With increasing religious observance, the potential for scams is rising. Authorities need to step in to help people stay vigilant and avoid being duped.
E-newspaper VietnamPlus speaks with Associate Professor, Dr. Bùi Hoài Sơn, Director of Việt Nam National Institute of Culture and Arts, on the problem from a cultural and sociological perspective.
How do you evaluate people’s religious practices?
Social development leads to a number of consequences that make many people feel insecure, anxious and turn to religious beliefs as a consolation. Many individuals and organisations have built spiritual tourist sites, creating spiritual activities to fill that need.
In addition, the impact of new media (social networks) in disseminating information, creating online communities to connect religious and spiritual practices, also increases this need.
In my own opinion, this practice has both positive and negative consequences. The positive thing is that the spiritual beliefs and practices help people be more determined in their work. From these efforts, society will develop.
Practising religion and beliefs also helps people appreciate the values of “ chân – thiện – mỹ ” (the true, the good and the beautiful), thereby reinforcing the virtue of honesty of each person. Practising religion is also part of traditional culture. Traditional cultural values, thereby, are maintained and strengthened by the Vietnamese society as the country is integrating into the global system.
However, this practice also has some negative consequences, as it leads to the restoration of unsound customs, pushes some people to the level of superstition, adversely affecting the spiritual and material life of each individual and family.
Scammers use spirituality, incantations, and worship to make profits. Notably, this behaviour takes place in the capital, not in the countryside. How do you evaluate this situation?
Currently, we are witnessing a lot of scammers that take advantage of beliefs and spirituality for profit, and it is worth noting that many highly educated people still believe in superstition. That shows there are factors governing people’s perceptions that make them believe in things which are not scientifically grounded.
Society at any stage also needs religion and beliefs. Before, people were confident that when science developed, religion would lose its place and disappear. This is not correct, because religion or belief, does not compete with science, but complements science at a point that science cannot explain.
There are many phenomena that cannot be explained by science that makes people believe in fate, in luck, and all of which have led them to spiritual therapy and superstition.
In your opinion, how should State management agencies, the media and cultural experts get involved in order to warn people?
The first thing to do is promote information in mass media. However, the information also needs certain precautions, otherwise it will backfire. Specifically, instead of condemning a certain phenomenon, we inadvertently create curiosity and stimulate attention towards the phenomenon itself.
Second, State management agencies need to issue specific sanctions and regulations. Spiritual profiteers need to be prosecuted so that they cannot take advantage of spiritual needs and lure others into superstitious activities.
Next, cultural experts need to be proactive and active in analysing the advantages and disadvantages of religious practices, especially in superstitious phenomena. In today’s age, information comes and passes quickly, so we need accurate and reliable information from cultural experts.
Families, schools and mass organisations also need to play an active role in creating proper awareness of inappropriate spiritual activities.
I believe, when we create a healthy cultural life, we will minimise the negative impact of these phenomena on people, thereby helping us to build a healthy culture for society.
What should people do to protect themselves against inappropriate spiritual activities?
The boundary between religious practice, belief and superstition is quite fragile. Religion and belief contain many good values, therefore, each person’s life will become happier and more worthy of living by pursuing the values that religion and beliefs bring. Therefore, in order to properly practice religions or a belief, we need to first understand the nature of it.
Religion or belief teaches people to think well, live well, do good things for others. When we do that, society will certainly be good. In addition, when we practice the right religion and belief, we will create a lifestyle that respects the traditions in the family.
Other factors, without scientific basis, are not the nature of religion or belief, and therefore, are not conducive to individual personal development and should be removed from social life. — VNS