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China: What If Atheism Is a Religion?

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China Power

China: What If Atheism Is a Religion?

China’s Communist Youth League posted a video to advocate atheism.

China: What If Atheism Is a Religion?
Credit: Flickr/ shang jing

China’s Communist Youth League, the cradle for generations of Chinese Communist leaders, tends to be more and more active in the “battlefield” of public opinion, among the youth in particular. Recently, the Communist Youth League launched a new battle on religions: it posted a self-made video on its Weibo, Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to promote atheism.

The 11-minute video is called “What If Atheism Is a Religion?” Different from traditional Chinese communist propaganda or Western religious promotion, the video employed the style of  satire and funny Japanese comics in order to cater to the contemporary young internet generation.

The video proposed the following fundamental questions:

What if atheism is a religion?

If atheism is a religion, who will be the icons?

Who saved the world, God or the people?

What kind of activities do atheists conduct?

The video starts as a young, innocent man meets a group of atheists dressed in white robes. The atheist “pastor” tells the young man that every day is a miracle to the atheist because the “atheist religion” believes that a day without God is the day with a miracle.

Then the “pastor” invites the young man to their “church” and introduces all the great philosophers and scientists in human history they “worship,” including Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Confucius, Karl Marx, and so on. The “pastor” says, “It is the people rather than God who saved the world. For example, it is Willis Carrier, the god of air conditioner, who saved the world from ending up in hot hell.” As for the activities the atheists conduct daily, they recite the physical laws, sing the song of the periodic table of elements, and pray to “the almighty self” for bringing food to the table.

The young man asks the “pastor” innocently: “Other religions always curse us atheists to go to various hells. Now since we atheists also have formed a religion, shall we curse them back?”

The “pastor” sighs: “Our atheist religion is only a joke in the video, but we atheists will never curse anyone, despite other religious people holding prejudice against us in reality.”

In reply, the young man, together with the atheist group, sing the song of “The Internationale” in Chinese, which has the line, “there are no supreme saviors. Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribunes.”

In the end, the video switched back to a serious attitude. It invited some prominent professors from Chinese top-ranked universities, media workers, and online opinion leaders to declare their belief in atheism. Also, the video quoted China’s Constitution:

No state organ, public organization, or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.

Undoubtedly, the video is public advocacy for atheism for the Chinese young generation produced by China’s Communist Youth League. What is noteworthy is that the video won some popularity among Chinese netizens. So far, the video has been re-posted 4,960 times and liked 4,234 times. Among the 3,687 comments, most are positive and supportive (though negative ones could have been deleted) and the most liked comment is an compliment for the video: “The League finally began to publicly advocate atheism. [I’ll] give the League 100 thumbs-up.”

The praise for the video somewhat goes along with the data published by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Communist Party of China officially is atheist, and according to the Commission’s latest-released 2017 Annual Report, more than half the country’s nearly 1.4 billion population is unaffiliated with any religion or belief.