Is Vietnam a very religious country?

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Is Vietnam a very religious country?

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There’s two set of definitions toward religion, and hence to the sense of being “religious” too, these two sets of definitions are substantial definition and functional definition. Being religious in the functional way, it’s hard to be avoided,I think human has this tendency, even the real communist state like USSR, Mao administration of People’s republic of China, Red Khmer Cambodia etc. they are functionally religious, it’s the same notion that applies to “civil religion”. In terms of functional aspect of being religious, the question itself doesn’t stands strong for a new information, Vietnamese people is surely religious, but when speaking of substantial definition, I don’t find Vietnam being religious, theological, ontological, metaphysical and Buddhist doctrines, these types of topics don’t have market among folks in Vietnamese society, and it is in virtue of observation upon these topics, one become a substantial religious, otherwise, to engages in the functional aspect of religion is nothing further from being “traditional”. In short, Vietnamese people is religious for themselves being traditional, and you could only find from religious places that have people being religious in the substantial way, unlike in the state you can just suddenly speaks to someone about their religious view, regardless how sincere their views are.

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Question: Is Vietnam a very religious country?

Answer: Yeah. Some people especially in the western countries shall be probably surprised that Vietnam is a socialist/communist country and also labeled “No freedom in religion”, but Vietnamese people are very religious.

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Of course, Vietnam shall never become a religious country with the western definition of religion. However, each of the Vietnamese always has their own beliefs/religions according to the Vietnamese culture. Most of the Vietnamese follow unintentionally at least one kind of belief, especially folk religion mixed or related to the teaching of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism. The small portion also follows some new religions like Caodaism, Hoahaoism, catholicism, Buddhism..etc.

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(Chart relating to religion in Vietnam)

Firstly , Among the Folk religions that combined Buddism, Taoism, Confucianism, You or even many of the Vietnamese shall not know what the religion they follow because the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are osmotic deeply in the Vietnamese culture and each of the Vietnamese mindset. This kind of the Folk religion is not what you or anyone could see or express like other religions. However, you could see through the way of the Vietnamese thinking or making a decision.

Here are some kinds of expressing Folk religions in Vietnam

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In each Vietnamese families, they often practice the worship of their ancestors and kitchen god, land god where they are living. Every year, they also celebrate the memorial events to remember their parents, grandparents who had passed away before.

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Why they worship their ancestor, especially their grandparents, parents who had passed away before? Do you think that their ancestors are God? Of course, No - They worship to remember their ancestor’s contributions who took care of them when they were children. It is not similar to worship God.

Like a family, the village in the mindset of the Vietnamese is similar to the kind of wide family. All villagers have lived together from generation to generation and also together overcome many difficult times. So each of Vietnam’s traditional villages, all Villagers often practice the worship of village’s Gods. Every year, especially the first month of the lunar new year, all of them gathered to hold the age’s festive and show respect to Gods of their village.

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Of course, there are two kinds of Gods in each village or Vietnam. The first is the human Gods who have contributed to the establishment or protection of their villages a long time ago or anyone who has special contributions to their country. The second is the natural Gods like River God, Land God,…..etc

Like a village, a nation/country of Vietnam in the Vietnamese mindset is the same as the kind of wide village or very wide family. It explains Why the Vietnamese could sacrifice for the independence and freedom of their nation from generation to generation. Because with the Vietnamese, the before generations have their responsibility to protect or assure the life of their next-generation or their community. So, in this wide village or very family, they also worship the natural Gods and also the father of their nation (the ancestors of their country) - the Hung King or also other people who have contributed much to the protection of their country.

Here is one of many Temple for worshipping the Hung King - The father of Vietnam.

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According to the Vietnam history, the Hung King who established the first Dynasty of Vietnam - The Hong Bang Dynasty around 2879 BC .

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Every Year, the top leader of Vietnam who represents all of the Vietnamese shall worship the Hung King on 10, March at the Hung Temple in the first capital of Vietnam - Phong Chau, Phu Tho during the Hung King festival .

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I think that the Hung King - The father of Vietnam and worshipping the Hung King every year during the Hung King Festival are the way for all of the Vietnamese commemorating the contribution of the Hung King rather than considering them as “Gods” like the Jesus God. The definition of God in Vietnam may be different much to other countries.

Here are the Temples of some people who contributed to the protection of Vietnam from ancient times to modern times.

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(The Saint Giong statute in Hanoi - Who contributed much to protection of Vietnam in the war against the Shang Dynasty - the Ancient China (1556 to 1046 BC))

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Temple of Mrs.Trung’s sisters who liberated Vietnam from Han dynasty of China from AD 12- AD 43

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(Temple of Emperor Ngo Quyen who liberated Vietnam from China in 938 AD)

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(Temple of Tran Hung Dao who defeated Mongolia Empire three times and protected Vietnam from 1257–1288 AD)

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( Temple of Emperor Quang Trung-Nguyen Hue who reunifying Vietnam and also defeated Chinese invasion and Thailand invasion)

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The Temple of Mr. Ho Chi Minh contributed much to the liberation of Vietnam from Japan, France, America. Some people often think that Mr. Ho Chi Minh has been worshipped similar to the Jesus God. But I think that they are wrong or tried to misunderstand the way of the Vietnamese worshipping Mr. Ho or other national heroes. In fact, they call Mr. Ho or others like the Great General Tran Hung Dao ..etc as God or Saint only because of commemorating their contribution, not really regard them as the real God like the Jesus/Buddha God.

