Introduction: Atheist Secularism and Its Discontents
Twenty years ago, a poor peasant who lives about 30 kilometers west of Hanoi survived a strange illness that almost killed her. Since then, she claimed that every night in her dreams she met Uncle Ho, who taught her “the way of Ho Chi Minn”. When she woke up, she wrote down these teachings, using a popular Vietnamese traditional poem form. Very soon, a growing crowd began to gather around her, honoring her as the Master (Thay), and seeking healing and moral teaching. Such was the birth of the Ho Chi Minh religion. Today, the Ho Chi Minh religion has thousands of followers in thirteen provinces in North, Central and South Vietnam. Followers of this religion worship Uncle Ho as the “Jade Buddha of the Nation” (Ngoc Phât Nuöc Nam) and follow the teachings in the “Book of Prophecies”, a compilation of the Master’s poems. A bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh is venerated in the halls of the religion’s main temples, which are adorned with the national flag of Vietnam and the communist hammer-and-sickle flags. Once initiated into the religion, followers are required to replace ancestral and Buddhist altars in their home with a Ho Chi Minh altar, similar to the decorations in the temples. Ritually, the religion has adopted all national and communist holidays, such as Independence Day (September 2), Reunification Day (of north and south Vietnam, April 30), International Labor Day (May 1) and the annual commemoration of war casualties (July 27), as their own celebrations.
KeywordsCommunist Party Religious Practice Religious Freedom Communist Country Communist State
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.