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Part 3: On Religion and the Spirit
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Palau: Philosophy is the intellectual side of the thinking man. Religion, the spiritual side. It deals with the inner person, the soul, the spirit of the person. We tend to divide in the Bible the human person into three parts: the body, the soul and the spirit. The body is the physical machine. Some atheists feel that that is all there is, just the body, but we believe there is more than the body. There is the soul and spirit.

Much of the human race neglects the spiritual side. Philosophy refers to the soul, the intellect, the thinking and analyzing. But the spirit is that side of the human person that gives you the capacity to actually know God.

St. Paul says that we are spiritually dead until we open our hearts to Jesus Christ. So theology has to do with the spiritual side (Translator's note: The interpreter used the term "ultimate concern" when translating this into Chinese.) while philosophy deals with the soul.

Zhao: You just mentioned the expression "ultimate concern." That expression has been variously translated into Chinese. For your reference, I'll explain from the perspective of an atheist my own view on the soul and spirit.

Atheists do not deny their existence, but our interpretation is different from yours, though there are similarities too. Atheists and theists share the same pursuit in the realm of the soul and the spirit. This strong urge is in no way weakened among the atheists just because they do not have God in their heart. You surely know that at the core of each and every culture there exist a spirit and soul, which is distinguishable from others. Similarly, all societies have their own core values. This fact indicates that the spiritual world and beliefs of both the atheists and theists are rich and firm in conviction. They have differences as well as similarities. That is why they need to communicate with each other, if for no other reason than to "decipher" what each might find difficult to understand of the other.

To a great extent, Chinese philosophy might be described as schools of thought about the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world. Epistemological materialism does not deny the existence of the spirit, rather it stresses the dialectical relationship between the physical and the spiritual. In China, the building of the material civilization and of the spiritual civilization has always been equally important. We Chinese think that if we have only a physical or bodily existence and have no soul and spirit, then we humans are no different from a cow, sheep or fish.

Philosophically speaking, we need to distinguish between two different concepts: religion and religiosity. A religion has specific teachings, creeds, rituals, believers, churches and clergymen. Religiosity, on the other hand, refers to certain beliefs. For example, someone may believe in Confucianism. He is not a religious believer, but that does not mean he doesn't have any beliefs.

Palau: I was interested in your distinction between religion and religiosity. I often say Christianity is not a religion, because religion is man's efforts to find God and ultimate reality. When we talk about Jesus Christ, we mean that God came down looking for relationship, not a religion.

Zhao: I want to respond to what you have just said. Religion is designed not by God but by human beings who hope in this way to get closer to the God in their hearts.

Palau: Yes.


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