Megachurches and the cultural applications of religion

I have long argued in private that Singapore megachurch Christianity resembles folk Taoism as much as it does conventional Christianity. Adherents of megachurches, many of whom would have renounced Taoism to convert to Christianity, may rise in uproar. But I am undeterred in my observation.

There are many ways to look at the human phenomenon known as religion. Classifying people or groups of people by nominal self-declaration is one. Classifying them according to their doctrinal similarities is another, though it is one that some religious adherents tend to insist as the sole valid way. In part, this springs from the demand that religion is a phenomenon unto itself, and it can only be assayed on its own terms.

The religious may think it is potentially demeaning to their faith to examine the phenomenon from other disciplinary perspectives, e.g. psychology, sociology or political science. And yet, there can be no full understanding of the part played by religion in human lives and society — and in geopolitics as well — without bringing these other perspectives to bear.

The theme of this essay is how the cultural manifestation of megachurch Christianity in Singapore is closer to that of folk Taoism than other Christian streams. I believe this angle will add to the understanding of the findings revealed by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) from a recently-reported survey titled Church, Class, Attitudes:  A Survey of Church-going Protestants in Singapore.

The survey was conducted between December 2009 and January last year. Respondents were asked to fill up a questionnaire. The findings — released yesterday at a press conference — were based on 2,663 questionnaires from respondents at 24 churches here.

– Today, 17 April 2012, Megachurch goers ‘less likely to exercise moral influence publicly’: Survey, by Syed Amir Hussain

According to the Straits Times, the questionnaire was 14 pages long. This suggests that there is plenty of data in there we haven’t yet seen, but since it will be several months before ISEAS publishes a book on this, all I have for now are news reports and a few graphs from the Straits Times, 17 April 2012:

Difference in attitudes

With that caveat, what we can see from the graphs is that the attitudes of megachurch members are slightly more conservative than members of other protestant churches. This you can gather from the first and the third graphs, though I am not sure whether the small differences in the first graph have been tested for significance.

However, projecting those values into the public sphere is not something that megachurch members are keen on, compared to other Protestants, as can be seen in the second and fourth graphs.

It appears that these members view religion as more personal than public. They do not quite think it legitimate to impose their views on state and society, at least not to the same extent as other Christians surveyed.

One hypothesis for this is that megachurch adherents are more often than not new converts to Christianity. Being new converts, they have friends and family members belonging to other religions, and therefore intuitively feel it awkward to impose.

And while most respondents agreed that Christians should interact more with people of other faiths, those from megachurches were likely to already have friends from different religions. They were also more inclined to spend their leisure time with them. A possible explanation might be that they often have parents from Buddhist or Taoist backgrounds, explained the researchers.

– Straits Times, 17 April 2012, Megachurches ‘conservative but tolerant’, by Jennani Durai

“Old” Christians, on the other hand, mostly found in the traditional denominations of Anglicanism and Methodism, tend to come from Christian families. There is more conformity in their social and family circles, and they may grow up expecting such conformity to be normal.

Confluence with folk Taoism

I posit here a different explanation, which is not mutually exclusive with the above. It is that with many megachurch members coming from families with Taoist backgrounds — and I am told megachurch congregations are disproportionately Chinese — they bring with them Chinese cultural attitudes to the role of religion. Traditionally, the Chinese see religion as something for personal benefit and improvement, rather than a source of norms for remaking earthly society according to the dictates of gods. This attitude can be glimpsed from a line in Today’s news story:

Follow-up focus group sessions with respondents from megachurches found that, to them, “morality was articulated as a private matter” and “moral influence is to be exercised through one’s private capacity in spheres that one is active in, rather than by imposing values through the church as a civic organisation”.

– Today, 17 April 2012, Megachurch goers ‘less likely to exercise moral influence publicly’: Survey, by Syed Amir Hussain

A related fact is that doctrinally, megachurches in Singapore preach the “health and wealth” prosperity gospel. This is a widely-known fact, though it is also hinted at by this sentence in the report:

It also found that those who attend a megachurch tend to give more to their church in the form of tithes, come from the emergent middle class and be more likely to view wealth as an indicator of a person’s faithfulness.

– ibid.

This is perhaps why Singaporeans (and myself) tend to use the term “megachurch” as shorthand for this stream of Christian teaching, when strictly speaking the term should merely refer to congregation size. ISEAS, for the purpose of its study, defined a megachurch as a non-denominational church, attracting 2,000 worshippers or more a week and often featuring a charismatic senior pastor, with rock concert-style services or a multitude of outreach ministries.

The similarities with folk Taoism are these:

  • The idea that the chief purpose of a relationship with a deity is a protective and benefactive one;
  • That ritual is important, the more expressive and exuberant the better;
  • Tithe-giving and earnest expressions of faith considered to be congruent, even positively-related, with material success.

I need to stress that in this essay I am not discussing doctrinal systems, but only cultural manifestations: the behavioural performance of religion and the meanings attached to it. By this measure, Singapore megachurches fit more within the Chinese or Taoist folk tradition than conventional, more austere Protestantism. The god (and loyalties) may have changed, but the role of religion in their lives remain much the same.

In truth, neither this strand of Christianity nor the style of worship we see in our megachurches is original to Singapore; they are very much imported. What I am postulating is that their parallels with Chinese folk religious practices and attitudes helped these churches gain adherents locally (even if the adherents would vociferously deny it) to such an extent that today we in Singapore conflate the “mega” in megachurch with the prosperity gospel. Crossover was made easier because the cultural manifestation was similar.

Christianity as status marker

If that’s the case, why convert? As any historian knows, through the centuries and throughout the world, conversion is more often for social (sometimes political) reasons than any other. And so it is in this case, in my view. There is a much higher status to be had calling oneself a Christian than a Taoist. And once the process has been seeded in a society, peer pressure and the need to belong gives it momentum. It is much like how we descendants of immigrants from China who had come wearing the samfoo (a tunic and trouser combination that women wore) have adopted Western-style clothes. We would not be caught dead wearing the samfoo today unless it’s for a fancy-dress ball. Being “modern”, much-equated with “Western”, has snob appeal.

In this respect, I thought this finding of the researchers particularly interesting:

Megachurch worshippers aged 29 and below were also more likely to have lived in public housing, to speak Mandarin at home, and to have parents with lower levels of education. The researchers characterised them as an ‘aspiring or emergent middle class that has achieved upward social mobility’.

– Straits Times, 17 April 2012, Megachurches ‘conservative but tolerant’, by Jennani Durai

Taking up Christianity can be explained as one more box to be checked on the path of social ascent. Conversion is a sociological phenomenon with social benefits, even if the subject is not fully conscious of it. What conversion is not is to be probative of the truth claims of any doctrine.

This is not to say that their Christianity is skin-deep or that megachurch members do not whole-heartedly embrace the Bible and the gospels. I can assume that they do, and that they will feel it a greatly positive influence on their lives. But I will point out that one can make oneself believe anything. Singapore has a term for it, even though we only use it to refer to Islamist extremists: self-radicalisation. Put aside the negative connotations, and you will see that the process is much the same even if the end-points are different.

