Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates Taiwan’s total population at 23.6 million (midyear 2019 estimate). Based on a comprehensive study conducted in 2005, the Religious Affairs Section of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) estimates 35 percent of the population considers itself Buddhist and 33 percent Taoist. The rest of the population consists of I-Kuan Tao (3.5 percent), Protestants (2.6 percent), Catholics (1.3 percent), World Maitreya Great Tao (1 percent), Sunni Islam (0.2 percent), and other religions, including but not limited to Tien Ti Chiao (Heaven Emperor Religion), Tien Te Chiao (Heaven Virtue Religion), Li-ism, Hsuan Yuan Chiao (Yellow Emperor Religion), Tian Li Chiao (Tenrikyo), Pre-cosmic Salvationism, the Church of Scientology, the Baha’i Faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mahikari religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), and the Presbyterian, True Jesus, Baptist, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, and Episcopal Churches (4 percent), with the remaining population being nonidentifying or nonreligious (20 percent). Although the MOI has not tracked population data on religious groups since the 2005 study, it states this estimate remains largely unchanged. While the majority of religious adherents categorize themselves as either Buddhist or Taoist, many adherents consider themselves both Buddhist and Taoist, and many others incorporate the religious practices of other faiths into their religious beliefs. The MOI statistics indicate a total of 953,599 followers registered with 12,305 temples and 2,839 churches of all religions as of 2018.

In addition to organized religious groups, many individuals also practice traditional folk religions, which include some aspects of shamanism, ancestor worship, and animism. Researchers and academics estimate as much as 80 percent of the population believes in some form of traditional folk religion. Such folk religions frequently overlap with an individual’s belief in Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, or other traditional religions. Some practitioners of Buddhism, Taoism, and other traditional religions also practice Falun Gong, a self-described spiritual discipline. According to the leadership of the Falun Gong Society of Taiwan, Falun Gong practitioners number in the hundreds of thousands.

According to recent statistics of the Ministry of Labor (MOL), the Council of Indigenous Peoples, and conversations with religious leaders, the majority of the indigenous population of 570,000 is Protestant or Roman Catholic. There are an estimated 1,000 Jews, approximately half of whom are foreign residents. There are an estimated 711,000 foreign workers, primarily from Southeast Asia. The largest single group of foreign workers is from Indonesia, consisting of approximately 271,500 persons, who are predominantly Muslim. Workers from the Philippines – numbering approximately 155,500 persons – are predominately Roman Catholic.

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