Census 2010 and Christianity

January 13, 2011

With some of the 2010 Census results released, the data on religion confirms what many observers have long suspected – Christianity is on the rise in Singapore. In 2000, the percentage of Christian Singaporeans was 14.6%. This group has risen to 18.3% in 2010. If you speak to some pastors and church-goers, they believe that the true figure probably hovers over the 20% mark given the weekly congregation attendances and anecdotal evidence. There are several other figures that, when put together, weave a broad trend within the local Christian community.

The rise and popularity of Christianity among young, well-educated English-speaking Singaporeans has generally been explained as the attraction to rationality. Christianity is considered by better educated converts as a more rational, systematic and intellectual alternative to the mysticism of local folk religions like, say, Taoism. Such an explanation was useful in understanding why young graduates in the past were more likely to be Christians. However, new data forces us to reconsider this. According to the 2010 Census, the portion of Christians among graduates dipped (the Straits Times does not mention by how much, neither does the Advance Census Release), while ‘irrational’ religions like Taoism and Hinduism saw an increase among the same group (again sources do not mention by how much).

There are three possible hypotheses for this. Firstly, younger well-educated Singaporeans may now be less likely to see Christianity as ‘rational’. The rise of Pentecostalism from the 1990s has seen greater manifestations of ‘spiritual’ phenomena like speaking in tongues, casting out demons, and healing. As these Christian spiritual phenomena increase, there appears to be fewer differences between the ‘spirituality’ of Christianity and that of a temple medium dancing in a trance while in the possession of spirits. (After all, there appears to be little phenomenological difference between believing that God will bless you with material wealth if you’re a good Christian and going to the temple to pray for a winning 4D number). Secondly, the increase in graduates who subscribe to Taoism and Hinduism suggest that ethnic identity and folk heritage are becoming more important to self-aware young Singaporeans. It is too early to say for sure but the colonial mindset that believes Christianity is superior to folk religions may be increasingly questioned by the educated young. Thirdly, the recent controversies over the AWARE saga, Pastor Rony Tan and Pastor Mark Ng put Christianity in a poor light, perhaps turning younger Singaporeans from it.

How then do we account for the surge of almost 4 percentage points in Christianity? There are no studies on this but anecdotal evidence suggests that many conversions take place among older non-graduates. Children who go to church are likely to try to convert their parents to Christianity or, at least, bring them to church. This is especially so among Pentecostal mega churches. There is also the suggestion that older people, when faced with their impending mortality, are more likely to be open to religion and the promise of an afterlife.

Another crucial factor is the religious affiliation of PRs. With an 88.8 percentage increase from 2000, PRs now make up 541,000 of the total population. It is a sizable number that can sway statistics. Given that the vast majority of PRs continue to be Malaysian Chinese, it is likely that they have contributed to the percentage of Christians. If Malaysian Chinese continue to be our primary source of PRs for the purpose of retaining our national ethnic composition and because of their cultural similarities, a couple of questions arise: What happens when their incoming numbers jack up the percentage of Christians further? What is the tipping point before other religions become wary?

Nevertheless, the general trends continue to hold. Christianity continues to be a middle class religion. It continues to be the preferred choice among better educated professionals. And it is on the rise.

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5 Responses to “Census 2010 and Christianity”

  1. patriot Says:

    Haha….

    Is there reason and rationality in believing supernatural?

    Anyway, me had seen and is seeing many ah sohs(aunties) going around aggressively preaching christianity to older folks, some even tried to convince those slightly younger than themselves. Lol !

    Btw, me an atheist who loves pious folks, especially the Agnostics who carry god in their hearts and not in their mouths. And also those who go to their gods to show respects and seek blessings.

    However, those who carry gods in their mouths and blab(boast) about their own religious pieties are obnoxious, some are even abnormal claiming all kinds of miracles, such as miracle healings!

    patriot

  2. Sloo Says:

    As an example, my talker parents enrolled all 6 of their children in mission schools with the result being that all 6 were a one time of other during their school career very devout Catholics; one even got baptized. My parents, Taoists to the core, believed however that all religions were basically good and felt that if Christianity made one a morally good person, then they would have no opposition.
    Ironically, as the years pass by, all 6 children turned back to Taoism, even the one who got baptized. I guess our parents were perfect examples and representations of their faith and in the end, that inspired the rest of us. The best way to evangelize? Stop the blab and be a good person of yr religion.

  3. patriot Says:

    Two of my children were converted whilst they were in NUS and they’re giving tithes that’s a few times the amount they give to me. One had no qualm to express that her divine father is supreme and therefore is superior to her biological one. Me not hurt by their doings for me respects the right of everyone to their beliefs, however, some believers cannot stop themselves from preachings and seek every opportunity to evangelize.

    Many lonely old folks had been are being converted to christians since Singaporeans were made to live in highrise housing estates due to the many very sad, even pitiful circumstances; too long to relate here. Much of these conversions are done by the ah sohs and ah sims on ah pehs. It’s very funny that most of the Toaist and Buddhist ladyfolks are less susceptible to the indoctrinations from the ah sohs/ah sims, however, the older manfolks except the Muslim, seemed easy meats. Me suspects that there is more than what meets the eyes, manfolks are invariably attracted to opposite sex no matter their(men) ages.

    Me has always being saddened by the many religious wars, far more than any other wars combined, in the history of mankind. They happened, are happening and will happen so long there are religions.

  4. Paul Says:

    A significant number of the new PRs are Philipinos and hence their contribution to the rise in numbers of Christians among the new PRs

  5. kelvin lim Says:

    your comment on Taoism and Hinduism ‘irrational’ . Will report you to Singapore authority for causing hatred and ill wills in this multireligius country. Your ‘irritional’ is a bias view based on your Christian view. Look deeper to this religions original scriptures and original teachings before you term them as ‘irritional’.


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