Different religions are competing in Singapore, although only a segment of the nation’s population is open to conversion, according to recent research.
Pointers (December), the newsletter of the Christian Research Assocation of Australia, cites research from the recent book Rationalizing Religion that shows that members of mainly the Chinese population of Singapore have converted to other religions in the last 40 years. The Indian and Malay populations who are Hindu and Muslim have largely resisted conversion, while many Chinese dissatisfied with the folk and magical elements of Taoism have converted to Christianity and, more recently, Buddhism.
The appeal of charismatic Christianity and the spread of Christian schools are among the factors in such conversions. But between 1990 and 2000, the number of Christians in Singapore grew by just 1.9 percent, while Buddhists grew by 11.3 percent, with many of the converts coming from Taoism. Part of the reason is that Buddhists have adopted Christian practices, such as Sunday school classes, charitable work and societies that provide fellowship, as well as promoting the religion as rational and practical.
For many, the fact that Buddhism is not Western, like Christianity, has also drawn many Chinese to Buddhism. Taoism itself has responded to its decline by stressing moral virtues, such as loyalty to country and filial piety rather than rituals deemed “superstitious.” Taoism has likewise codified its religion as a rational system, as well as promoting educational and social programs.
(Pointers, P.O. Box 206, Nunawading LPO, VIC, 3131, Australia)