Avoiding questioning

Yet, here again, I can make one more comparison with folk Taoism. I think the nature of belief in megachurch Christianity is a little less questioning than in other, more longstanding strands of Christianity. Some churches value their intellectual tradition, but it would seem to me that charismaticism and the prosperity gospel would present considerable obstacles to intellectualism.

Folk Taoism is not known for critical enquiry either. One accepts certain givens about the nature of gods and their powers, otherwise it might get too difficult to understand how elaborate ritual can lead to passing exams or curing disease.

This absence of questioning can be seen in the relative conservatism espoused by megachurch members, for an absence of interrogation tends to produce a bias towards traditionalist reading. For example, the graph #5 below shows them to be more disapproving of homosexuality than other Protestant Christians, albeit by a small margin. You also see it in the third graph above, with respect to a stance against pre-marital sex.

Yet, the graph #6 shows them far more comfortable with interacting with homosexual persons. How to explain this?

Certainly, the megachurch members’ tendency to see religion as a personal matter must play a large part. But it still begs the question why, for all the interaction with gay people, they still hold such conservative beliefs? Why haven’t their beliefs changed? This question precipitates the very point I want to make: one cannot explain it without admitting the thesis that in this strand of Christianity, questioning received beliefs is just not done. Here, once more, is a similarity with Chinese folk religion, the same religion that many people, including megachurch members, would describe as being full of unexamined superstition.

88 Responses to “Megachurches and the cultural applications of religion”


  1. 1 octopi 2 May 2012 at 18:38

    There is an article that has been circulating around the internet these days.

    http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/04/30/religionandgenerosity/

    Apparently religious people are less motivated by compassion. This does not mean that they are assholes, but rather they tend to act according to rules they make for themselves, rather than their gut feelings. In other words, their attitude towards gay people isn’t so much that they hate gay people, but “the bible says it’s wrong, and therefore it has to be wrong”.

    I might add, that for these people, if you were to ask them, “who do you believe, me or your own lying eyes?” the answer would be “you”.

  2. 2 Owen 2 May 2012 at 19:31

    I recall having written something similar on my blog. I was raised “folk” Taoist but have had exposure to both traditional and megachurch Christianity in my teenage years. And my conclusion is similar: evangelical Christianity is likely to dominate the religious arena here in the years to come – and other religions will be forced to follow suit, or to simplify their rituals, to make themselves more attractive to the contemporary audience.

    http://owentan.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/2562-years-later-confucius-is-remembered-as-a-god/

  3. 3 Nice 2 May 2012 at 20:29

    Does it implies that megachurch followers are more guillible to belief every single word from their pastor? Any news of the investigation on pastor Khong?

  4. 4 anonymous IV 3 May 2012 at 00:54

    Wonderful analysis. Now it explains why traditional christians do not feel comfortable with mega churches.

  5. 5 Anonymous 3 May 2012 at 03:31

    How very diplomatic. I would have said that only the simple-minded can believe what passes for teachings in megachurches and Taoism.

  6. 6 mellkie 3 May 2012 at 06:43

    @ Anon IV, it works both way and also, not too long ago that the Catholics did not feel comfortable with the protestants that they had to go to war….but surely this is not the salient point YB is trying to make.

    It is interesting that the term “folk” is used. Does that mean that mega church is equated to a kind of “folk” christianity albeit within our localised context (in this case Chinese Taoist-Buddhist-Confucianist beliefs). This is not much different from the pseudo-christianity of the Taiping Rebeliion in China (1850-64).

    I do see parallel of the mega church phenomenon in Singapore with the new christian converts of PRC (and alos Korean) immigrants in Australia. And I differ from YB’s view that to me they are rather skin-deep and patronising.

  7. 7 kermit 3 May 2012 at 08:39

    if prosperity gospel was true, Jesus would have been a very rich man

    • 8 Saycheese 6 May 2012 at 00:09

      right on man! huat ah!

      • 9 Saycheese 6 May 2012 at 00:12

        Just to clarify if my previous comment implies that I am Taoist. I am not. I am a confirmed Atheist. God is Man’s creation – a figment of his imagination!

  8. 10 ALL 3 May 2012 at 08:56

    It is definitely true that megachurch followers are more gullible to believe every single word from their pastor. I am also wondering what happened to the CAD raids done on City Harvest Church and the 20 or so persons linked to the church? Already swept under the carpet?

  9. 11 CY 3 May 2012 at 09:46

    Given that the human brain is a simplification and self-promoting machine, it’s no wonder that religion holds such appeal. Religion ‘simplifies’ by giving you an ‘answer’ to everything. And it helps us ‘self-promote’ when we see so many other people agreeing with us.

    I think the greatest joke nature has on us is that it’s given us the capacity to think we are so great while being blind to the joke itself. A true LOL. Such is hubris!

    There is also a tragic turn in that humanity believes so much in this ‘joke’ such that some elements actively perpetuate their own moral certainty to the detriment of others.

  10. 12 CY 3 May 2012 at 10:08

    After reading the Berkeley study link, the most interesting part is this:

    “Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” said UC Berkeley social psychologist Robb Willer, a co-author of the study. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

    So what it’s saying is that in a way, religiosity is linked more to our capacity to ‘rationalize’ – seemingly runs counter to common belief that religion is ‘irrational’.

    More fodder for cognitive science and the weirdness of the human brain!

    I think the common belief is not wrong but can be better restated to “religion is irrational from the basis of the scientific method”

  11. 13 bel 3 May 2012 at 10:23

    Can one not allow for the possibility that a person, having questioned his/her “received beliefs”, having critically examined them, (and in the case of the homosexual issue, after much interaction with gay people,) eventually arrives at the conclusion that he/her agrees with these so-called “conservative” beliefs? It seems almost to be implying that only people with “liberal” beliefs are the ones who are enlightened. Of course, a majority of people with conservative beliefs may have never questioned their beliefs, but that’s the same as with people holding on to liberal beliefs.

  12. 14 Poker Player 3 May 2012 at 10:49

    Where are the comments from the “other” side?

    I suggest lowering moderation standards if all comments are from one side to let adverse comments in.

    Part of the effectiveness of this blog is the debate that younger unformed mindsets witness – and from which they conclude that your side is the more enlightened one.

    But then again – all this could be because megachurch-goers don’t read this blog.

  13. 15 Alan Wong 3 May 2012 at 11:55

    If they claim that we are only praying to stone and wooden statues, are they not doing exactly the same thing ?

  14. 16 JayF 3 May 2012 at 12:57

    Hi Alex

    A person can interact with someone else and never come to an agreement. This survey also does not indicate the depth of the interaction of the average megachurch goer with gay people. I’m less likely to risk the social cost of telling a gay hi-bye friend that he is immoral and wrong to his face especially if I don’t have a strong emotional investment in his behaviour than I would a close friend.

