more like me who know that science is a way of proving truths through expiriment and study, while religion is a hope/belief/explanation of truths that as of yet can not be proven, hence no contradiction in having both. So I agree with your last paragraph, Christianity should NOT attempt to replace ANY kind of science.

    The trouble is when the community establishes athiesm as a universal truth while religion is something to be monitored. I understand and agree with some of your arguement, Ryan, but I think you’re in denial to the fact that athiesm in many cases IS an organized belief system forced on people. It is very much so in China.

    I’m willing to bet you’d be very offended if the tables were turned and the groups being “monitored” were people who refused to believe in a God. For a libertarian, you have some awfully un-libertarian ideas. People should have the right to believe in any which way they want. The answer to the multi-billion dollar question is quite simple: No monitoring. Period.

  10. Hmmm, I do not believe in atheism, I believe in logical deduction from known facts, attempting to theorise and test theories for unknown phenomenon, and re-writing the books when new evidence comes to light. This is called the Scientific Method.

    Even with the presence of the Scientific Method a, or several religions may turn out to be correct. I do believe religion should be taught in schools. And along with all global religions the story of the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be included too, as a demonstration that many stories may be true, but if they all present the same level of evidence and lack of methods to be tested they should all be thrown into the same [best Vulcan accent] “Possible, but highly improbable.”

  11. im going to have to echo what ryan said. atheism isn’t a religion but an absence of theism. see i knew that greek would come in handy someday. it can’t have ‘followers’ in the sense that christianity or islam or heaven’s gate does as there is no common SYSTEM of beliefs. things are typically not organised by absences of markers but by there presence.

    can’t hardly blame china for not wanting evangelical christianity to spread. it’s not typically the moderates who try to spread the word of god, and the people who do aren’t the ones you’d want influencing your system when it’s a system so havily built upon systems of control

  12. In China atheistism is a religion. In the sense that it is taught in schools and it is the accepted norm in social settings. Kids have no choice on this. It is goverment policy. Now,,I do have liberterian leanings but as regards religion… Man do I hate it. To me it’s just mumbo-jumbo-aberakedabra-bullshit. That’s why I like China – very little religion screwing up the minds of innocent people. That’s also why I dislike china (but not by much), I strongly think a human should believe whatever the heck they want to believe to make it through the day. If people want a little personal mumbo-jumbo, so be it.
    On a personal note – I have never, ever tried to convert or change someones religion or values. We should be free to live by what ever bullshit floats our boat – China no different.

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