More educated people in China embracing Christianity to find true meaning of life

Christians fill a church in China during a Sunday service.Reuters

During the 1980s, there were only 10 million Christians in the People's Republic of China, at a time when the country was still finding its ground politically and economically. By 2007, the number of Christians in China rose to a staggering 60 million, indicating an impressive annual growth rate of 7 percent.

As of last year, a recent study estimates that some 100 million Chinese citizens already believe in Jesus Christ and His teachings.

What exactly is driving the growth of Christianity in a communist country that officially does not subscribe to any religion but whose citizens are mostly those who practice Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism?

Two academics, Rodney Stark and Xiuhua Wang, provide an answer in their book "A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China," published this year. For them, more and more educated Chinese are becoming Christians to find the true meaning of life in modern times.

Stark, a sociologist by profession, explained that many Chinese citizens, especially the better educated ones, are currently experiencing "cultural incongruity" between traditional Asian culture and industrial-technological modernity. This leads to "spiritual deprivation," which can best be answered by Christianity, he said.

"The question of what does the world mean, and how do we live in it, persists – and so that's a major motor in the Christianisation of China, and it explains why it's the most educated Chinese who are the most apt to join," the author explained.

He added that most Chinese intellectuals think that traditional Eastern religions "don't fit the modern world they're engaged in" and are "anti-progress."

"They all proclaim the world is going downhill from a glorious past, and that we should look backwards, not forwards. None of them admit that we're able to understand anything about the universe – it's something we have to meditate on, not something to try and theorise about, as the physicists and chemists do," Stark explained.

In contrast, Stark believes Christianity fits in very well with modern scientific technology.