Is Religion A Threat To Singapore?

I came across the following article today on ReporterNews:

Singapore prime minister: Religion threatens stability

Associated Press

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s prime minister said in his National Day speech that “aggressive preaching” by religious groups and evangelizing threaten the tiny city-state’s stability.

Lee Hsien Loong, a Buddhist by birth, said his education at the island’s Roman Catholic High School was an example of how different religions can coexist peacefully.

“The most visceral and dangerous fault line (in Singapore) is race and religion,” Lee said.

Singapore’s majority Buddhist Chinese, Malay Muslims and Indian Hindus have largely avoided conflict since race riots between Chinese and Malays left about 40 dead in the 1960s.

“Christians can’t expect this to be a Christian society,” he said last Sunday. “Muslims can’t expect this to be a Muslim society, ditto with the Buddhists, the Hindus and the other groups.”

In the most recent census in 2000, 43 percent of Singaporeans said they were Buddhist, 15 percent Muslim, 15 percent Christian, 8.5 percent Taoist and 4 percent Hindu.

Lee cited the case of a Christian couple jailed earlier this year for distributing religious pamphlets deemed offensive to members of other faiths, and he condemned those who try to convert ailing hospital patients “who don’t want to be converted.”

He said the government must remain secular because Singapore’s authority and laws “don’t come from a sacred book.” Lee’s People’s Action Party has ruled Singapore since independence 50 years ago.

Lee said there has been a global surge in religious fervor, including in the United States and Islamic countries.

“There is a wave of revival, megachurches and televangelism,” Lee said. “Religion and politics are supposed to be separated in America, but in reality they are closely entangled.”

The title of the article is pretty provocative and it’s what originally made me stop to read this article. I can’t disagree with the guy. Race and religion are major contention points everywhere. There is always some religious persecution and tension.

It’s also true that people need to learn to look past those differences and get along with each other. Why can’t we all be friends? ^_^ Religion is important, but it shouldn’t become a stumbling block for a nation.

That being said, I think people should respect the laws in Singapore against forcefully proselytizing, especially when it comes to trying to push people that are on their death beds. Somehow, that doesn’t seem too Christian to me. Well, not modern Christian anyway. It could be a page out of a book about the days during the Grand Inquisition. If it’s not welcome, and certainly if it’s not legal, don’t do it! Give unto Rome what is Rome’s and give unto God what is God’s, right?

I’m not too sure about this global surge in religious fervor he mentioned, because I hadn’t noticed it, but it is true that no matter how much people try to deny it, the US Federal Government is based on and borrows heavily from Christianity. Separation of church and state aside, most of the US’s laws are taken from the Bible. Most of the country’s accepted values and morals are taken from the Bible as well.

19 thoughts on “Is Religion A Threat To Singapore?”

  1. @TC: I'm sure! Everyone likes a good, solid Army story. ha ha ha@Cherrion: Don't worry about the length. Say as much as you want. That's what the comment section is for, and I welcome the discussion.As for the Engrish, I don't know why it's so entertaining. It just is.I'm reminded of a story I read where a girl is learning Mandarin and even though she's rather advanced she knows she messes up sometimes or has a weird accent, and more often than not, people giggle or laugh when she talks… to her face. Perhaps there's another reason for it, but perhaps everyone is just as susceptible to finding amusement in other people's struggles.I try not to mock anyone to their face about how they speak. I sometimes offer advice or a correction. I guess I have a pet peeve about how things are written though. Oh well.


  2. I spent 8 years in the Army. I have a few stories to tell…Matter of fact. Maybe that'll be my next blog, once I finish this one up and move back to the US. Well, I dunno. Maybe I'll just redo the theme here and keep publishing on this one.


  3. Ah, ya. That's the one.There are dumbasses in the Army too that get a big head and think they can say and do anything just because of the rank they have, and more often than not they do because there is little or no recourse that won't wind up coming back around to bite the person.I hadn't heard about Polynesians being big, but I've always heard stories about how big Samoans are. That guy probably got what was coming to him. But, since the Polynesian assaulted an officer, he probably wound up in jail.


  4. @ Brad – “As for the Engrish… hey, come on. It is funny for a native English speaker. Singapore's not so bad with it though. The real good stuff comes from China.”Its equally funny when native English speaker speaks Mandarin. Sometimes i can't make out what they are saying. Once, i heard -“Jiang Hua Yu” as “Jiang FA Yu” which means supposingly to say “Speaking Mandarin” ending up becoming “Speaking French”, the best i heard was “Speaking Drawings language” (you gotta know chinese inorder to know where it came from). In such case, i have no clue if China people will be as shallow and make fun out of them like how they make fun of “engrish”…For me, i give everyone credits for trying. =)@TC – “I find it disgusting when Singaporeans malign foreigners and lump them all as a whole, but I also find it equally odious when foreigners abuse the locals here…”Perhaps its due to the culture? More often than not, we heard complaints over compliment, i have no idea why. Thus, its easy to fish out hatred stories of Singaporeans disliking foreigners and maybe, foreigners who stayed in SG for a period of time was influenced by the culture and started complaining? I dont know.But i dont think that all Singaporeans complaint about foreigners, neither do i think that all foreigners abused us. It all goes down to individual, and how one is willing to compromise. =)Thanks for allowing me to share my pt of view and sorry for being lengthy. Cheers.


