About 81% of Taiwan’s population is affiliated with some religious organization. Religion in Taiwan is diverse and includes aspects of traditional Chinese culture. Taiwan’s constitution allows freedom of worship. Religious beliefs and practices have evolved over time due to various immigrant influences and interactions with different cultures in Taiwan. A large percentage of Taiwan’s population is made up of Buddhists, Taoists and atheists.
Religious beliefs in Taiwan
Buddhism is the most widespread religion in Taiwan with around 35.1% of the population confessing to adhering to the religion. Part of the Buddhist community practices Chinese Buddhism while the rest practice Asian Buddhism, their main distinction being the practice of vegetarianism. Most Buddhist practices in Taiwan have developed a more social approach to their practices focusing less on ritual and more on aspects such as environmental conservation, promotion of equality, freedom and reason without engage in politics. Buddhism has grown steadily since its establishment under Dutch rule with the period of greatest growth and spread during the Japanese period. Buddhists established various institutions such as schools, shrines and temples.
Taoism is a religious, philosophical and ritual tradition originating from the Chinese and is the second most followed religion in Taiwan by 33% of the population. Religion aims to harmonize human beings with natural cycles and emphasizes naturalness, spontaneity, simplicity and detachment from desires. It is believed that Taoism was developed from an amalgamation of various Chinese folk religions. Taoism encourages vegetarianism and fasting. Religion includes public rituals as well as the observance of particular days.
Atheism or agnosticism
About 18.7% of Taiwan’s population is irreligious either due to indifference or rejection of religion or lack of worship. Atheists and agnostics do not believe in the existence of a god or only accept the existence of a god whose existence they cannot prove.
Yiguandao is a Chinese folk religion that emerged in the 19th century from the Xiantiandao tradition. Religion accounts for about 3.5% of Taiwan’s population. The religion was recognized in Taiwan in 1987, after which it continued to grow. The religion focuses on an infinite mother who is represented by a flame. The religion spread in the 1930s and 40s through its missionaries who were sent to preach the religion. The Taiwanese government suppressed the religion as demonic from 1959 until the 1980s when its followers petitioned authorities to lift the ban.
The impact of religion in Taiwan
Religions in Taiwan have affected the spheres of life in the country. For example, building schools promotes education while building temples is likely to attract more followers of the religion. Other influences include the longevity of followers such as Buddhists who are believed to live in harmony with nature, thereby increasing their lifespan. Other religious groups include Protestant Christianity, Tiadism, Roman Catholics, Miledadao, Zailism, Xuanyuanism, and other smaller religious sects.
Religious beliefs in Taiwan
|Rank||belief system||Share of population in Taiwan|
|3||Atheism or agnosticism||18.7%|
|7||Roman Catholic Christianity||1.3%|