A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center on religious pluralism in South and Southeast Asia sheds light on the prevalence of beliefs in supernatural beings among the region’s population. The Pew Research Center is known for its extensive research on public opinion and various subjects, including politics, technology, economics, and religion.
The Study Details
Titled “Buddhism, Islam, and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia,” the research surveyed 13,122 adults across Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka. The survey was carried out between June 1 and September 4, 2022, with the aim of examining religious conversions and their impacts on society.
The countries chosen for the survey represent a diverse range, including Buddhist-majority nations (Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand), Muslim-majority nations (Malaysia and Indonesia), and a religiously diverse country without a single majority (Singapore).
High Levels of Religiosity
The study’s findings indicate that the surveyed countries exhibit high levels of religiosity. Nearly all respondents in these nations identified themselves as part of a religious group, emphasizing the significance of religion in their lives. Notably, Indonesia stands out with 98% of respondents considering religion to be very important, closely followed by Sri Lanka at 92%.
Singapore’s Unique Perspective
Singapore, however, presents a unique perspective within the study’s findings. While 22% of Singaporean adults reported having no religious affiliation, only 36% considered religion to be highly important in their lives. Despite this, a substantial 87% of Singaporean respondents expressed belief in God and supernatural beings, commonly referred to as “makhluk gaib.”
Belief in the Supernatural
The belief in God or supernatural beings, such as deities and spirits, is widespread not only in Singapore but also in other countries surveyed. In fact, a staggering 100% of Indonesians believe in God or supernatural beings. This shared belief significantly influences religious practices among the population.
Religious Practices and Rituals
In countries predominantly following Buddhism, such as Cambodia (96%), Sri Lanka (92%), and Thailand (84%), respondents mentioned engaging in practices like burning incense and meditation.
Meanwhile, in nations with a significant Muslim population, like Indonesia and Malaysia, daily prayers, including the five daily Salah, are common. The percentage of those praying daily is notably higher in Indonesia (95%) and Malaysia (82%) compared to countries where Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christianity are the dominant religions.
In conclusion, the Pew Research Center’s study highlights the widespread belief in supernatural beings in South and Southeast Asian countries, with strong ties between these beliefs and religious practices. Despite variations in religious diversity and the importance of religion in people’s lives, the faith in God and the supernatural remains a common thread throughout the region.