Confucius, the Chinese philosopher who lived 500 BCE, was a great moral teacher who tried to replace old religious observances with moral values as the basis for social and political order. When he was asked if he could sum up “the true way” in a single word, he replied, “‘Reciprocity’ is such a word.” Confucius was not technically a humanist, but like humanists today he did not see “the true way” as following religious codes, but as based on reason and humanity, stressing the importance of benevolence, respect for others, and looking pragmatically at individual situations rather than blindly following traditional rules. Confucianism had many interpreters and followers – it was the state religion of China until the upheavals of the twentieth century.
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