    Some very old and close friends of mine are of other religions, atheists and a few are barely closeted gays. I am a megachurch goer and as far as I’m concerned, they’re going to hell. They are also fully aware of my beliefs. Yet, we are still the closest of friends, even as they mock my religion when they’re upset over (usually) irrelevant issues and I taunt them as hellbound sinners.

    You might think me callous if I sincerely believe they’re going to hell and yet I don’t make an effort to “save” them in the usual parlance employed by many of my more fervent co-religonists. I however realise that if belief in my god is the only way out for them, belief cannot be forced and argument is the least productive way to change their belief. Certainly the many arguments I’ve had with them only served to reinforce my belief. They’re adults, and they need to make their own choices.

    • 17 Anonymous 3 May 2012 at 13:34

      I think you callous not because you sincerely think they are going to hell but not making an “effort” to “save” them. I think you callous that you even hold that repugnant idea in the first place.

    • 18 Poker Player 3 May 2012 at 13:49

      Since a non-Christian gay person is going to hell anyway whether he has contra-377 sex or not, why make it doubly hard for him? Earthly illegality followed by eternal damnation. Why not just leave it at the latter?

      If he is going to hell anyway, how does preventing him from engaging in homosexual acts improve anything for him?

  15. 19 Jenny 3 May 2012 at 15:04

    I get a lot of sh** from the public for going to a megachurch. AND for being a Christian. So I honestly don’t think “Taking up Christianity can be explained as one more box to be checked on the path of social ascent.” On the contrary, I frequently feel people insult and criticise me publicly and constantly for having this religion (without me even bringing up the subject). To be honest, I’m quite sick of it. Throughout the ages people enjoy church burning. But it’s the Christian thing to do to suck it up and take the persecution. Still, I wish people would stop the finger pointing at people like us. “People Like Us” sounds familiar doesn’t it?

    • 20 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 13:44

      “On the contrary, I frequently feel people insult and criticise me publicly and constantly for having this religion (without me even bringing up the subject). ”

      Muslims have it worse.

    • 21 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 13:49

      “Throughout the ages people enjoy church burning. ”

      If you look up “church burning” it’s usually about black churches in the US South. Guess the religion of the perpetrators…

      Burning people alive…that’s another thing…guess again who does it a lot…

    • 22 yawningbread 5 May 2012 at 17:55

      > Throughout the ages people enjoy church burning

      Just the other day, a Christian leader in Florida burned the Koran, cheered on by several others. Again.

  16. 23 Joshua 3 May 2012 at 16:21

    @Alan Wong

    You claim that Christians do the same (worship of stone and wooden statues). Please furnish your evidence. There is no doctrinal link to the worship of graven images in this article; this is a purely cultural comparison of both religions. Since I cannot find any evidence backing up your statement, I consider your statement mere baseless opinion, and worthless in persuasive value. I hope you will consider your words with a greater amount of intellectual capacity in the future, and that you will actually read through the essays-in-question.

    @Waipang

    It is interesting to see such a rational analysis of items regarding both Taoism and what you deem “megachurch Christianity”. I would like to raise a point or two that may or may not be useless in your consideration:

    1) You have raised the idea of “self-radicalisation”, automatically assuming that it is one who convinces *himself* of a faith. Yet that does not make sense unless the person is psychologically delusional, or someone who is seeking to be changed in mind and belief. Would that mean most of the 18,000 members of City Harvest are psychologically delusional? Should that be so, our society would be in great peril, yet nothing seems to indicate anything of the sort.

    What about converts who were once hardcore non-Christian believers, who would immediately snarl at the word “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ”, and yet have been changed by something they cannot comprehend? Self-radicalisation is something that cannot be forced upon a person; to choose to be a radical, one must willingly embark on a journey of self-conviction. Yet none of these converts chose to start becoming Christians.

    2) I understand that as a homosexual, you are very likely non-religious, or even if so, not belonging to a religion that disapproves of homosexuality like Christianity. Therefore the concept of a living and personal God will not appeal to you, nor will you take into account the actions of such a being.

    Nevertheless, I must present the point that it is because of the actions of such a Being, that people who are Taoist would be willing to convert to Christianity (megachurch or not). I am sorry if you are offended or are turned off by the inclusion of such a ‘irrational’ subject, but you must understand, it is religion, it is faith that you speak of here.

    The cornerstone of Christianity, is obviously a divine Christ. If you choose to ignore the implications of a possibility of a Divine God, and merely analyze religion just by its rituals and rites, and make compare-and-contrast conclusions regarding these physical and tangible things, that is all well and good.

    But if you choose to analyze faith and doctrine, which I believe you have crossed into when you claim that a majority of these people have converted for social or political reasons, and why people choose to put their faith in an invisible Being, then you must stop and consider the invisible Being that they have placed their faith into.

    If you choose to ignore it, then you have completely forgotten the purpose of religion in the first place. If there is no Christ, there is no Christianity.

    • 24 octopi 4 May 2012 at 11:00

      I’m quite happy to co-exist with Christians. I believe that there is a God too. I just don’t believe in the bible.

      “Would that mean most of the 18,000 members of City Harvest are psychologically delusional? Should that be so, our society would be in great peril, yet nothing seems to indicate anything of the sort.”

      To be sure, a lot of delusions are fairly harmless. Society can co-exist very well with masses of deluded people. I don’t really bother to talk them around. The prevalence of delusions is very well known to people well versed in human psychology. Studies have found that 80% of the people believe they are above average, which means that 30% of the people at any one time are delusional. Delusions are harmless.

      The stand of Christianity against homosexuality is offensive, however. If you know how it feels to be offended, then you shouldn’t be stepping on other peoples’ toes.

    • 25 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 11:07

      “If you choose to ignore the implications of a possibility of a Divine God, and merely analyze religion just by its rituals and rites, and make compare-and-contrast conclusions regarding these physical and tangible things, that is all well and good.”

      Why not give it a different formulation? He analyzes Christianity the same way you would analyze Taoism, Hinduism, South Sudanese animism, ancient Greek religion, ancient Egyptian religion, Scientology…

      You “ignore” almost as much as he does…

      • 26 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 11:09

        “You claim that Christians do the same (worship of stone and wooden statues). Please furnish your evidence.”

        He is doing no more than what some Christians claim for Hinduism and Buddhism – with just as much evidence.

    • 27 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 11:23

      “Would that mean most of the 18,000 members of City Harvest are psychologically delusional? Should that be so, our society would be in great peril, yet nothing seems to indicate anything of the sort.”

      You are not making any argument. North Korea (I hope I don’t need to spell out the connection with “delusional”) has been independent for far longer than Singapore as an independent country.

      • 28 Poker Player 4 May 2012 at 11:30

        “Nevertheless, I must present the point that it is because of the actions of such a Being, that people who are Taoist would be willing to convert to Christianity (megachurch or not)”

        What actions of such a Being would convert someone from Christianity to Buddhism? Or more colourfully to the Hare Krishnas? Or Scientology?

