Friday, January 21, 2011

Is the Cup Half Empty or Half Full?

Stephen Hong reports that "a survey to find out the perception of South Koreans on the philosophy of life, family, ethics, religion and society" found that "53 percent of the respondents believe in 'God’s existence,' 36 percent in 'God does not exist' and 11 percent did not answer," and that "53 percent of the respondents said they believe that 'absolute truth exists'" — One out of two South Koreans believe in God.

It's hard to interpret the results because the very name of God is controversial in the East. Is it "Lord of Heaven" (天主) used by Catholic missionaries, or "Great Heaven" (하느님) used by Korean pagans and in recent years by Catholics, or "Great One" (하나님) used by Korean Protestants? A non-religious theist would like reject all these names.

The problem is hinted at by "how different people interpreted the word 'philosophy'" according to the survey, which "reported that 21 percent said the word brings to mind 'fortunetelling' while 40 percent said they associated the word with religious people." The Sino-Korean word for "philosophy," ch'ŏlhak (哲學), can be found on a fortune-teller's stand or a university professor's door.

Surveying Koreans on such subjects seems meaningless.

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.