Behind Religious Harmony
ZOROASTRIANISM is the 'sign of Zorro'. Islam is when 'their marriages take place in the void deck'. Buddhism is 'about filial piety'.
These were some comments made by youth here on various religions, as found in a study by former Aware president and educator Phyllis Chew.
While 76 per cent said they were 'tolerant' of other religions, their idea of tolerance was 'not talking about it'.
And while a whopping 92 per cent expressed desire to find out more about other religions, the majority said they would do so from the Internet.
At the same time, Dr Chew found that they switched religions through an emotional process. 'They will usually say things like, 'I've a good feeling (about this religion)' or 'My friends influenced me'.
'So it's not a very rational decision, like what are the pros, what are the cons. It's not very cognitive. The switching process is usually an emotional one.'
- News @ AsiaOne, Sep 14, 2008
It is as I have long feared. Religious tolerance (or 'harmony', as official sources often phrase it) in Singapore does not rest on mutual understanding and cooperation, but on a massive foundation of profound ignorance.
After all, what else can explain the existence of both 'Christian' and 'Catholic' as choices on official question forms? The leading newspapers continue to perpetuate this ignorant mistake, year after year, despite numerous friends writing in every so often to request that they refrain from doing so.
I disagree somewhat with the good doctor on the second quoted bit. Religious choice is hardly, if ever, a rational one. Some people are very systematic and insist on studying every detail, but these only make up a small percentage of converts. Most choose to convert based on a wide variety of factors, with intellectual rationalism usually not very high on their list of priorities.
Although, this would account for the massive increase in megachurch attendance this island nation has seen over the past few years - so much so, that a (nominally) Buddhist classmate was compelled to ask me if speaking in tongues and ecstatic Praise & Worship services were traditional components of Christian worship.
This is nation where students swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and still come out completely dry.