    • 29 Fox 4 May 2012 at 22:56

      “I understand that as a homosexual, you are very likely non-religious, or even if so, not belonging to a religion that disapproves of homosexuality like Christianity.”

      Not all Christian denominations disapprove of homosexuality (per se). I personally try to read it in its wholeness. Some Christians take it as an instructional guide on how rather than what to think about certain social issues. Admittedly, it is more difficult to deconvolute the cultural/social context of its authors from its basic message of love and transcendence, and literalism is often simpler to accept. Unfortunately, our communalistic Asian culture favours that sort of literalism. The bible does speak out against homosexuality but it is also does so against women who do not cover their heads in church. And don’t get me started on divorce, something that Christ and the apostles have to lot to say about (more so than homosexuality) but many Christians conveniently ignore.

      In general, churches tends to be more literalist and conservative in Singapore than their counterparts in the West. This is why you see St. Andrew’s cathedral (the seat of the Anglican bishop in Singapore) openly promoting creationism, something which will make other churches in the Anglican communion cringe.

      • 30 octopi 5 May 2012 at 09:21

        There is this tendency of Chinese people to compartmentalise. We are fundamentally secular people, so we go by empirical evidence, gut feeling.

        A lot of people criticise religion for a lot of things. But you can’t beat it for : exploring a person’s spiritual side, forging community (or else what? People’s association?) maybe even charitable work.

        I think that the Christian’s insistence on doctrine is rather silly. Buddhists don’t 100% trust the written word and there is always this emphasis on pragmatism and practice. It will be absolutely no loss to me if the newly converted Taoists will bring these attitudes, and their compartmentalisation ability into the megachurches: “Being gay is sinful? OK. Having a gay friend? OK. Whatever? OK.” You shouldn’t judge because you can only ever be wrong when you judge. Doctrine doesn’t matter – people join churches to have friends and maybe be happy and I wish that the megachurch going crowd would remember that.

        The concern now is whether the character of these people are going to change, that they would suddenly get very – so to speak – uptight about gay people living among us. That would be a shame.

  17. 31 Anon 3 May 2012 at 21:43

    I think that developing a personal relationship with God and knowing of His incomprehensible love for each of us personally is the first step for EVERY Christian across denominations and does not necessarily represent a confluence with folk Taoism, but rather the starting point for ALL. This naturally, given the massive significance of this cornerstone to faith takes time to build. An emphasis on preaching, praise and worship and cell groups in church helps in precisely this. Further, method of worship is wholly a matter of personal choice and by no means implies any crippled ability to critically question and grow in faith.

    Would it be accurate to say that another reason why new-converts keep reticent about political issues is precisely because such debate requires a rigorous and wide awareness of doctrine… which they might not have yet built up? However, aside from political issues I think new-converts demonstrate a distinct inclination to evangelize and ‘share the good news’ with friends given that many of them too were brought into the faith through that medium. There seems to be no awkwardness there… Any thoughts?Interestingly enough, I do agree that they are inclined to become more conservative; but, the same can be said of any one delving deeper into ANY religion and so-called ‘self-radicalising’ themselves.

    I do think that some links made here are a little limiting, given that the megachurch is a natural starting point for many youths searching for solace. I do admire them for their courage to actively discover more… and of these megachurchies, some leave, others move on to find homes in another denomination, others rise through the ranks and become cell group leaders or perhaps, continue to worship through attending service and so, trying to generalize these people hits me as odd. While the culture of megachurches might have the pull-appeal (rock concert like sermons, fancy infrastructure, etc) I think that there’s a lot more to it than this article does justice to. If these people find affinity in these communities and people to journey with in faith, I think that’s really all that matters.

    • 32 yawningbread 4 May 2012 at 10:50

      > developing a personal relationship with God and knowing
      > of His incomprehensible love for each of us personally
      > is the first step for EVERY Christian across denominations

      Exactly as I predicted in my second paragraph, an insistence that no analysis of religion is valid except one that assays it on its own (revelatory) terms. This comment also treats other religions and their revelatory starting points as invisible.

      > given that the megachurch is a natural starting point
      > for many youths searching for solace

      A very far-reaching assertion indeed.

      • 33 Anon 4 May 2012 at 13:22

        Well, yeah, of course there’s booze, sex and drugs to give us other kinds of comforts – other possible starting points for the youths of Singapore! so, yes, I do retract.

        That was just my 18yo, non-Church going perspective!

      • 34 Anonymous 4 May 2012 at 20:35

        Alex, love your first comment. In a bid for moral certainty, Anon can only define one path of action and excludes all others. It is precisely why religion appeals to people – the simplicity of ‘truth’.

        Religion is but one symptom, albeit one of the most insidious, of our yearning for certainty.

      • 35 octopi 5 May 2012 at 08:42

        “Religion is but one symptom, albeit one of the most insidious, of our yearning for certainty.” – anonymous

        Yes – and so are science and philosophy. That is why the “new Atheists” are scientists and philosophers. You notice – none of them are computer scientists or engineers.

        ” booze, sex and drugs to give us other kinds of comforts” – anon

        There are secular ways of leading a meaningful life. Community service, further studies, exercise, art, politics. There is this tendency of the monotheists to polarise. They love to polarise. Good and evil, moral and immoral, straight and gay, heaven and hell, virtue and sin. That which does not agree with you just has to be cast as something unsavoury – something you just have to crucify.

      • 36 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 10:00

        “Well, yeah, of course there’s booze, sex and drugs to give us other kinds of comforts – other possible starting points for the youths of Singapore! so, yes, I do retract.”

        What’s a false dichotomy?

      • 37 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 11:44

        “Yes – and so are science and philosophy.”

        Which ones are you talking about?

        Poincare, Feynmann, Einstein, Kuhn, Rorty… just to name a few. Familiarity first before sweeping claims.

      • 38 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 11:52

        “You notice – none of them are computer scientists or engineers.”

        I also notice none were Egyptologists or veterinarians.

      • 39 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 12:15

        “Yes – and so are science and philosophy. That is why the “new Atheists” are scientists and philosophers. You notice – none of them are computer scientists or engineers.”

        Furthermore, this is actually confused. Let’s make the distinction between

        1) People who gain fame (or notoriety) as new Atheists.
        2) People who subscribe to the same views as the new Atheists.

        You are making this claim (scientists/philosophers vs computers scientists/engineers) for 1).

        Obviously you can see that you cannot make the same claim for 2).

        So, what is the point you are making?

        Computer scientists and engineers like to keep quiet about their views?

      • 40 Anon 5 May 2012 at 22:27

        Hi octopi,

        There are DEFINITELY ways to lead a meaningful life independent of religion, I do agree. Thank you for pointing that out, really! When I re-read my own comment, I was utterly shocked at how I came off as simply dichotomizing morality. Goodness.