  5. Hey if you have any army stories, I am pretty sure you'll find a good crowd gathering around you, and that would be really fun story exchange! 😛


  6. @TC: That's kinda rough, but I suppose it depends on what part of the US you live in. The country is so big that there are more advanced, liberal areas, and then there are areas where the locals are little better than idiots.Funny, you'd think I'd know what the word you censored out is, but I can't figure it out. Maybe that's a +1 for me?


  7. Yup, sometimes its just better to keep quiet than react and get into serious trouble. The army is replete with stories of pissed off soldiers (most usually have some legit gripe) who wind up reacting in the moment and then paying the price for it. That being said, some officers and SNCOs can be real assholes though…


  8. Very well written Cherrion.And it's true that I've heard that Singaporeans complain because many foreigners do in fact use Singapore as a stepping stone to other countries. Or that they get here and act like asses, or like they're on a high horse, and piss off the people around them.As for the Engrish… hey, come on. It is funny for a native English speaker. Singapore's not so bad with it though. The real good stuff comes from China.


  9. Haha! Shows that you're a nice guy, its the word that starts with a “g” and ends with a “k”, used a lot during the vietnam war. Its prolly not allowed in the army too by now, which kinda reminds me of a story by a pal who served in the 82nd airborne. Said he had a polynesian guy in his company, biggest guy he'd even seen, and one day, god knows what the goofy captain said to this soldier, he wound up punching through the captain's car window and throttled him right there and then! Won't be surprise if he insulted oceania folks or something…:P


  10. @Cherrion: I agree with you on religious humor, and I would like to add that when it comes to foreigners, its easy for both sides to hate, but where do we go from there? I find it disgusting when Singaporeans malign foreigners and lump them all as a whole, but I also find it equally odious when foreigners abuse the locals here, or when I hear the old so familiar “GO BACK TO CHINA G***!” when I'm on the streets of America. Things like that will never be forgotten.


  11. I believe every individual has the freedom to go for which ever religion they have faith with. Its how much we wanna respect one another's faith. What Mr. Lee is looking for i believe, is for us to live in harmony.It doesnt means that the United States uses Christainity as a guideline means the people are living in perfect harmony. Racism still occurred and i believe that it is all over the world. And yes, it is easy to source for hateful remarks about foreigners living in Singapore, but one thing about our Govt is that they valued foreigners. On the other hand, it is equally easy to source for Foreigners here who make fun out of Singapore. Some go to the extend of blogging their “unusual findings” in Singapore and label them as “Jokes/humour”. If they dont agree with our govt or our living habits etc, by all means, exit here. Things happened for a reason, and it doesnt necessary means that we are the one hating foreigners first, who knows, it make be the other way round, or foreigners aint contented here etc… which at the end of the day causes so much tensions.Its just my very honest perspective, not judging your views. At the end of the day, its “To each his own”. =)


  12. The article is vague on the death bed part. Christians I know, if you're not interested, we leave you alone. There are some groups out there, coming in the name of Jesus, that are forceful.As for Evangelism, I would have to say I have seen much more of it in the streets of NYC. For years it's as if the church has been sleeping. Now Jesus is in your face all over the city. For the past 3 yrs Times Square Church has organized “Prayer In The Square”. More than 30,000 christians gather for 1 hr in the middle of Times Square to pray for our city & our country. Meanwhile downtown at City Hall, 20,000 + gather there as well. This is just one of many happening all over the country. Maybe this is the “global surge of religious fervor” Lee mentions. There is but One God, and there is no other in Heaven or on Earth that can compare with Him. We serve a risen Savior & so far as I know of, no other faith that can make that claim.


