Growing number of temples, churches reflects spiritual needs

On June 16, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that the number of registered churches and temples increased by 116 in 2010. According to the ministry’s records, the number has jumped by 2,678 in a decade, reported Taipei-based China Times. This brings the island-wide count to 15,211 registered places of worship.

Tseng Shu-cheng, dean at the Visual Arts College, National Tainan University of the Arts, said that there are at least 15,000 temples that are not registered. Agreeing with Tseng, Lee Fong-mao, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Religious Studies, National Chengchi University, attributed the increase to two factors:  1) a growing trend for the legal registration of temples, and 2) the rise of new religious sects.

Lee said, apart from the five major religious categories (Buddhism, Taoism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam), new religious sects such as Xuan Men Zheng Zong are striving for legal registration. In addition, there are many informal temples that are not qualified to register. “So the number of total unregistered temples should be twice that of the registered,” Lee noted.

The increasing number of temples and the churches reflects the religious needs of the people, according to Tseng, “the desire to pray to gods and to seek guidance from fortune tellers reflects a feeling of insecurity.”

The largest concentration of temples belongs to the Taoists, mainly located in southern Tainan, Kaohsiung and eastern Pingtung Counties. Each area has over 1,000 places of worship, accounting for 35 percent of all the Taoist temples in Taiwan.

The China Times reported that there are 27 religions currently registered with the MOI, including the five major ones previously mentioned. In dividing up the temples, the largest numbers are Taoist temples accounting for 78.3 percent, followed by Buddhist temples with 19.6 percent. For Christian churches, the total increase was 240 over the past decade. There are currently over 2,200 churches, with Protestant churches accounting for 76.5 percent, followed by Catholic churches at 22.2 percent.

The MOI figures also show that Taoism and Buddhism are popular in southern Taiwan, while Christianity is popular in northern and eastern Taiwan. In all, the variety of religions and the high number of temples clearly indicate the high level of tolerance for diversity and mutual respect for religious freedom among Taiwanese people.

Leave a Reply