        And to Waipang, sorry for veering off-topic.

        Anon

      • 41 CY 6 May 2012 at 00:21

        I wrote “Religion is but one symptom, albeit one of the most insidious, of our yearning for certainty.”

        And octopi replied “Yes – and so are science and philosophy. That is why the “new Atheists” are scientists and philosophers. You notice – none of them are computer scientists or engineers.”

        There are two levels to this. I don’t think octopi is wrong in saying science and philosophy may be another symptom of our need for certainty. Many people actually mistakenly think it so.

        However, I do see a significant difference at least from the point of view of science, where I think octopi showed the commonly held misunderstanding that I purported to above.

        The scientific method does not actually produce ‘certainty’. In fact, nothing is 100% certain. A scientific fact is true only insofar as it has not been proven wrong. That is the key difference vs. religion. In science, nothing is absolutely correct. In religion, pretty much everything one decides is correct is so (ahh the wonders of faith!)

        Therefore, if religion tells you to kill someone because whichever deity deems it right to be so, there is no questioning (the CERTAINTY of that!). That is the greatest joke we’ve played on ourselves.

      • 42 octopi 6 May 2012 at 01:30

        The work of the scientist lies in reducing the amount of uncertainty about matters. Even if you were unable to predict the rolling of dice, you can always say, “1/6 of the time, it will come out 6″ and the uncertainty is reduced. That’s why science attracts people who are not comfortable with the unknown.

        My understanding of God – sorry if this upsets people – first and foremost, it is a theory. It will attract people who work with theories. Newton and Einstein both had something to say about God. Bertrand Russell, Kurt Godel, Nietzsche – all had views on religion. The metaphysical philosophers will have something to say about God. The pragmatic ones won’t care that much.

        I can’t think of major computer scientists or engineers who purport to be new Atheists. Do you want to name names? How many of these people are new Atheists? Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Linus Torvalds, Mark Zuckerberg, Vint Cerf, Steve Jobs.

        The mindset of an engineer is not conducive to atheism. The pragmatic mindset is not conducive to doctrinal religious thinking either. What matters is the practice – are you a good person, are you not a good person, do you find meaning in life. Rather than “is there a God”, “did Jesus rise from the dead”. People in these fields are not that interested in grand theories. They just want to get by as best they can. Very unlikely to be put off by the fact that a lot of people are believing in things that are “obviously not true”.

        Engineers are more likely to be agnostics, because they are comfortable with uncertainty. Egyptologists will study societies. They will be less concerned about religious doctrine but rather how people think about God and how it affects society. Vets – they will come into contact with a lot of religious practices, because they’ll meet people with pets on their sickbed. It’s unlikely they will chase away priests because “there is no God” or speak out against religion being “fairy tales”.

        Chinese people – it’s in our blood to be pragmatist. Chinese religious movements, a few cults aside, do not make strong theories about the existence or non-existence of God.

        Of course there will always be exceptions to every rule – and no doubt a scientist would hate that!

      • 43 yawningbread 6 May 2012 at 10:55

        > The work of the scientist lies in reducing the amount of uncertainty about matters.

        I think you are confusing the thirst for certainty with the thirst for knowledge.

      • 44 octopi 6 May 2012 at 04:18

        “In religion, pretty much everything one decides is correct ”

        Actually this is also a misconception of faith, very nearly the mirror image of what you supposed was my misconception of science. I read “Dynamics of Faith” by Paul Tillich a few years ago and his vision of religion is that faith is not about certainty. It is a process of open-minded questioning and skepticism almost similar to the scientific method, and similar to what prayer is meant to achieve.

        It’s a shame that so many Christians don’t think like that.

      • 45 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 14:47

        “The work of the scientist lies in reducing the amount of uncertainty about matters.”

        Which field of study does not aspire to this?

      • 46 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 15:00

        “I can’t think of major computer scientists or engineers who purport to be new Atheists. Do you want to name names? How many of these people are new Atheists? Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, Linus Torvalds, Mark Zuckerberg, Vint Cerf, Steve Jobs.”

        How many are pro-life? How many are agnostics? You are no more able to tell than whether they are or not “new Atheists”.

        And why “***NEW** Atheist”? It’s nowhere near being a fixed doctrine. I doubt you even are aware of reservations Hitchens had of Harris’ account of religious experience. There is no “creed”. Therefore no clear difference between being a pre-new atheist or a new one.

        You are just giving expression to your stereotyped view of the four professions you are comparing. Anyone familiar with Poincare, Einstein, Feynman, Kuhn and Rorty (just to name a few) will know you have no idea what you are talking about.

      • 47 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 15:07

        “The mindset of an engineer is not conducive to atheism.”

        I will just quote this. It’s symptomatic of your style of reasoning in your comment.

      • 48 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 15:27

        “The metaphysical philosophers will have something to say about God. The pragmatic ones won’t care that much.”

        You really need to stop making sweeping claims. Look at William James’ bibliography – one item in particular – you will know when you see the title. And when you say “metaphysical philosophers” without further qualification – people familiar with the territory will tell you – “a little learning is a dangerous thing”.

      • 49 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 16:00

        “Engineers are more likely to be agnostics, because they are comfortable with uncertainty. Egyptologists will study societies. They will be less concerned about religious doctrine but rather how people think about God and how it affects society. Vets – they will come into contact with a lot of religious practices, because they’ll meet people with pets on their sickbed. It’s unlikely they will chase away priests because “there is no God” or speak out against religion being “fairy tales”.”

        I have a hard time believing you wrote all this with a straight face.

        To help you get it:

        Thought experiment. Say you replaced each profession with an ethnic group and each tendency with a behaviour. What does this paragraph sound like?

        If you still don’t get it, compare with Mr Brown’s parody of Seng Han Thong.

      • 50 octopi 6 May 2012 at 17:12

        There’s no confusion here. All striving for knowledge is an attempt to reduce uncertainty. But there is the whole spectrum.

        Certain forms of knowledge have more parsimonious explanations: mathematics, physics, discrete logic. Those of a more highly theoretical bent. In general, the more theoretical it is, the more it would appeal to somebody who has a thirst for certainty. The black and white forms of knowledge. The 2+2=4 type.

        Other forms of knowledge are more practical, or they work along more dimensions. They could be more eclectic about their theories. Like when you are analysing a novel, you can allow for different interpretations.

        The logician might insist: start from the fundamentals: is there a God or is there no God? If there is no God everything falls apart. If there is a God then you believe in him totally and literally. This is right, that is wrong. The more pragmatic engineer would probably say, “does it make people happy? Does believing in God make you want to be a better person?” He’d be able to compartmentalise and say, “even if I don’t believe that somebody actually rose up from the dead, I can still believe some of his teachings”.

        I think it is this dimension that determines whether or not you are a dogmatist, rather than a simplistic, “do you believe in science or religion”

        Somebody said to me the other day that science has not been as destructive as religion. I had to remind him that the holocaust came about because the Nazis perverted the thinking behind evolution.

