Did you hear the joke about the Taiwan guy who was speeding then ran the red light and was smashed to death? He was on his way to the temple to donate money to renew his car safety amulet. His friends said if only he had driven faster to the temple the temple God would have saved him.
My argument is that the increased focus on Temple related activities and superstition (my definition) related activities is not good for Taiwan. I base my opinion on the following….which I feel is increasing at an alarming rate.
Money donated to a large number of temples basically supports gangsters. Government involvement in temple activities basically helps promote gangster’s business opportunities.
With expanding temple presence in Taiwan….more and more people are involved which encourages even more people. Friends who used to not pay attention to temple activities now are traveling across Taiwan to walk along with the Gods. If my friends believe…then I must be wrong to ignore the Gods.
Every month friends are going to fortune tellers or “spirit cleansers” and encouraging their friends to do the same. One friend spends NT$20,000 a month.
This encouragement of “temple culture” is not healthy. More and more friends now talk about Matzu solving their problems and donate more and more money to make it so. Where does all this money go? My wife asked our local temple about their finances. Talk about a lack of transparency. At the temple near my wife’s home….during the God’s birthday every year the temple used to have people there to explain the SOP of praying…first this and then that…at least make the process seem important. Now the only people at the temple are collecting donations. They post a big advertisement about the future temple expansion to encourage more donations…well, the advertisement is old and fading. And money to feng shui experts? Wow. At my old company every time a boss moved to a new office the expert had to come. Then they would ask the expert to go to their house for another fee.
I lost one friend because she was adamant about using her fortune teller to solve my nightmares about my mother who passed away. This friend used this fortune teller for all sorts of family problems as this guy could do such things as travel back to their ancestrial home in China to talk to their long gone relatives. The fortune teller said if I gave my mother an expensive watch she would calm down and not bother me any more. Of course, he would bring the watch to her. I refused. My friend implied I was stupid for not wanting to solve this problem with this easy method. I do not list all of the other requests from this friend. This friend is highly educated with high paying job.
Every day my wife’s mother calls her to let my wife listen to a fortune teller on the radio talking about what to pay attention to the next day. My wife writes down the predictions and sends in LINE to family members. But when friends heard about this immediately 30 people wanted to be sent the information every day. Colors to wear. What zodiac sign will be lucky or unlucky. What activites to do or not to do. What previously was just fun….not seems a serious exercise in how to live their lives.
Now anytime something bad happens my wife and friends will talk about turning the luck around….of course, by giving money to some temple or some fortune teller.
The power of temples and “religious” groups is growing to a point that they are doing what they want with little control. Long processions everywhere with fireworks blazing away? (guy walking down street lost eyesight in an eye in Neihu when I lived there) Ruining the land near our house…but when we talk to a high ranking government official the response?..”well, no one likes to deal with these religious groups…not sure if you can find someone to want to be involved.” So much stuff.
In summary…during my 25 years here I have heard so much what I deem as nonsense or superstition that has not solved anyone’s problems. Yes, they may feel better and safer after spending their time and money but that is the problem. These people have turned from temple time being a little traditional and fun…to be downright necessary for them to live protected lives.
While in university I read a sociologist’s research about religion and superstition. Basically the research result focussed on the lessening “grip” or control of “religion” or superstition as a society become wealthier because people feel they do not need certain rituals (e.g. spreading chicken blood around your house to ward off evil). Seems the opposite is true in Taiwan.