Sunday, 15 July 2007

The Invisible Atheists of Singapore?

I must admit: in recent weeks, I have been thoroughly frustrated (to put it mildly) by the hypocrisy that has surrounded the recent rise of Atheism brought about by the meteoric rise of Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheist authors.

In response to this trend, the local media in Singapore has decided to entrench itself with the religious right. This pro-right stance is so pervasive that much of the opinions from the pro-left are either ignored, or moderated to a point that they do not offend "religious sensitivities". Our pro-religious Ministry of Home Affairs has actively supported inter-faith dialogues that effectively cater to the major official religions bypassing non-religious communities altogether. Everyone in Singapore is either religious to the hilt, or are merely non-Singaporeans to begin with.

In short, atheists and the non-religious do not exist within the Singaporean clique.

According to this article, written by Today, atheists do not even feature in the sectarian landscape. No atheists. No infidels. Period.

Excerpts From Today Online
Tug of War for America's Soul
14th July 2007
By Tiffany Tan

A wave of secularisation is again sweeping through industrialised nations, but will it come around to our corner of the world? Even though Singapore is on the same economic development scale as secular Western countries, experts say atheism in the city-state is a distant possibility. In a study, Dr Pereira discovered that Singaporeans value religiosity and it is "deeply embedded in society".

For some religious leaders, atheism is no reason to lose sleep over.

"If there is a war, it has been going on for the last 300 years and atheism is clearly not winning," said Dr Simon Chan, a professor of systematic theology at Singapore's Trinity Theological College.

"Previous generations of atheists had been no less vehement and hopeful, but a vast majority of the world's population are too incurably religious to be bought over."

A distant possibility??? For the love of Zeus, I don't know where these journalists got their facts from, but just for the sake of "objective journalism", we shall take a sneak peek into a population consensus report taken in the year 2000 (Link here).

According to the report, 340,094 Singaporeans have no religious affiliation, out of a population of 2,494,630. The minimum age group of this consensus was in the 15-19 category, so we can safely surmise that no kids were involved, which would have muddled up the numbers and give the religious ranks a higher boost in numbers.

With these figures, one can assume that at least 13% of Singaporeans do not subscribe to any religion. Unfortunately, there is no way to break the figures down further into atheists, agnostics, deists and other non-religious affiliates, but surely, there ought to be atheists amongst them?

Quite contrary to the news article, religion has not been "embedded deeply" into the fabric of society. Considering that there were only 9733 Sikhs reported by the consensus, the non-religious community occupies a sizable chuck across the sectarian board.

And then there is the "vehement" culture of atheists. Of course, we are riff-ruffs of the sort that really do speak out against religious abuse, but hey, we aren't the ones strapping bombs and flying planes to skyscrapers for the sake of paradise and some 72 virgins (I am sure most atheists like sex, but we are not delirious enough to believe in bullshit of this nature), or for any particular father figure in the sky.

Not a good word, it seems, can be said about atheism. If this article is to be taken as gospel truth, then atheists are no more than invisible shrews, so to speak, good only for spewing vitriol at our persecuted religious counterparts.

Ignoring the Non-Religious Community In Singapore

But why are we, the non-religious sector, constantly ignored by the mass media? Are they trying to tell us that we do not belong here, or that we are, at least in the metaphorical sense, "expendable"???

On a more personal note, I have had an email interview with an ST journalist, who has somehow stumbled on one of my articles regarding interfaith dialogue. While she did not promise to mention about it from her political correspondence desk, I doubt she will ever publish it (again, to my frustration) because of the anti-religious nature of my replies.

Perhaps it is time for the atheist community in Singapore to rally together and break this religious monopoly within the ranks of the mass media. Only then, will our voices be heard by those who will spare no afford to undermine the interests of the non-religious community.


Sailesh said...

I hear you! We need an atheist group of some sort!

BEAST said...

Thank u, Sailesh, I am in the midst of doing something about this.

fuhrer said...

I am a atheist myself

I feel that, we the atheists of Singapore should speak out to 'enlighten' the ignorant Singaporeans that there is no god... stop being so naive

Clara Lim said...

i'm a singaporean atheist. and i'd like to see some sort of group forming in singapore.

Anonymous said...

Its important that such a group be seen doing positive things, like volunteer work. We need to show that Atheism can be a moral and ethical force in the lives of Singaporeans. As much as I would enjoy it, there is no point in forming a group just to bitch about religion, or how we are marginalized in Singapore. The truth is that atheists in Singapore have it easier than those in the US, where you could be ostracized by your neighbours for being an atheist. The biggest danger I see is the possibility of religion creeping into our political system, via evangelical politicians like Prof Thio. The other concern is also the growing religiousity of Singaporeans, especially the tertiary educated who are gravitating towards evangelical christianity.