      • 51 octopi 7 May 2012 at 00:42

        “Thought experiment. Say you replaced each profession with an ethnic group and each tendency with a behaviour. What does this paragraph sound like?”

        I think I already did that, didn’t I?

        To say that a medical doctor is more compassionate than a scientist is such a stereotype, right? To say that a schoolteacher has more personal skills than a day trader is such a stereotype? Or that an engineer is more practical than a mathematician?

        Wow, look at all these comments, I think I must have hit a nerve. I didn’t do anything more than point out that atheists are a really dogmatic bunch of people.

      • 52 octopi 7 May 2012 at 00:46

        You’re an atheist, aren’t you? You know, you can probably get away with making fun of a Christian’s beliefs, but god save you if you do the same to an atheist.

      • 53 Poker Player 7 May 2012 at 10:38

        I almost feel that my responses are counter-productive. For every notion I disabuse, 2 more are introduced. If YB will permit, I will do one more, at least readers who are still interested will have enough to go on for further research themselves.

        “There’s no confusion here. All striving for knowledge is an attempt to reduce uncertainty. But there is the whole spectrum.”

        This doesn’t help your stereotyping. The spectrum exists WITHIN disciplines and worse, they OVERLAP.

        For computer science there is “theoretical computer science”.

        For physics (“science”) there are people whose career is trying out different materials for better high temperature super-conductivity properties. There is no certainty here – they are “cooking” – there is no mature theory yet.

        WHere on the spectrum does each go?

        “Certain forms of knowledge have more parsimonious explanations: mathematics, physics, discrete logic. Those of a more highly theoretical bent. In general, the more theoretical it is, the more it would appeal to somebody who has a thirst for certainty. The black and white forms of knowledge. The 2+2=4 type.”

        Again:how does this help your stereotyping?

        Guess which field is “discrete logic” used day in day out?

        “Other forms of knowledge are more practical, or they work along more dimensions. They could be more eclectic about their theories. Like when you are analysing a novel, you can allow for different interpretations.”

        These attributes apply to both science AND engineering/computer science.

        Again:how does this help your stereotyping?

        “The logician might insist: start from the fundamentals: is there a God or is there no God? If there is no God everything falls apart. If there is a God then you believe in him totally and literally. This is right, that is wrong. ”

        Again a little learning is a dangerous thing. You even got the branch of philosophy wrong. Look at the first chapter of any introduction to philosophy. You may find the traditional branches – metaphysics (ontology and cosmology), epistemogy, LOGIC, etc.

        What is the ontological argument? What is the cosmological argument? Notice the branch of philosophy.

        “The more pragmatic engineer would probably say, “does it make people happy? Does believing in God make you want to be a better person?” He’d be able to compartmentalise and say, “even if I don’t believe that somebody actually rose up from the dead, I can still believe some of his teachings”.

        Why pragmatic “engineer”? This is something some people say and others don’t. Those who say it may or may not be engineers. Those who don’t may or may not be engineers.

        “I think it is this dimension that determines whether or not you are a dogmatist, rather than a simplistic, “do you believe in science or religion””

        The customary banality which neither strenghtens nor weakens your claim.

        “Somebody said to me the other day that science has not been as destructive as religion. I had to remind him that the holocaust came about because the ***NAZIS*** perverted the thinking behind evolution.”

        And finally
        “Godwin’s law”
        - signalling an end to this discussion – for me at least.

  18. 54 Johnny 4 May 2012 at 04:55

    Christianity in much of the european states are going down, church goers are mainly old people. Interestingly, the trend seems to be going in the opposite direction in Singapore. As stated, mega churches has become status markers through good marketing methods, it would be interesting if you could write an article to analyse other reasons to this phenomen. Some factors could include:

    Increasing stress in Singapore (Outlet to destress)
    Religious tolerant society (No one can fault you when preaching)
    Unable to think independently (groupthink society, preaching to the gullible)
    Money chasing society (Tithes to chase the intangible)

  19. 55 JayF 4 May 2012 at 15:26

    @anon

    How is the idea that those who are not perfect will not deserve to enjoy eternal goodness and perfection which what Heaven is repungant? Christian doctrine states that believers enjoy Heaven because it is a gift freely given, not because the Christian has done anything to deserve it. Unless you are referring to eternal suffering bit. If your idea of hell is the whole package with the horned demons, circles of hell and pitchforks, you might be happy to know that is a 16 century Italian creation, thanks to Dante’s poem.

    Sheol, the only description of the close equal of hell is barely described in canon sources. There is the gnashing of teeth, but there is no description of them undergoing the very inventive tortures of Dante’s Inferno.

    Besides, would someone who rejected God his own life want to share eternity in submission to Him? That’s what Heaven entails.

    @Poker player:

    You’re assuming I care what a gay does in his spare time. I don’t. 377A isn’t for the benefit of the gay person anymore than laws are for the benefit of the criminal. It’s for the conservative people who voted for the conservative government who maintain the laws on the books but compromise by not enforcing the law actively.

    It’s basically the dominant sector of society sending out signals that they find such actions morally unacceptable. Also, eternal damnation and whatever punishment he may suffer on earth are two different matters.

    • 56 octopi 5 May 2012 at 08:31

      On one hand I wish that a lot of Christians would think like you, and regard the activities of gay people as an earthly matter, and separate from religious doctrine.

      But then there is a contradiction here. If you think that 377A is a reflection of the conservatism of the people in Singapore, then it does mean that their attitudes have some bearing on public policy. And it’s not as though you have casual attitudes towards this, which is why you say that they get eternal damnation rather than it’s merely a sin.

      Basically I don’t think that the attitude of some (maybe most) Christians towards gay people is acceptable. For me, gay people are like left handed people, their brains are wired differently, that’s all. That’s why it’s called “orientation”. I wouldn’t say that left handed people are going to hell. If people are going to act like a threat to social harmony something has to be done about it.

    • 57 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 09:55

      “377A isn’t for the benefit of the gay person anymore than laws are for the benefit of the criminal.”

      Bad analogy. One has victims. The other doesn’t.

      • 58 octopi 5 May 2012 at 15:51

        How about getting sent to jail for smoking weed? Maybe that’s a better analogy?

      • 59 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 19:02

        Heard of the movement for the legalization of marijuana? Heard of Ron Paul?

      • 60 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 19:11

        To press home the point, there is no movement for the legalization of rape or murder.

      • 61 octopi 6 May 2012 at 00:24

        I am not saying that marijuana should not be legalised. I am saying that locking up people for anal sex was conceived as a law “for the benefit of the perpetrators” and is consistent with other laws on Singapore’s books that lock people up when they haven’t harmed anybody.

      • 62 Ian 6 May 2012 at 01:15

        Nope, anal sex between het couples are legal, definitely NOT because of anal sex.

        The only conclusion that can be reached with regard to how 377A will ‘benefit’ the people would be that man-on-man sex is harmful, which is just about as harmful as man-on-woman sex.