Secondly , Buddhism and the teachings of Buddhists impact much on the Vietnamese culture. Unlike Taoism and Confucianism, Buddhism is still presently quite popular in Vietnam. Although many of the Vietnamese people are often considered them as ‘thesis”, they would still prefer to believe in Buddhism.

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(the Buddist events in the Tam Chuc Pagoda)

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(the Vietnamese often invite monks to their relative’s funerals to help the soul of the dead person to go in peace)

Here some pagodas in Vietnam

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(Tam Chuc Pagoda, Hanam province, Vietnam)

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(Bai Dinh Pagoda, Ninh Binh province, Vietnam)

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(Tay Phuong Pagoda, Hanoi city, Vietnam)

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(Vietnam’s Pagoda in Spratly islands in the South China Sea, Vietnam)

Thirdly , some other religions in Vietnam.

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(Holy See of Caodaism in Vietnam)

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(Islam in Vietnam)

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(Catholic church in Sapa,Vietnam)

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(Haohaoism church in Vietnam)

In conclusion : Although with the western definition of religion, Vietnam may not be a religious country. But for my perspective, Vietnam is a religious country in the Vietnamese way. The Vietnamese have their own belief system and contribute to the Vietnamese culture. This belief system is a part of not only Vietnamese culture but also the Vietnamese religion. Also, most of the Vietnamese are atheists but also not completely atheists as some of the western people think.

P/s: I write answers based upon the gist and requirement of the question. Readers are requested to read it with neutrality and rational approach. I throughout this answer has no intention of showing any disrespect towards any group of people or country.

All bests

Lusia Millar.

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No, not really.

Long ago, a French catholic missionary described Vietnam as a “land without religion”, and his observation is still largely accurate today, at least if we use the term “religion” in a Western sense. And just to clarify my stance at the outset, I don’t think their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) makes Vietnam better or worse than my own country (America), which is definitely more religious than Vietnam (but not as devout as some people tend to assume.)

When we (in the West) say “religious”, I think we are referring to people who are observant followers of a relatively well defined faith. Membership in one of these faiths will generally include;

A genuine belief that life’s mysteries have been revealed to us by a divine, quasi-divine or prophetic figure (i.e. Jesus, Mohamed, the Buddha, etc)

Having at least some grasp of codified religious teaching : its stories, as well as its moral and ethical worldview

Attending organized religious services, praying regularly and having a personal relationship with a religious teacher (i.e. priest, rabbi, monk, immam.)

If all three of these hurdles have to be cleared in order to be considered religious, my guess is that only 15% of Vietnamese would qualify, maybe less. Moreover, if you eliminated the 8% of the population that identifies as Christian (these folks are much more likely to be genuinely religious), the percentage would be smaller still.

Although Vietnam has relatively few devoutly “religious people”, it is overflowing with various forms of superstition, idolatry, spirituality and pseudo-science. Examples of these beliefs include;

Veneration of dead relatives and ancestors. It is presumed that their spirits are still with us in some way, a belief that it is linked to a remarkably common belief in ghosts.

Burning incense in front of an altar or kitchen idol to ward off evil spirits, bad luck and bring good fortune.

Non Christian Vietnamese generally don’t go to temples very often. Ironically, when they do go, they often do so in order to pray for greater success in attaining worldly pleasures and status, (the pursuit of which is the alleged root cause of their suffering and failure to attain enlightenment according to actual Buddhist teachings).

Seeking out fortune tellers, feng shui masters, astrologers and other practitioners of pseudo science.

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As you know, Vietnam is not a Buddhism country as an other South East Asia country like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, ect. Most of us worship our ancestors in each family. We have a lot of pagodas, we go to the pagoda for praying at the first or the middle day of every month. But not most of us are following Buddhism. You can see that there is “religion” item in the CV and we used to write “non” in this item. If you follow Buddhism, you will have a Buddhist name. And then you have to write “yes” in “religion” item on your CV. Vietnam citizen can follow any religion they want. Though you follow any religion, most of Vietnamese people always worship their ancestors in their family.

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Mm… Kind of, but in a different way. You see, most Vietnamese people do not consider themselves to belong to any religion

Demographics of Vietnam - Wikipedia

According to the 2009 census, only a third of people follow ‘Vietnamese folk religion’ where 57% are Buddhist. These figures are… unusual. By far the majority of Vietnamese people, at least in the north of the country, ‘worship their ancestors’.

Most businesses have a small shrine to Vietnamese ancestors, in which they leave incense sticks throughout the day. This would be a little like every business having a little Christian altar, at which people say prayers several times a day.

That would surely make them ‘extremely religious ancestor worshippers/followers of Vietnamese folk religion’, especially given that nearly every house has a similar shrine in which pictures of the family ancestors are placed along with offerings.

Vietnamese folk religion isn't exclusive though. People worship their ancestors and also visit a Buddhist temple (though more sporadically, in part perhaps because of rules governing when you can go to the temple, how you can dress, etc).

If treated as Buddhists, then Vietnamese people are probably about as religious as the typical westerner, or a little more. If the true situation of ‘how relevant is religion in society and daily life’ is taken, then Vietnam is a very religious country (at least in the north and centre. The south is less religious, with Christianity not mixing as well with folk religion as Buddhism has)

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