Taoism (also spelled Daoism) is a religion whose adherents are mostly found in Far Eastern countries such as China, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore where its temples are found. Current estimates are that several hundred million people practice some form of Taoism, with some 20 to 30 million on the Chinese mainland. This is quite remarkable since mainland China is a communist nation and forbids many forms of religion. Taoism’s origins can be traced back to the 3rd or 4th century B.C. Like many religions, Taoism has its own set of scriptures, the main one simply referred to as the “Tao.” Other texts are included, and the full spectrum of Taoist canon is known as the Daozang. The word “Tao” comes from the character in the Chinese alphabet of the same name. The word means “way” or “path.”

Taoism has never been a unified religion, and some scholars place it in three categories: philosophical, religionist and Chinese folk religion. Because of this it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what Taoists believe. Roughly stated, Tao deals with the flow of the universe, or the force behind natural order that keeps all things balanced and in order. It is considered to be a source of existence and “non-existence.” Some Eastern religions refer to this as the “yin and yang” of the universe, which can also express itself as the equal forces of “good” and “evil.”

Most adherents of Taoism believe anything from polytheism (belief in many gods) to ancestor worship. Taoists tend to worship mostly on holidays in their calendar when food is set out as a sacrifice to the gods or the spirits of departed ancestors. Other forms of sacrifice include burning paper money so it will rematerialize in the spirit world for a departed ancestor to use. A number of martial arts disciplines such as T’ai Chi Ch’uan and Bagua Zang have their roots in Taoism. Few people in the Western world practice Taoism, and it would appear some have confused Tao with Zen, as evidenced from the books The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra or The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

Although the word Tao means “way,” it is not the true Way. There are many religions which claim they are one of the ways to get to God. But Jesus Christ said that He is the only way to God (John 14:6). Because Taoism denies this, it fails in that it does nothing to deal with the sin nature of mankind. Everyone who has ever been born (except Jesus) came into the world with a sin nature inherited from Adam in the Garden of Eden, and it is that sin that separates us from God. A holy and righteous God cannot accept anything sinful in His sight. But in His mercy, He sent His Son Jesus (who was God in the flesh) into this world to die on the cross and exchange His righteousness for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is only by accepting this atoning death and believing in Christ that we can escape the judgment of God and receive eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9). Christ, not Tao, is the way to eternal life.