BEIJING — China’s ruling Communist Party has issued a revised set of regulations governing members’ behavior, threatening punishment for spreading “political rumors” and recommending those who cling to religious beliefs to leave the party, Euro News reported on August 27.
“Party members who have religious belief should have strengthened through education. If they still don’t change after help and education from the party organization, they should be encouraged to leave the party,” President Xi Jinping’s revised rules read.
While the East Asian country’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the party is officially atheist and party members are supposed to be too.
“Those who attend activities that use religion for incitement will be expelled,” the rules continued.
The updated discipline rules, released late on Sunday by the graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection but in effect from August 18, put into written form many orders that are in practice already in effect.
“Party members aren’t allowed to speak out against central party policies or decisions, and nor can they spread political rumors or damage the party’s unity,” states the new rules.
In the most serious cases where a law has been broken, party members can be prosecuted, but in many cases, the most severe punishment that can be meted out is expulsion from the party.
China is officially an atheist state which promotes atheism throughout the country. However, the state officially recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.
Traditionally, a large segment of the Chinese population took part in atheistic and theistic philosophies such as the Chinese Han folk religions, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism had played a significant role in the everyday lives of ordinary people.
But, after the Chinese Revolution in 1949, the world’s most populous country began a period of rule by the Communist Party of China where the government maintains and promotes the Marxist ideology.
In fact, most Chinese people report to be irreligious; even though, people with a belief in folk traditions, spiritual beliefs, and atheistic philosophies along with informal ties to local temples and unofficial worship houses number in hundreds of millions.
According to the sociologists Ariela Keysar and Juhem Navarro-Rivera, there are 450 to 500 million Convinced Atheists and Agnostics worldwide (7% of the world’s population), with China having the most atheists in the world; numbering about 200 million people out of the 1.4 billion total Chinese population.
Regarding their percentage among the total Chinese population, a 2015 Gallup poll found that the number of convinced atheists in China is 61%, with a further 29% saying that they are irreligious, compared to just 7% who are religious.
These statistics put China among the most atheistic countries in the world by percentage among population like Czechia, Estonia, the Koreas, and Japan.