Officially 81% of the Vietnamese are atheists – this is the figure from the Vietnamese Socialist Republic government. The people however often take advantage of very diverse religious support, without even subjecting themselves to a strict separation of confessions. Adapted into every confession is a belief in gods/goddesses of nature and in divine persons as well as a strong worshipping of ancestors.
Fulfilling duties towards deceased ancestors, performing good deeds, reading Buddhist scripts, giving donations to charities, reciting the names of certain Buddhas are all part of the daily Buddhist Vietnamese life. Earning them merits on their way to ultimate redemption from physical life.
In Vietnam, Islam plays a minor role with approximately 50,000 followers. Most of these followers are also members of the Cham minority. They live a freely interpreted and modified faith, without considering the Quran or Sunna as the highest authority. The five compulsory prayers are only made on Fridays, the 30 days of Ramadan fasting are shortened to 3 days.
Alongside the Buddhists, the Christians are the second largest religious community in Vietnam. In the 16th century, sailors, then missionaries brought Catholicism into the country. Under French colonial rule the number of members exploded. Today there are more than six million. And in the whole of Vietnam there are approximately 6.000 churches.
The Cao Dai teaching originated in 1920 from the spiritualist Ngo Van Chieu. This should unite all Western and Eastern religions. Amongst others Jesus Christ, Buddha, Victor Hugo and Winston Churchill are worshipped as holy saints. Even today there are approximately 1,5 million followers. The cult is only widespread in South Vietnam.