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Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je0i7d2 wrote

Actually, that is a translation error.

The word is Shen, which more similar to a Saint in English.

When you go to a temple, you are asking for that Shen to pray for you. On your behalf. Because that religion you do not have access to God.

Christians are the ones who believe they have unfettered access to God. They do not.

The only ones who can communicate with God are these Shens / Saints. If you pray to them, they might say some words on your behalf. But no guarantees.


3athompson t1_je0mtxt wrote

Eh, the intermediary deities to the heavenly bureaucracy like the Kitchen God are still full-on deities in their own right.

Others, like Guan Yu(Guandi) and Matzu, are much more directly gods, especially in California.

The distinction between a saint and a God may matter in Christianity but it doesn’t necessarily matter in other religions.


Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je0r1m1 wrote

They aren't. Matzu was a real woman.

She lived, and she prayed that her family would survive and they did.

So we pray to her in hopes that she will say prayers on our behalf.

I know that one because I'm a sailor.

In the interest of conversation and education. Are you Chinese or Taiwanese?

I'm not, I'm Irish / Italian American, my wife is Taiwanese. And it took me a long time to figure this stuff out and learn all this stuff.

I believe it was Christian priests trying to convince Asians that they were pagans so they could convert them to Christianity.

Also, my wife and I were married properly in Taipei according to her family's traditions and religion. But we were also married here in the US. I'm Roman Catholic and spent 12 years in Catholic School.

So I spent a lot of time talking to the priest about this. And he was a pretty senior priest getting promoted.

And ours was the last wedding he performed because then he was put in charge of all the weddings in the state and training other priests how do weddings.

He was no joke. He knew his stuff. He actually yelled at my entire family during the rehearsal ceremony. He yelled at 30 people. When I say Irish Catholic, that is my direct family. No cousins in that count. Just Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters and their children.



3athompson t1_je1738v wrote

If I might ask, what do you consider the difference between saint and god to be? I’m specifically talking about small g god, not the big G God of a monotheistic religion.


Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je19ksp wrote

In my religion, there is only one true God.

I don't know if you know that much about Christianity. But you have God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We describe this as the Trinity.

The only one who set foot on this planet was Jesus, the Son.

There is no others.

There are Shens and Saints and other blessed individuals. But they aren't Gods or gods.

It's kind of a long book.


piaofuzhe t1_je29pm4 wrote

Chinese person here, raised in a household that adheres to traditional folk beliefs - we generally treat 神 (shén) as gods in the sense that they're powerful beings that can be prayed to directly for something that falls within their sphere of oversight, rather than intermediaries (as mentioned by /u/3amthompson there are some, like the stove god Zaoshen/Zaojun, whose job is for example to report on a family's deeds, but we would still consider them to be 神 themselves). Many of them did start out as regular humans, but that doesn't disqualify them from also being deities. I'm not a theologian or anything, but the way I was taught about that was largely in the same terms that we talk about ancestor worship (in the sense that, following their passing as mortals, they continue to influence the material world and can be communicated with and beseeched for blessings through prayer and offerings).

I think one point of difficulty here may be the matter of different linguistic/cultural/religious ideas about what exactly a "god" is - the Abrahamic faiths have a very clear distinction between God, saints, etc., but this isn't necessarily the case in traditional Chinese faiths where things are somewhat more fluid. I wouldn't consider my late great grandfather to be a 神, but I make offerings at his grave in much the same way as I would at a shrine or temple of a local Chenghuang or Tudigong, and likewise when I ask for his protection I'm asking for it directly from him, not asking him to petition heaven for a blessing.

Another thing is the fact that folk belief isn't an organized faith in the way that, say, Christianity or Sikhism are, and it's highly syncretic - that means that it varies significantly from place to place and can incorporate elements of many belief systems. Typically, the main sources for that are Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism (which itself is debatably a religion, a philosophy, or something else entirely), but others are certainly possible; my own family's traditions mostly incorporate Buddhist and Confucian teachings, but we worship some Taoist deities as well. There's also some uncertainty about the extent to which such folk beliefs constitute a religion at all - my parents regularly make offerings at temples and keep a shrine in their home, but if asked I'm not sure they would call themselves religious. I believe the situation is similar in Japan with Shinto (which, incidentally, has kami (also written as 神) which I would consider somewhat analogous/comparable to shén).

While I don't know for sure, it sounds like the version of folk belief you learned about might have drawn partially on Abrahamic traditions? It certainly wouldn't be unheard of, and I don't doubt at all that some people do view 神 that way. However, my understanding is that it's relatively uncommon, and I would be cautious about generalizing that (or really any strict belief, given the diversity that exists under the umbrella) to Chinese folk belief as a whole as there are plenty of people who see things differently.


Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je2fpr9 wrote

If you want to misuse words. That is up to you.

If you want to call chicken McNuggets a Big Mac. That is up to you.


piaofuzhe t1_je2gmge wrote

I'm not quite sure what you mean here? I've described my understanding of the situation based on my lived cultural knowledge of my faith and acknowledged that others' experiences might be different, what words am I misusing?


Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je2nte7 wrote

This was the issue.

Words are different. The words assigned to your "gods" were by Catholic priests trying to convert the people in your country.

Is Matzu a God? Can she bring you back to life? Can she control the weather?

Matzu is a Shen, like a Saint.

I don't want to debate this anymore.

I have died twice.


mully_and_sculder t1_je2t22p wrote

So the Roman Catholic priest taught you all about the Chinese gods? Cool.

Your explanation sounds almost perfectly Roman Catholic and you're even arguing with the Chinese people who are telling you otherwise.


barefeet69 t1_je1kuqs wrote

>The word is Shen, which more similar to a Saint in English.

False. Shen can mean deity or god. It's interchangeable. There's also no concept of a "one true God". That's a feature in Abrahamic religions. So you can't just squeeze it into a different context.

There's also Xian, which means immortal. Mostly in Taoist folklore where it is believed that some people achieved immortality by spiritual cultivation or other means. They're also part of the pantheon.

In the folklore, the pantheon operates more like a government where each deity/immortal has a duty or office they're in charge of.

>When you go to a temple, you are asking for that Shen to pray for you. On your behalf. Because that religion you do not have access to God.

Not the case here. Whatever you're referring to appears to be some sort of Christian sect.


Dr_Emmett_Brown_4 t1_je1lugl wrote

Are these the words of a 12 year old?

I qualified my research.

But you are just here slinging whatever based on nothing.

So I have no interest in hearing about it.


barefeet69 t1_jeezjsr wrote

You gave the wrong definition of shen (神). Either you can't read Chinese or you don't know how to use an online dictionary.

Nothing you described has any resemblance to common Taoist/folk religion mythology among the Chinese diaspora. I described what is common in the folklore. If you don't recognize it at all, you simply don't know what you're talking about.

You probably subscribe to some new age guru bs that combines Eastern mythology with good old Christianity.