Mao*s Cultural Revolution and Religion

Mao’s Cultural Revolution and
Jemina and Waltteri
❖ Before 1949 there was no official religious
➢ Foreign missionaries faced some opposition
➢ Buddhism and Taoism the most common
religions but also Christian minorities
➢ Most Chinese not particularly spiritual
➢ Intellectuals didn’t practice spiritual rituals
but followed principles of Confucianism
❖ After Mao came to power, the party attempted to replace religious ideologies with
communist ones
➢ Religion was seen as a capitalist invention to keep the lower classes in their place with
promises of a better afterlife
➢ Mao: “Organized religion is poison and as bad as Nazism” → perspective
➢ Religious toleration guaranteed by the Constitution; however a campaign against
“superstition” began in 1950 forbidding traditional religious rituals
➢ “Patriotic Churches” operating under government control
➢ Religious persecution against Buddhists was especially strong in Tibet; contributed to
the genocide of estimated 1.2M people
During the Cultural Revolution
❖ Considered to belong to “The Four Olds”; the aim of the CR was
to get rid of these → change
➢ Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits and Old Ideas
❖ Active suppression of religion → consequence and significance
➢ No public worship or ceremony allowed
➢ The remaining clergy was imprisoned or forced to labour and reeducation
➢ Religious monuments and buildings were destroyed as well as
historical and religious texts
Survival of religion during the Cultural Revolution
❖ Christian organizations went underground
➢ in remote rural areas Christianity actually spread during the revolution as
people converted
❖ Many religious rituals were carried out within the family which ensured
the endurance of the religion → continuity
➢ Eg. ancestor worshipping still remains widespread in today’s China
❖ The major religions were almost destroyed but did not die out