World Religions

So Christmas has just passed us, but some people call it Hanukkah, and then even among the people who celebrate Christmas there are the Christians, Catholics, Mormons and so on, not to mention the many other religions out there who do not celebrate the 25th of December, and then there are the people from China who do not follow a religion save for communism and you wonder, just how many varieties of religions are there? I don’t believe we shall ever know.

Singapore, for all its acceptance of religions, really only recognises a small few. There are the Christians, who are sometimes distinct from Catholics, the Buddhists who are sometimes distinct from Taoists, the Muslims and the Hindus. And the atheists who are sometimes distinct from agnostics. And Judaism, which is mentioned once in a while but nobody we know is ever a Jew. According to Wikipedia, a global 2012 poll has it that 59% of the world’s population is religious, 23% are not religious and 13% are atheists. Thaaaat’s me.

It is funny that atheists are separate from people who are not religious, because Singapore rarely draws such a distinction. Sometimes when people ask me what my religion is and I reply I’m atheist, they get taken aback and say, “why don’t you just say you’re a free thinker?” But I’m not a free thinker. A free thinker is a flexible person who may be an agnostic, but an atheist has pretty deep-set views on the subject. I’m a free thinker when it comes to politics (though I probably will vote for the People’s Action Party when my time comes, because they have been doing a commendable job so far) but I can be just as stubborn as a religious person when it comes to religion. So in a way, my religion is “atheist” rather than “no religion”.

That said, I am completely fine with praying at temples and singing at churches. I simply do not feel obligated to do anything if not out of respect for the people there. I do not shy away from eating pork or beef, and I don’t pray on my own in times of need. I strongly believe that when I die, I will be buried in a coffin and rot away and my life will end then and there. Nope, I don’t really believe in souls. I used to, but I thought about it and looked within me and I realise that without a doubt, I do not possess a soul.

Singapore has 4 out of the 5 major religions in the world. 33% of the world are Christians, followed by 19.6% as Muslims, 13.4% Hindus, 6.4% as Chinese folk religions (mostly clustered around the rural parts of China) and 5.9% Buddhists.

But these are old religions. If you are looking for a new religion to channel your devotion to (and let’s hope you don’t get conned by a cult), here’s a list of some new religious movements around the world sprouting up!

1. Shinshuukyou

This is basically a collection of Japanese religions. They are mainly very small groups such as Soka Gakkai and Tenrikyo, whatever those are.

2. Cao Dai

This is a Vietnamese religion that is syncretistic — which by the way means it is an attempted reconciliation of different or opposing principles or practices — and monotheistic. I would love to see how this is carried out.

3. Raelism

This religion teaches us that humans were created by aliens. Yup, there is an actual UFO religion out there.

4. Hindu reform movements

These are reforms in Hinduism itself. Neo-Hinduism, so to speak.

5. Unitarian Universalism

This religion basically seeks a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. The religion of knowledge and truth, I suppose. I wonder how much progress they have gotten.

6. Noahidism

This is an ideology for non-Jews about the teachings of Noah and Judaism. So it’s like a watered-down version of Judaism that guides non-Jews on how to live.

7. Scientology

This teaches that we are immortals who have forgotten our true natures, kinda like Hercules I think. Practitioners perform something known as auditing, where they try to experience painful or traumatic events in their past to free themselves of their limiting effects.

8. Eckankar

It is a pantheistic religion which makes God an everyday reality in one’s life.

9. Wicca

Some of you may know this. It is neo-pagan and involves worshipping a God and Goddess.

10. Druidry

This may appeal to fantasy fans because it draws on practices of druids and harmony with nature.

11. Satanism

This probably needs no explanation.

Of course, as you can tell, I am highly ignorant of most religions out there, and I hope I haven’t offended anybody. There really is a wide variety of different religions and beliefs out there, but the moral is simple. A religion that teaches you to do good things is a good religion, and a religion that teaches you to do bad things is a cult you should probably avoid. But naturally, religion is something you cannot force. Spiritual experiences or enlightenment is the most common way to cultivate faith, and sometimes it is fate which steers you toward your true spiritual course.

Not that I think much of fate, being the obstinate atheist that I am.

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