Korea is a country considered to be in the top ten of unbelieving countries. Irreligious, atheistic, unbelieving are all ways surveys describe the situation. Citizens have different understanding of these words, and you see the contradiction when you have a Buddhist or Christian say they are non-religious or even atheists.
Korea, according to the census of 2005: Buddhist number 22.8%, Protestant 18.3% and Roman Catholic 10.9 percent. Korea has no majority religious group but the figure of the unbelieving usually is put at over 50 percent. Our president considers herself an atheist with connections to Buddhism and Catholicism.
Korea is very respectful of religious beliefs even more so than the United States. A Pew Report on the recent visit of Pope Francis to Korea had over 86 percent of the citizens with a favorable opinion of the pope higher than the States, and even higher than the opinion of U.S Catholics towards the pope.
An article in the Peace Weekly reminds us of the influence that Korea has received from the different insights present in distinct times in her history. In ancient times, we had shamanistic practices, totemism, animism and similar nature worship. During the Goryeo years (918-1392), Buddhism, the State Religion, influenced society. Confucianism was the pillar of society during the Joseon Dynasty which began in 1392 and ended with the Japanese occupation of Korean in 1910, and continues to shape society. Today Korea is a show case for almost all the religions of the world.
It is not difficult to understand why unbelievers, atheists and agnostics continue to increase. Religion's values continue to be attacked, and with the multiplicity of religious views, often in opposition to one another, one can easily doubt the value of religion. We have the appearance of new religions, and anti-Christian values continue to spread. The columnist sees the need for a martyr's mentality to overcome the difficulties.
We no longer in Korea have to face death to remain a Christian, and in reality it takes a great deal less for members of the community to abandon what they thought at one time was important. Over 80 percent freely choose after baptism to abandon the community they once accepted as precious.
The columnist tells us that this is true in his diocese as it is in the country as a whole. The reasons are many and he wants the Christians to see it as harassment to their faith life: lack of trust in community, bad examples, clericalism, the duties of a busy life, temptations that militate against a life of faith, and the search for pleasures. These and many other reasons move us to jettison what we don't see for what we do, and in the process fail to live in the way programmed by the Creator, which is to live with joy.