        I’m ignoring promiscuous sex here when i talk about man-on-man/woman sex, cause that is generally unsafe, it wouldn’t be appropriate to compare promiscuous man-on-man with non-promiscuous man-on-woman sex.

    • 63 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 10:24

      “Also, eternal damnation and whatever punishment he may suffer on earth are two different matters.”

      The thing about logical fallacies is that they are almost completely categorized and you can just point it out when you see one.

      But this isn’t one.

      State a banality that no one can argue against and give the impression that you have made some successful counter-argument – what does one do with that?

    • 64 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 10:35

      “You’re assuming I care what a gay does in his spare time. ”

      Too can play that game:
      You are assuming that I assume that. Not true. I win. See how easy that was…

      I ***know*** Thio mother, daughter and supporters do. No assuming needed there.

  20. 65 Rita E 4 May 2012 at 17:59

    Check out this article (you have to register, but it’s free) -http://knowledge.smu.edu.sg/article.cfm?articleid=1288

    Quote:
    there was a rapid expansion of charismatic Christianity from the 1980s onwards. Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia are said to have the fastest-growing Christian communities and the majority of the new believers are “upwardly mobile, urban, middle-class Chinese”.

    The main trigger [for conversion] that they found seemed to be “business and personal problems”.

    Ethnic Chinese managers in Malaysia belong to the social category of “social climbers who have to establish themselves vis-à-vis the established ethnic Chinese intellectual elite who remain members of the traditional Christian churches”. The charismatic movement conveys the status ambitions of the new middle class, which gives expression to its wealth through participation in the worldwide consumer culture.

    In the Indonesian case, the empowerment comes in the form of “a statement against, or away from, the nation state in which Chinese Indonesians have always been regarded and treated as second rank citizens and had to erase their Chineseness”. Joining the charismatic Christian churches thus offers them “a global Christian identity” and a new sense of belonging.

  21. 66 Tan Tai Wei 5 May 2012 at 09:16

    Quicky sociological research via observing “from the outside”, without complementing with the investigator’s patient initiation into and living someway through the phenomenon being studied, feeling it as a participant, is wont to miss the real thing, especially with regard to religious adherence. How more superficial can such so-claimed “objective” conclusions be than yours that claim that the similarities you purport exist between popular Taoism and Christianity are the motivating force explaining conversions to “mega-church” Christianity in Singapore!

    • 67 Poker Player 5 May 2012 at 11:58

      Depends of the kind of similarity he is claiming. The kind he is claiming does not require “patient initiation into and living someway through the phenomenon”. It is perfectly legitimate for an anthropologist to limit his study and therefore his claims to what can be gathered from a tribe without participating in its more painful rituals.

    • 68 octopi 5 May 2012 at 15:49

      First, you believe what you want to believe based on the limited evidence that you have. The results of the survey are there for all to see, and you decide what you want to believe. In the same way you believe what you want to believe about God based on very limited evidence.

      Second, the report does not say whether similarities between Taoism and megachurches explain the mass conversions from the former to the latter, or whether it’s the other way around. In fact I believe that it’s the other way around.

  22. 69 octopi 5 May 2012 at 16:26

    The cross symbolises the love that Jesus has for humanity, and it also symbolises sacrifice. But for me, more than that, it symbolises the persecution complex of the entire religion.

    I try not to talk to Christians about religion, partly because a lot of their beliefs are harmless. Their attitude towards some groups of people is a real shame because it’s in such stark contradiction with how they say they want to lead a better life and be a better person. I don’t want to feed their persecution complex and say bad things about the church, and I think it’s better to play the victim and ask them why they want to be the bad guys.

  23. 70 JayF 5 May 2012 at 17:35

    @octopi

    Public policy usually does reflect the bearings of the people making up said public, particularly legislation that affect social matters and behaviour. Most governments are a reflection of the people they rule over and usually enjoys a certain amount of support, however passively it may be. Essentially, your issue is with how the govt retained 377A as they realise those who are likely to support them are also likely those who like the current stand on 377A while those who do support the repeal, with a few exceptions are those whose votes usually goes to anything but PAP.

    You may want to know that for Christianity, sin equals death. Death in the Bible and Christian doctrine also means what is commonly referred to as hell. You seem to operate under a misunderstanding that there is such as a thing as catergories of sin, which some sects and denominations do follow, but canonically, the only sin which is unforgivable is denial of Christ. No other sin can condemn a person provided he has taken the offer to have his sin’s punishment paid for, likewise no sin can be overlooked if said person denies Christ.

    What I am seeing here is that it’s not just the attitudes of Christians you have an issue with, it’s the doctrine of the religion itself.

    • 71 octopi 5 May 2012 at 18:52

      I actually think that the attitudes are fairly similar over the 2 sides of the political divide. The anti-PAP bunch will be more liberal, but not by much. I think the Worker’s Party’s stand towards gay people is similar to the PAP: they don’t oppose the gays, but they won’t stick up for them either. I think only SDP is liberal enough to make a stand. I don’t remember gay rights being mentioned at political rallies at all.

      I’ve actually argued on another thread that this is something that has to be taken out of the political arena and settled at the grassroots level: the government can be slightly more progressive than the rest of the population, but not more than “slightly”.

      Some Christians believe that nobody actually goes to hell. But all Christians believe that everybody is a sinner. So how are you going to resolve that?

      I believe that doctrine does change over time. If I’m not wrong the bible reflects attitudes which are fairly archaic – subjugation of women, slavery, eating shellfish. Doctrine can change and should change. It’s up to the leaders of churches to decide how they’re going to change with the times, and whether they’re going to continue being an obstacle to justice and equality.

  24. 72 Saycheese 6 May 2012 at 00:17

    Alex has opened a can of worms!
    I am out of here.

  25. 74 yuenchungkwong 6 May 2012 at 07:19

    “taoism” is the wrong description; “pagan worship” is more like it, even Madi Graz; the atmosphere is convivial rather than spiritual,

    the rapid growth of these organizations reminds me of Raffles Town Club attracting 18000 members at $28000 a pop in a matter of weeks in 1999, but since then club memberships have lost their luster and new hot buttons have arisen, including anti-PAP socializing via the web; all examples of human inventiveness in group seeking

    • 75 yawningbread 6 May 2012 at 10:40

      The term “pagan worship” is, in common-usage, Christian-centric. But strictly-speaking, if someone belongs to a religion that worships the trinity of Ukkaka, Mechzimo and Pootloot, then gods other than Ukkaka, Mechzimo and Pootloot, are all pagan gods. To him, followers of Shiva, Yahweh, Jupiter and Allah, etc are all pagan-worshippers.

      “Folk Taoism” is correct description of the ritual practices and beliefs of traditional-minded Chinese. I didn’t say “Taoism”, I said “Folk Taoism” – they are different things.

