Religious Diversity and Public Religion in China

Article excerpt

Religious Diversity and Public Religion in China. Zhibin Xie. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006. Pp. vii, 160. $89.95 / £45.

This volume addresses the issue of the appropriate role of religion in public political life and its implications for China. The first part discusses Western philosophical discourse on the publicness of religion and religion in public political culture, drawing on the views of John Rawls and Robert Audi. Switching to a more empirical focus, the second part surveys the religious scene in China, dwelling on its doctrinal and organizational diversity and the strict control that the state places on religion. The third part proposes a liberal "constrained public religion" in China, advocating both religious contribution to the public sphere and constraints on the state and religions for regulating public religious political discourse.

Based on a doctoral dissertation in philosophy, the book is largely a work on the normative philosophy of religion. The core issues addressed are primarily academic arguments within Western pluralistic, democratic societies, with liberal thinkers pleading restraint and communitarian scholars urging a greater role for religion in publi political debate. The case selected for analysis (the abortion debate) is also vintage America, not China, where the American framing of the issue just does not fit. …