Saturday, June 27, 2015

The commercialisation of religion in China (The Economist)

In The Economist this week, an article titled 'Zen and the art of moneymaking' discusses how Chinese officials are erecting Buddhist statues (even mega-Buddha statues) and temples that are pretty much aimed at parting tourists from their money. While a foreign tourist is quoted saying the experience is a bit too fake for her liking, the trend is continuing apace which suggests that many people are less deterred by these 'authenticity' concerns.

Now, as a Westerner I have my ideas of what is in 'good taste'. However, what I think to be my ideas are, in truth, just the ideas of the time and place in which I find myself. That is to say they are not absolute and self-determined and as such, that I shouldn't necessary overlay a sense of right and wrong on any utility that derive from an authentic versus simulated or partially authentic experience.

As to the issue of exploitation and commercialisation of religion, here are some great quotes from the Comments section of the article.

[...some Buddhists are riled by the commercialisation of their faith.]
Ever heard of "Christmas"???

"This is nothing compared to commercial exploitation of religion by neo-liberals in their Protestant work ethics."

and adds:

"Some rich Chinese Buddhist entrepreneurs should re-enact the 2Bamiyan Buddhas that were destroyed by the Taliban terrorists. They can get Buddha blessings by making money for themselves and also keep the memories of the cultural objects alive for the sake of posterity"


"Because you know, we here in the West would NEVER lower ourselves to earning tourist dollars from religion, like those base Chinese. Please, the $28 is to support the legitimate good work the church is performing, silly goose.

 If you visit St. Paul's Cathedral in London, you have to pay $28 (!!) for admission & Westminster Abbey costs $31 (!!!) just to enter. To borrow the author's (smugly snickering "Oh those crass Chinese!") tone, not very Christ-like now, is it?" 

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