      Re growth, data from the US is interesting. See http://www.christianpost.com/news/religion-census-increase-in-evangelicals-mormons-muslims-decrease-in-catholics-mainline-protestants-74207/ for growth of religious groups and denominations and http://www.deism.com/NONES_08.pdf for trend lines of “no religion”.

    • 76 The 10 May 2012 at 09:29

      Christianity was also derived from ancient pagan worship.

      Quote:
      1) Hundreds of years before Jesus, according to the Mithraic religion, three Wise Men of Persia came to visit the baby savior-god Mithra, bring him gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.

      2) Mithra was born on December 25 as told in the “Great Religions of the World”, page 330; “…it was the winter solstice celebrated by ancients as the birthday of Mithraism’s sun god”.

      3) According to Mithraism, before Mithra died on a cross, he celebrated a “Last Supper with his twelve disciples, who represented the twelve signs of the zodiac.

      4) After the death of Mithra, his body was laid to rest in a rock tomb.

      5) Mithra had a celibate priesthood.

      6) Mithra ascended into heaven during the spring (Passover) equinox (the time when the sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length).

      As you can now see, Christianity derived many of its essential elements from the ancient religion of Mithraism. Mithraism became intertwined with the cult of Jesus to form what is known today as “Christianity.” Although literary sources on this religion are sparse, an abundance of material evidence exists in the many Mithraic temples and artifacts that archaeologists have found scattered throughout the Roman Empire, from England in the north and west to Palestine in the south and east. The temples were usually built underground in caves, which are filled with an extremely elaborate iconography (illustrating by pictures, figures and images). There were many hundreds of Mithraic temples in the Roman Empire, the greatest concentrations have been found in the city of Rome itself.

      We often hear about how many of the traditions, rites and symbols of modern day “Christian” holidays have their roots in paganism.

      Unquote

      http://jdstone.org/cr/files/mithraschristianity.html

      • 77 Tan Tai Wei 11 May 2012 at 11:16

        Be careful not to pick resemblances and quickly conclude. Read history and determine, through patiently studying responsible scholarship, the factual roots of Christianity’s origins. And then only, see how cross-cultural influences and the like had influenced its doctrinal development, and distinguish myths, that had expectedly developed around great historical personalities like Jesus, from literary genres in scriptures that purport facts. Other “similarities”, the more significant sort, to other spiritual quests and beliefs are only to be expected, if Christianity, like them, is also a quest for truth.

      • 78 yuenchungkwong 12 May 2012 at 06:09

        actually, the bible has much pagan worship content: Eve could talk to the serpent and learnt sex from it, showing the ancient practice of snake worship and fertility rites; the stories about the death of the first born in Egypt, Herod killing all babies, Maria and Joseph running away from Phoenicia while she was about to give birth, hints that these tribes practised the Phoenician sacrifice of the first born; Salome kissing John Baptist’s head was clearly a blood rite of some kind

      • 79 Truth Seeker 17 May 2012 at 05:53

        Following from the website link is nonsense! Which casts doubt on the whole narrative on Mithras. Not saying Mithras is not pagan Christianity but the narrative fails to prove its reliability.

        BUDDIAH – INDIA: Born of the Virgin Maya on December 25th. He was announced by a star and attended by wise men presenting costly gifts. At birth angles sing heavenly songs. He taught in temple at age 12. Tempted by Mara, the Evil One (Satan), while fasting. He was baptized in water with the Spirit of God present. Buddiah healed the sick and fed 500 from a small basket of cakes and even walked on water. He came to fulfill the law and preached the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness and obliged followers to poverty and to renounce the world. He transfigured on a mount. Died (on a cross, in some traditions), buried but arose again after tomb opened by supernatural powers. Ascended into heaven (Nirvana). Will return in later days to judge the dead. Buddiah was called: “Good Shepherd,” “Carpenter,” “Alpha and Omega,” “Sin Bearer,” “Master,” “Light of the World,” “Redeemer,” etc.

  26. 80 Colonel Tusker 6 May 2012 at 10:24

    And all I can say to those Singaporean megachurch attendees is, “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Then come follow me.” If that doesn’t do it, then how about, “It is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” And we might follow that up with the parable of the rich man building bigger and better barns. That ought to do it.

  27. 81 Tan Tai Wei 6 May 2012 at 14:09

    Beware of taking this or that from here and there, and with a few quick, clever thrusts, assume you have sampled the vast and complex religious experience of humankind as you compare and trivialize, treading “where angels fear to tread”.

    • 82 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 16:22

      Beware of the the obvious in expressed in its most general terms substituting for argument.

    • 83 Poker Player 6 May 2012 at 22:43

      You could have argued against the points YB made in his article.

      Instead you choose to assume that he assumes himself to “have sampled the vast and complex religious experience of humankind”.

      I believe the term for it is “strawman”.

  28. 84 The 14 May 2012 at 10:28

    /// Tan Tai Wei 11 May 2012 at 11:16
    Be careful not to pick resemblances and quickly conclude. ///

    /// Tan Tai Wei 6 May 2012 at 14:09
    Beware of taking this or that from here and there, and with a few quick, clever thrusts, assume you have sampled the vast and complex religious experience of humankind as you compare and trivialize, treading “where angels fear to tread”. ///

    Is that how you debate the issues? Beware, be careful?

    What is your own view?

    Beware of the bewarer.

  29. 85 Jeckrr 26 May 2012 at 00:33

    Religion holds back progress of society and humanity while brandishing others, who hold different viewpoints, with labels and disdain. Science and technology can only progress and find answers which are backed up with logic, facts and evidence.

    With it, the influence that religion has over every facet of life will diminish, eventually rendering it useless.

    Then again, one can hope right?

    • 86 Tan Tai Wei 26 May 2012 at 14:31

      Even within our world, there are things science and technology does not deal with, such as values and beauty. But fundamentally, can science explain how it has come about that a large part of the world is of such order and predictability so as to enable science? Even if it is said that religion is no answer, or that, say, there can be no answer to such questions, such basic ponderings go beyond the ken of science.

      • 87 Poker Player 27 May 2012 at 08:57

        This claim is very old and openly and freely made by people on the “science” side of the debate.

        One thing different about people on the science side of the debate is their consciousness of the limits of science.

        Russell:”…confess frankly that the human intellect is unable to find conclusive answers to many questions of profound importance to mankind.”

        Monod:”The only a piori for science is the postulate of objectivity, which spares, or rather forbids it from taking part in this debate.”

        Poincare was an “instrumentalist” …how much more modest can the claim for the purview of science be?

        Now contrast that with the “other” side…I know this is true and it is God’s word…therefore you absolutely cannot do this – no buts.

      • 88 Poker Player 27 May 2012 at 09:02

        “Even if it is said that religion is no answer, or that, say, there can be no answer to such questions, such basic ponderings go beyond the ken of science.”

        About such “ponderings”. I am reminded of a Wittgenstein maxim:

        :”A wheel that can be turned though nothing else moves with it, is not a part of the mechanism.”


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