  13. You have racial tensions in Iraq, Tibet, Xinjiang, Darfur… but not Singapore. The term racial tensions is for me a strong word. What you described is probably racial prejudice, racism, general anxiety due to the recession, xenofobia. These are all bad things, too. But what Singaporean government fears are events like riots from 64, those things are not present in Singapore 2009. Hope I clarified what I meant with racial tensions.It seems that whenever I comment contrary to what the author wrote, there's always an anonymous who tells me I have no clue and I should not comment. It's weird. There was no anonymous doing something like that on the last few posts I checked. Looks fishy to me.Well, whatever. That's my impression, don't take it the wrong way. Good reply with those articles. I felt like not going into that, it would be a too long debate and it would need me to do a lot of research, but I don't have the energy to do it. You won 🙂


  14. IMHO, religion and race IS indeed a fault line, and racial/religious harmony is a MUST for a place as small as Singapore. Even though the US founding fathers based their constitution on Christian-Judeo principles, don't forget that slavery was in full swing at that time (some of them were slaveowners themselves!), the native-American were getting massacred and America itself went to war with christian nations over land and power. Now you have herds of sore-losers from the GOP who are using “christianity” as a new rallying cry against a “black muslim communist alien” in the white house to the extent of taking automatic assault weapons to town hall meetings, so how wonderful is a mingling of state and religion?? IMHO, a religious-centered state doesn't benefit its citizens, and it would only be abused by a small minority in advancing their own agenda, usually with a genocidal and militant bent.


  15. Oh, and Singapore does still have racial tensions, just not amongst Singaporeans. It doesn't take long to look through Singaporean forums and find people making hateful remarks about foreigners living in Singapore, or about PRs living in Singapore. I would guess that racial tensions are higher now than they've ever been, due to the recession.


  16. people who say that there is no racial tension in this country obviously has no clue because they don't live here. if you do not reside in this country, you are in no position to express your naive opinions based on theoretical sources.


  17. One last set of examples for you. Adultery is not illegal in the United States, but how many people there think that cheating is ok? Polytheism isn't illegal but it's also not publicly acceptable, which is why self-purported Wiccans are basically shat upon there. Sunday is generally accepted as a day of rest and relaxation. If someone treated their parents poorly they would be looked down on. No one likes a tattle-tale, and there's an idea that people should be satisfied with what they have while always striving to make more. This is all based on the 10 Commandments and though not all of those are specific to just the United States, or even to 'Christian' nations, it's just another set of examples to show that it has played some influence in societal norms.You can do more research on your own if you want to, but it's pretty obvious to anyone that's lived in the United States that, for good or bad, Christianity has had a heavy influence on what's seen as acceptable behavior, and what's good and neighborly. You can see it in the movies, on TV, at work and in your neighborhood. You can see it in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, on the US money, and thousands of inscriptions on monuments all over the country. Whatever people may wish, Christianity is deeply ingrained in American society.


  18. “Since the pursuit of happiness, as Sigmund Freud surmised, is tied to human love and to creative work and play, the principles of American Judeo-Christian Values can rightly be summarized as the honoring of God-given Life, Liberty and Creativity. This seed of American Social Justice was then fleshed out in the U.S. Constitution through reason and common sense, unencumbered by the dysfunctional religious and secular traditions and laws of Old Europe. Our Founding Fathers separated church from state, but they wisely did not separate God from state; they acknowledged God as the source of our rights, and, in fact, they were careful to place Biblical morality directly into our founding documents and laws, and into our values and culture precisely to help prevent a future of totalitarian or tyrannical rule in America. The combination of keeping Judeo-Christian religious morality in the state, as opposed to the church it's self; and, additionally, setting up our laws based on reason and common sense has contributed to the American Character, and to what is known as “American Exceptionalism.” “Read more here: American ThinkerMost of them came from England where the government gave preference to and provided money and support for one of the Christian religions (the Anglican Church) and chose it as that country's “official” religion. They did not want the government establishing a national religion here. They wanted the government to stay out of religion, not for religious principles to be eliminated from government. Their desire was for the United States to be a nation with it's values and laws based on Christian principles, but did not want the government choosing one Christian religion (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, etc.) over another and establish it as it's “official” religion.Read more here:“Much of the American stigma concerning sex, sexuality, and nudity has to do with “traditional Christian values” as defined by fundamentalist Christianity. America has a lot of those old Puritan and Victorian influences as well as the biblical view from Genesis 3 that people should be ashamed of their own bodies. It is no surprise that the more fundamentally religious people are the more they are sexually repressed especially in relation to nudity and sexuality. As an atheist, I see nothing wrong with nudity or sexuality and it bothers me that America is so freaked out about these subjects.”Read more here:


  19. I think the founding fathers of USA were more secular than the Americans today want to be. I'm thinking mostly about red states, Midwest… Places like Eastcoast and Westcoast are melting pots, where you have all kinds of religious people and secular people, even atheists. And there's no religious tensions, from what I've heard. For example, I suppose people in New York are generally more tolerant than those in rural red states. Somehow I would not dare to say something like Most of the country's accepted values and morals are taken from the Bible as well without a thorough reserach and examples who would prove that. Because I've read many posts, where people claim the opposite.My personal experience is, the more religious people get, the more intolerant or dangerous a society becomes, so I agree with prime minister Lee, that especially for Singapore, who always struggles to maintain a racial and religious stability, these extreme cases must be discussed and the society should not accept such behavior. Singapore used to have racial tensions in the past. That shall never happen again.


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