Religion in Singapore

Buddhism is the largest religion in Singapore and a lot of Buddhist temples are found throughout the country.
Buddhism is the largest religion in Singapore and a lot of Buddhist temples are found throughout the country.

Once colonized by Britain and made up of multiple different ethnicities, Singapore is a diverse city-state in every aspect. One of the island's most diverse features is its wide range of different religions and belief systems. Secular and tolerant of all religions, Singapore is a hotspot of religious diversity in Southeast Asia, particularly when compared to its largely mono-religious neighbors.

Singapore's religious makeup is diverse and varied. The largest religion on the island is Buddhism, which is followed by around thirty percent of the population. Singapore's large Chinese population, particularly from China's southern coastal regions, brought Buddhism to the island upon arrival, and the belief system has since grown into one of the region's most vibrant and visible religions.

Buddhist temples are found throughout Singapore, the most famous of which is the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple, located near Farrer Park train station. Designed and constructed in a Thai traditional style, the temple is the most well-known place of Buddhist worship in Singapore. The temple itself is open during normal business hours, with free admission for visitors.

Although most Buddhist temples in Singapore are decorated in the Therevada style, Singapore's largest Buddhist belief group is Mahayana, a form of Buddhism from India. A large percentage of Singapore's ethnic Indian community follow Buddhism and worship at Buddhist temples, although many others form a smaller Hindu minority.

Singapore's second most popular religion is Christianity. Brought to the island during its period of British rule, Christianity is followed by around fifteen percent of Singaporeans. Although Christian churches are significantly less visible in Singapore than their Hindu or Buddhist counterparts, they remain an obvious sight in many suburban areas.

The most well-known church in Singapore is the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, which is located on Queen and Victoria Streets, in the city's Civic District. While the cathedral is surrounded by huge buildings and imposing skyscrapers, its grounds offer a nice escape from the hustle and bustle that's always present in central Singapore.

Masjid Sultan mosque is Singapore's center of Islam and one of the island's architectural icons.
Masjid Sultan mosque is Singapore's center of Islam and one of the island's architectural icons.

Slightly behind Christianity in number is Islam, which is Singapore's third largest religion. Around thirteen percent of the population are Muslims, of which the Sunni Muslims are the majority. Most islamic life in Singapore is focused in the Kampong Glam district, located close to the central city. This area is also home to the stunning Masjid Sultan mosque, which is Singapore's center of Islam and one of the island's architectural icons. The mosque is open for public worship during the day.

Smaller religions are also well represented in Singapore. The city's Hindu community, which makes up approximately five percent of the population, worship at the Sri Mariamman Temple in the inner city district of Chinatown. The visually striking temple also serves as the headquarters of Hindu life in Singapore, and hosts a variety of Hindu events and cultural exhibits.

Despite its wide range of religions and the large religious influences found in many of its ethnic communities, Singapore is a secular country and no religious laws exist. All religions are free to practice in Singapore, and many smaller religions also worship in the city. Small Jewish, Sihkist, and other religious communities all exist within the city and are relatively easy to contact.

However, despite its secularism and tolerance for religions, Singapore does have restrictions on some religious activity. Due to past refusals to serve in the Singaporean military, materials from the Jehovah's Witness religion are banned in Singapore, and hefty fines are dished out for people that try to bring them into the country.

With its wide mix of religious communities, Singapore is a great country for people of any religion. Lacking the religious laws of neighboring Malaysia or the religious uniformity of nearby Thailand, the small city-state is a unique melting pot of religious diversity in Southeast Asia, and one that any religious visitor will be able to appreciate and take part in.