No room for faith for all party members
The ruling Communist Party may be showing greater tolerance towards the flourishing of faiths on the mainland, but as far as its own members go, there is no room for religion.
Zhu Weiqun, a top official in charge of Tibetan affairs, endorsed this view in an article he wrote in the party magazine Seeking Truth.
'If we let party members believe in religion ... this will inevitably result in splits in the party's ideology and its organisation,' wrote Zhu, an executive deputy minister at the United Front Work Department.
Zhu wrote that allowing party members to have religious faith would shake Marxism's status as the nation's guiding ideology, it would weaken the party's ability to fight separatist movements, and it would confuse the party's role to supervise religions on the mainland.
His article follows reports that suggest that a growing number of party members are turning to religion. Analysts said that while religious beliefs of all faiths were on the rise, the officially atheist communist government was wary about religious groups becoming popular and getting beyond its control.
Within the party, some members were getting caught up in the religious revival and had been violating party rules by becoming active religious believers, Zhu said.
'Party organs at various levels and all party members must maintain a clear mind and never waver in the least to adhere to this principle under any circumstance,' Zhu said.
He added that the Communist Party's Marxist ideology and its philosophy of dialectical materialism were in conflict with all religions.
'All religions, without any exception, belong to idealism. And in philosophy, there is fundamental conflict between materialism and idealism, which cannot co-exist, no matter when it is applied to any individual and political party,' Zhu said.
Since market reforms were launched in the late 1970s, Beijing has loosened control over various aspects of people's lives, including religion, in a bid to gain their support for reforms.
However, freedom of religious belief was granted only on the condition that believers also supported the rule of the Communist Party and observed socialist laws, thus placing the state and party before religion.
Though the days of communism being a state religion of sorts - when party members or even ordinary Chinese citizens confessed their sins and made vows before statues of late leader Mao Zedong - are long gone, in theory, the ruling party still imposes its religion-style ideology on its members.
In practice, it suppresses religions seen as a threat to its grip on power.
For instance, while the party encourages some mainstream religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, to fill the faith vacuum, it has also tightened its control over Catholic believers.
Beijing views the Catholic Church as a serious threat, as Catholicism had played a key role in the collapse of communism in Poland.