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Daoism is a prominent religion in China that began during the 6ih century BCE. The founder of Daoism, Lao-Tse was born to a shooting star about 600 years before Jesus Christ, who was born to a virgin. Both of these births, while very different, happened through extraordinary means. Throughout this essay the similarities and differences between Daoism and Christianity will be explored. Daoism is much more abstract than Christianity, for the Dao itself is somewhat undefined, and left for followers to figure out themselves.
This compares to Christianity in the way that parables in the Bible leave it to the reader to understand the messages in their own way. The beliefs of both religions will be thoroughly discussed in comparison to each other in order to define certain truths about each.
Christianity places great emphasis on living the way God wants you to live. The Ten Commandments displays ten rules under which Christians are expected to abide by in order to have eternal life in heaven.
Through this philosophy, sin is also mentioned a great deal in the Bible. This is one of the most recognizable differences between Daoism and Christianity, the failure of Daoists to acknowledge the consequences of sin on Earth. Daoists go so far as to say that without any rules, regulations, or expectations, humans will show compassion to one another on their own. In relation, Daoists do not believe they will be “saved” like Christians do. “Instead of worshiping the God who created the heavens and earth, Taoism says “God” is just a force that people need to harmonize themselves with.
There is no personal relationship between you and the Tao” (Caleb). Daoism is not about the afterlife like how Christianity teaches about heaven. Instead, Daoists strive to find meaning in their everyday lives through meditation and interaction with nature. Christianity provides a relationship with the Creator.
Christians are encouraged to speak with God through prayer and study about Him using the Bible. Daoists, however, have a founder, but do not speak or pray to a god, but seek enlightenment within them instead. There are over 20 million believers in Daoism today, who all believe in the Dao, which does not have a definition. This may be hard for some Christians to understand, since their beliefs, like the Ten Commandments, are more set in stone (pun intended). A similarity between the two religions when looking at the big picture is that both encourage followers to harmonize with a force that is bigger than them, but “these two religious traditions have different ways of expressing why people fail to live the life they should” (Saint Mary’s Press). Daoism teaches that the human way of thinking has a good side and a bad side, the good being that it has assisted in accomplishing great feats, the bad side being that it can distract followers from discovering the Dao. This is similar to Christians deviating from the teachings of the Bible and entering into sin.
Jesus and Lao Tzu are different when it comes to historical reference because Jesus is considered an actual human that walked this earth. He is taught about in historical literature and was thought to possess divine powers through God that other humans did not. Jesus taught about the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which all three worked as a team to show people the way, the truth, and the light. “As we have seen with other Asian religions, Lao Tzu is understood by his followers to be a human being without any divinity. It isn’t even completely clear that Lao Tzu really existed; he may be a figure of legend only” (Saint Mary’s Press). Jesus is very important to the narrative of the New Testament in the Bible, as it basically maps out his entire life. Jesus spent his short life teaching to anybody who wanted to listen about the grace of God and heaven. Jesus dedicated his life to these teachings, and was even crucified for them. He went willingly, and never faltered from his Father, who raised Jesus from the dead after three days showing His followers that he was divine.
While the New Testament describes the life of Jesus Christ in detail, the holy book of Daoism called the Dao Te Ching, merely displays somewhat non-consecutive quotes and poems. “One theory is that the texts embody an attempt to bring the oral tradition of a certain kind of popular story expressing the wisdom of the “old boy” to the attention of the nobility. It was perhaps thought that by doing so the perspective of the rulers might be transformed for the benefit of both the state and the common man” (Watts). Daoists, in principle, are very trusting followers who do not need too much information to cloud their consciousness in the pursuit of the Dao. “Taoists believe that all values are relative. Any given moral or aesthetic value, for example, has meaning only in relation to its opposite. We could not comprehend beauty without ugliness, nor could we appreciate the value of nonviolence without also understanding violence” (Saint Mary’s Press). This constant balance that Daoists believe in displays that the good cannot exist without the bad, while Christians believe “the existence of evil, rather than being a part of a larger, perfect harmony, is evidence of human sinfulness of something that has gone wrong with God’s creation” (Saint Mary’s Press).
According to Christians, all humans have original sin, due to Eve disobeying God’s rule in the Garden of Eden, and the belief also states that the only things that can save Christians from sin is Jesus Christ and God’s grace. While Christians have The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, Daoists have deities whom they worship. The most important Daoist deity is the Jade Emporer named Yu-Huang. “His chief function is to distribute justice, which he does through the court system of Hell where evil deeds and thoughts are punished. Yu-huang is the Lord of the living and the dead and of all the Buddhas, all the gods, all the spectres and all the demons” (Majka). The Three Pure Ones are also Daoist deities, seeking to spread the word of Dao with all who will listen. This is comparable to Jesus Christ’s twelve disciples, who learned directly from him and went to spread the word of God throughout the land. Taoists practice Tai Chi, which is a form of exercise and meditation. This is usually done while simultaneously contemplating and enjoying nature. These exercises are said to improve one’s health and get them closer to understanding the Dao. The Tao Te Ching teaches these exercises:
Stiff and unbending is the principle of death.
Gentle and yielding is the principle of life.
Thus an Army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
Tao Te Ching (76) (Majka).
Another difference between Christianity and Daoism is that Catholic Christians celebrate seven holy Sacraments throughout their lifetime. The first Sacrament is Baptism, when a mother and father allow their child to be welcomed into the church symbolically with a pool of water, and they make a promise to raise their child in faith. Next comes the Eucharist, where a priest consecrates bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and people receive their first Holy Communion. Confirmation happens when students have gained a full knowledge of the Catholic faith. Reconciliation is the act of being forgiven of your sins in the presence of a priest. Anointing of the sick is a blessing placed on an ill person in the presence of a priest. Matrimony is the holy joining of two people in the church in marriage, and Holy Orders is when someone who becoming a deacon or priest is ordained by the bishop.
These rituals are very important to people of the Catholic faith. Taoist rituals involve music, dancing, the burning of incense, and remembrance of ancestors. “There are two main types of ritual: funeral rites or periodic rites on behalf of ancestors, and rites on behalf of local communities. Both types include rites to install the ritual space, rites of fasting, rites of communion or offering, and rites to disperse the ritual space” (Hardy). In conclusion, Daoism and Christianity are very different religions with different origins. They surprisingly only originated 500-600 years apart from one another, both under pretty extraordinary circumstances, Jesus Christ being born of the Virgin Mary, and Lao Tzu being conceived by a shooting star.
Both of these leaders went on to spread the word of God and the word of the Dao. Daoism is very abstract, in fact the Dao itself is undefined, and followers are supposed to search for the meaning their entire lives through practices such as meditation and nature appreciation. Some parables in the Christian Bible are also sort of abstract, as readers are supposed to find their own meaning behind the story and how it relates to them. Christianity has the Ten Commandments, which dictate what is sin and what is not. Daoists on the other hand hold the belief that rules and regulations are unnecessary, and that everyone will eventually be nice to each other. Christians believe in Heaven, and no afterlife is really mentioned in Dao scriptures. They believe the afterlife is within the true life. Both of these religions have history and are important to many followers around the world.
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