Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Myth of Abrahamic Fundamentalism in Singapore

A common complaint of liberals in Singapore is that its vaunted social conservatism is a myth and that it's really a minority of intolerant, fundamentalist Christians (and, sotto voce, Muslims) who have these views and that they are trying to push their regressive, outdated social views on everyone else.

Perhaps the most visible such flashpoint is the perennial bugbear 377A which nominally criminalises gay male sex (about which after 11 years, I still don't think people should campaign to repeal).

In the wake of the Indian Supreme Court's striking down their version of the law, in a judgment tinged with judicial activism, the repeal movement in Singapore has had new life breathed into it (even if the anti-repeal camp is currently more than 17 times ahead in signature count).

Luckily, we have a timely survey from IPSOS showing that 55% of people in Singapore support 377A (and only 12% are opposed to it). Interestingly, only 38% believe that "Singaporeans should [not] be able to participate in same-sex relationships" (i.e. it seems many of those who support 377A believe it is purely symbolic).

If you don't understand statistics (like many people on Facebook) this won't convince you, but for the rest of us, the fact that only 18.8% of Singaporeans are Christian suggests that claiming that the PAP government [is] trading gay rights for Christian support is silly.

Even if we assumed that 100% of Christians are pro-377A (and we know there're many vocal liberal Christians who aren't), this would still leave 36% of the population to be explained as being pro-377A. Even if one seditiously includes Muslims, who make up, 14% of the population, we still have 22% of Singaporeans who are pro-377A.

Luckily, we have the Institute of Policy Studies' Survey on Race, Religion and Language from 2014 (Pack 1, CNA Pack, Working Paper)

As we can see, while 93.3% of Muslims and 85.8% of Protestants do indeed believe that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex are wrong, we also have overwhelming majorities of people of all religious affiliations who share this view - 74.5% of Buddhists, 77.4% of Taoists, 84.5% of Hindus, 79.0% of Catholics, 78.8% from other religions and even 64.6% of those without a religious affiliation (consider that parties which get vote shares lower than this are regularly described as having landslide victories).

Of course, "only" 55% of respondents in the latest survey supported 377A. One explanation is that public opinion has shifted a lot in 5 years, but a more likely one is that while most people disapprove of gay sex, they do not think it should be nominally criminalised with a symbolic law. Nonetheless, it is clear that Singaporeans in general disapprove of homosexual sex and that it is not just Christians (or, sotto voce, Muslims) who have this view.

More statistics:

The fact that essentially a majority of people from all religious groups disapprove of pre-marital sex, extra-marital sex, pregnancy out of wedlock, the adoption of children by gay couples and gay marriage and gambling, and a majority of everyone except Buddhists, Taoists and those with no religious affiliation disapprove of living in sin (cohabitation), and divorce drive home the point that Singapore is a conservative society - even among the non-religiously affiliated.

The full packs are worth a look, as there're many other interesting bits of this study, many of which challenge liberal talking points. I will post choice bits tomorrow (the post goes live on Tuesday 12th September 12:28PM).
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