You know, I was raised as a Roman Catholic Christian. I don't practice, nor believe, in the tenets of Christianity any more, and perhaps this was due to my studies in anthropology and history. Studying comparative religions in my anthropology studies, I learned that religion works essentially as a mirror. In that mirror, you should see reflected back your culture, it's norms, values, traditions, morality, etc. That's fine. The religion, when functioning in harmony with the culture will tend to change as the culture changes. However, when one codifies, that is, writes down and "concretizes", these doctrines as part of religious laws, then we have a situation where the religion does not change, even when the society or culture in general may undergo change, and even significant change, over time. At this point, we have what is called a "disconnect".
When I read the Gnostic Gospels, those discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in the 1940s, and finally translated form the original Coptic, I realized that there was no one "true" aspect of what was considered to be "Christian truth". This was, for all intents and purposes, a whole other sect of early Christianity, that had a different interpretation of the life of this Jesus character, and essentially said that the resurrection of the Christ was metaphorical, symbolic, and an expression of the transcendence of our experience as humans, as we have to "die" to our "nature", and "rise again", to a new consciousness and reality. It appeared that this sect was not in step with the "orthodox" early Christianity. The literal resurrection of Christ, the basis of all current Christian traditions and beliefs, and the foundation of the whole religion of over 1 billion people worldwide, seems to have been "invented" for a political power play!
It all just reinforced my suspicions and ideas that religion is just another way to justify power, within the cultural context. The Gnostic Gospels really put the nail in the coffin for me once and for all, in terms of having any "faith" in organized religion.
This does not mean that I don't respect religion, and am not interested in it. It is endlessly fascinating to me, is part of how I was raised, and was a big part of my life for a time, in my youth. But essentially, I am an agnostic, the opposite of the "Gnostics", who "knew". I "don't know", and so cannot be an "atheist", for I cannot prove, or disprove, that which cannot be proved, that is "god", the transcendent, whose attempt mythology and folklore and religion attempt to explain. To "explain the unexplainable" in language that is idiomatic, figurative, and metaphorical, is complicated, and is what religions are all about, though we get stuck with the "myth" instead of the "meaning or message" of the myth.
Now, I am a university professor in Macau, and have been working and living in Asia for the past seven years. I'm an anthropologist, historian, and also archaeologist as well.
I came to China to learn more about, and experience, this ancient civilization and this important modern, and developing society that was undergoing some changes. I came here with great responsibility as a teacher, not to tell my students what to think, or even how to think. That is up to them to do.
At times, in the past five years of teaching in mainland China, I have come across Chinese Christians, converts, as it were. They encounter me, and think that I am a practicing Christian, just because I am a foreigner. I am not. In the PRC, practicing Christianity openly, in a non-sanctioned, non-state supported church, is not a good thing to do.
I avoided these Chinese Christians like the plague when in mainland China, in part because I didn't want any trouble from authorities, and in part because I am not Christian, and don't want to be part of this "group".
One day, a rather persistent convert followed me from the subway to the bus to my stop with his bible, and kept proclaiming "jesus this" and "jesus that" to me in English. I disagreed with him, tried to move to another chair, and was only puppy dogged by this guy. When I got off at my stop, he did too, and informed me that his "church", had a "congregation" every week in the Tiley Building in Nan Shan, Shenzhen. He invited me to come, I declined. He told me how these "white haired foreigners from America", had "shown him the truth". They were Evangelical Christians.
How dare you! You come to China, prey upon people (likely getting them into trouble), and try to say "my culture is better than your culture"! How dare you!
The audacity! The small mindedness! The ethnocentrism!!!!!! You think your culture is better than another, and your religion is better than another?????
Tonight, one of my students asked me some questions after class. She told me that her high school English teacher was a Christian, and that this person told the students that "Christianity" was better than Chinese culture! So, this English teacher came to China to convert 14-year old kids!! So, prey upon the vulnerable, try to convert the uncertain, and do underhanded things to get the converts and in the process, totally mess with someone's life, their psyche, and their head. You think you helped these kids? You sent them into shock, questioning who they are, where they belong, and told them that their parents are all wrong, and that you are right.
I asked my student if she felt pressure and unease as a result of this, and she said yes. She further told me that her friends, Christians, were pressuring her to convert. Peer pressure. I asked her if she felt comfortable about it, and she said no. She cannot make herself believe, and doesn't like this kind of thing.
I, as her teacher and her friend, and as one who does not want to influence her to give in or resist, merely asked her what she wants to do. She said she doesn't want to do this. I said, ok. She asked me if I was Christian, and I told her that I used to be. She asked me why, and I told her. But I told her also that I respect the religion. I did not dissuade her. I did not persuade her. She is 19, and can make up her own mind.
I am a cultural relativist, which means, I do not want to impose my culture upon another, and will not judge another culture, or member of another culture, based on my culture. It is the opposite of what most people do, which is ethnocentrism. This is the value judgments that one makes about another culture, based on the norms and values of his own culture. Of course, the latter is a very natural thing to do, and the former is difficult to do. But it takes a great deal of cultural awareness, self reflection, and questioning of one's own culture, values, beliefs, norms, etc. to be effective at the former, and no one can truly escape one's own culture completely, in terms of world view.
But, it made me angry. How dare these Christians who come to Asia, and try to convert students! That is not your job, and it is not what you have been hired for! If you are teaching English, you have no right to convert students to Christianity! Okay, you can talk about the religion, and talk about its holidays, and why they are important to Christians, but that is not the same as preaching the religion, making value judgments, and trying to make converts!
So, proselytizing Christians in China, and elsewhere, you suck.
That is my personal, and professional opinion.