The three main godless religions today are Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Each of these have their origins in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC and share common beliefs about the universe and the nature and purpose of life.
Fullness of Time Hypothesis
The Fullness of Time Hypothesis (FTH) suggests that God prepared the world for the coming of Jesus Christ by transforming the belief systems of major civilizations and homogenizing cultures for rapid communication.The transition period has arbitrarily been set at between 586 BC (after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II) and 323 BC (up to the death of Alexander the Great).
God told the Jews that they had broken the covenant and were no longer under its protection. The the destruction of Jerusalem and subsequent exile of the Jews was clear evidence that the Old Mosaic Covenant was over.
Jeremiah 22:6-9 New International Version (NIV)
6 For this is what the Lord says about the palace of the king of Judah:
“Though you are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
I will surely make you like a wasteland,
like towns not inhabited.
7 I will send destroyers against you,
each man with his weapons,
and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
and throw them into the fire.
8 “People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’ 9 And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’”
The new covenant would be different. It would be founded on better principles. It would be personal and interior.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 New International Version (NIV)
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Greece and Rome
In West Asia and the Mediterranean, Hellenism has been the dominant cultural trademark since the conquests of Alexander. As a philosophical viewpoint, it admits to secular humanistic ideas and denies the existence of God or a creator. However, its scientific and philosophical inventions have made the world a better place and universalized western culture for the better.
Hellenism succeeded in elevating the status of the individual and promoting individual decision-making with regard to God and spirituality. Without this freedom of expression and decision, faith in Jesus Christ would simply be another aspect of outward idolatry from the ancient world.
China and India
Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are godless religions because they do not depend on faith in any God or gods. They do not admit to the concept of sin. Buddhism developed in Nepal and spread to India and China. Taoism and Confucianism are distinctly Chinese and have only recently spread around the world.
Buddhism advances ideas that:
- All life is suffering.
- The cause of suffering is desire.
- By stopping desire, suffering stops.
- By following “The Eightfold Path”, desire stops. The Eightfold Path is composed of: right views, right intentions, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Right concentration includes the practice of meditation and promotes development of the inner spiritual life. The practice of meditation has many benefits and allows Christians to experience God, Jesus and Heaven on the inside. Historically, Christianity has avoided this interior life, except for a few ascetics like Teresa of Avila.
Taoism is a deeply spiritual endeavor with personal interpretations. It advocates meditation, yoga, massage and breathing exercises. When read through the understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, many Taoist sayings become useful in improving one’s personal understanding of the world and the nature of God’s laws.
With particular emphasis on the importance of the family and social harmony, rather than on an otherworldly source of spiritual values, the core of Confucianism is humanistic. According to Herbert Fingarette’s conceptualization of Confucianism as a religion which regards ‘the secular as sacred’, Confucianism transcends the dichotomy between religion and humanism, considering the ordinary activities of human life—and especially human relationships—as a manifestation of the sacred, because they are the expression of humanity’s moral nature (xìng 性), which has a transcendent anchorage in Heaven (Tiān 天) and unfolds through an appropriate respect for the spirits or gods (shén) of the world.
Secular or Religious
These three godless religions mirror the secular humanistic philosophy dominated by Hellenism in the west. By promoting individual responsibility and decision-making, the world is now ready for individuals to take responsibility and accept personal faith in Jesus Christ as their God and savior. When modern preachers address people in these cultures, they should find common ground to bridge the philosophical gap and not denounce them as ‘all evil and of the devil’.