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Journal Article

Does education develop or diminish spirituality in Taiwan?


Publication date

Sep 2014


There has been little research on the effects of education on religion and spirituality in Chinese societies. This gap is addressed through quantitative analysis of a new dataset, the Religious Experience Survey in Taiwan, in conjunction with the repeated cross-sectional Taiwan Social Change Survey. In Taiwan, people with higher education are less likely than others to say that they have a religion, to worship or pray frequently, and to regard those activities as important. They are more likely, however, to express an interest in mystical or supernatural things, and to report a variety of religious experiences. This paradox arises not because the educated Taiwanese are spiritual but not religious, but rather because they are somewhat polarized: those who have no religion and those reporting religious experiences are not the same individuals. Although education is highly correlated with both birth cohort and income, the findings strongly suggest that education is the key explanatory variable. The official promotion of Confucian thought and its adoption by the educated elite helps to explain the surprising conjunction of declining religious affiliation and increased engagement with spirituality.

Published in

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

Volume and page numbers

53 , 556 -574





Religion and Education


Not held in Research Library - bibliographic reference only; Online in Albert Sloman Library, except current 6 years


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