Religion in Vietnam

Religion in Vietnam

Throughout Vietnam’s history the majority of religion has been based around the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. This is clearly shown with the large numbers of temples and shrines that are still standing after hundreds of years. As a result, about 85% of all the Vietnam population will profess to follow Buddhism, although many of the Vietnamese people do not regularly practice their beliefs.

Out of those who subscribe to Buddhism most follow the principles of Tam Dao, which means triple religion, roughly translated, with about 80% of the population worshiping Buddhism with a mix of Confucianism, Taoism, and Ancestor Worship. There are also a small percentage of people who follow Hoa Hao, who mostly live near the Mekong Delta, and a small group of Khmer people who follow the teachings of Theravada Buddhism also along the Mekong Delta.

In the latest census carried about by the Vietnamese Government, about ten million people believe in the Three Jewels, which are thought to be the three things that one can take refuge in. Basically these are the three things that Buddhists believe can guide them through life and are defined as Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma. The rest of the people that live in the region seek out guidance through Ancestor Worship creating a blend of religious convictions throughout the country.

There is a small percent of practicing Christians in Vietnam who make up about 8% of the total population, out of which about one million are Protestants, and the other six million are Roman Catholics. The religion of Christianity was spread into the country via Dutch and Portuguese traders during the 16th - 17th centuries and then later reinforced by missionaries that came to the country while American forces occupied South Vietnam during the war.

The Government is not supportive of those who practice Roman Catholicism, a mistrust that traces back to the 19th century when French colonists worked with Catholics to attempt to lead a revolt and elect Catholic emperors. In addition, the strong stance of the Vatican against communism has led any Vatican supported organizations to be banned from the country and now only Catholic organizations that are controlled by the Government are allowed to meet.

Finally in the Southwest regions of Vietnam there is a small population of Cao Dai, which is a newer religion and spread out throughout Vietnam there are also very small populations of Muslims, Baha’is, Hindus, and Jews.