Sheltering under the Sacred Canopy: Peter Berger and Xunzi

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This article brings Xunzi's views on religious practice into conversation with Peter Berger's sociological understanding of religion in an effort both to deepen our understanding of their theories concerning the constructed nature of religious worldviews and to consider critically the plausibility of their arguments. The author suggests that comparison of Berger's theory in The Sacred Canopy with Xunzi's account of the Dao enables us to explain why certain weaknesses arise in Berger's theory—namely, the difficulty of imagining how the self could ever escape the sacred canopy to achieve authenticity and the tension between his assertions about the precariousness of the social order and the apparent stability of the social order suggested by his descriptions. By uncovering Berger's hidden assumptions about the self, comparison with Xunzi's work also suggests a way the problems might be remedied.

Keywords: Confucianism; Peter Berger; Xunzi; authenticity; human nature; sage

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2001

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