National Profiles > Regions > South-Eastern Asia > Vietnam
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Vietnam - Major World Religions2

Vietnam - Largest Religious Groups2

  Preferred Religion (2015)1: Atheist

  Majority Religion (2015)2: Not Religious (incl. Atheist) (18%)

Religious Adherents, (2015)2

Vietnam South-Eastern Asia World
Not Religious 17.98% 3.88% 12.1%
  • Unspecified Not Religious
  • 11.49% 2.82% 10.11%
  • Atheist
  • 6.49% 1.06% 1.97%
    Indigenous 10.38% 4.28% 2.5%
    Buddhist 8.34% 20.59% 6.65%
    Christian 8.23% 22.03% 29.88%
  • Catholic
  • 7.18% 15.88% 14.95%
  • Protestant
  • 1.53% 5.86% 9.58%
    East Asian Complex 1.08% 0.6% 4.85%
  • Chinese Folk Religionists
  • 0.87% 1.1% 4.34%
  • Taoist
  • 0.2% 0.25% 0.25%
    Bahai 0.44% 0.16% 0.11%
    Muslim 0.18% 36.55% 22.98%
  • Sunni
  • 0.18% 36.49% 19.28%
    Hindu 0.06% 1.18% 14.55%

    Religious Demography3

    The country has an area of 127,000 square miles and a population of 83.5 million. Some estimates suggest that more than half of the population is at least nominally Buddhist. The Roman Catholic Church comprises 8 to 10 percent, several Cao Dai organizations comprise 1.5 to 3 percent, the primary Hoa Hao organization 1.5 to 4 percent, Protestant denominations 0.5 to 2 percent, and one Muslim organization less than 0.1 percent of the population. Most other citizens consider themselves nonreligious, although many practice traditional beliefs such as veneration of ancestors and national heroes.

    Many Buddhists practice an amalgam of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism that is sometimes called the "triple religion." The Government Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) cited an estimate of 10 million (12 percent of the population) practicing Mahayana Buddhists, most of whom are members of the ethnic Kinh majority and found throughout the country, especially in the populous areas of the northern and southern delta regions. There are proportionately fewer Buddhists in certain highland areas, although migration of Kinh to these areas is changing this distribution. A Khmer ethnic minority in southern Vietnam practices Theravada Buddhism. Numbering more than 1 million, they live almost exclusively in the Mekong Delta. In 1981 the officially sanctioned Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) was established. The Government does not recognize the legitimacy of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

    There are an estimated 8 million Catholics in the country, although government statistics place the number at 5.9 million. Catholics live throughout the country, but the largest concentrations remain in the southern provinces around Ho Chi Minh City, in parts of the Central Highlands, and in the provinces southeast of Hanoi. Catholicism has revived in many areas in recent years, with newly rebuilt or renovated churches and growing numbers of people who want to be religious workers.

    Government statistics put the number of Cao Dai at 2.3 million, although Cao Dai officials routinely claim as many as 5 million adherents. Cao Dai groups are most active in Tay Ninh Province, where the Cao Dai "Holy See" is located, in Ho Chi Minh City, and throughout the Mekong Delta. There are many separate groups within the Cao Dai religion; the largest is the Tay Ninh sect, which represents more than half of all Cao Dai believers. Cao Dai is syncretistic, combining elements of many faiths.

    According to the Government, there are 1.2 million Hoa Hao followers; affiliated expatriate groups estimate that there may be up to 3 million adherents. Hoa Hao followers are concentrated in the Mekong Delta, particularly in provinces such as An Giang and Dong Thap, where the Hoa Hao were dominant as a social, political, and military force before 1975. The government-recognized Hoa Hao Administrative Committee (HHAC) was organized in 1999. Some Hoa Hao belong to other sects that oppose the HHAC.

    The two largest officially recognized Protestant churches are the Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam (SECV or ECVN-S) and the smaller Evangelical Church of Vietnam North (ECVN). The Grace Baptist Church and the United World Mission are also officially recognized. A growing number of other Protestant denominations are also present, including the Vietnam Mennonite Church, the Vietnam Presbyterian Church, and the Vietnam Seventh-day Adventist Church (all officially registered), as well as others yet to be registered. Estimates of the number of Protestants ranged from government figures of 610,000 to claims by churches of more than 1.6 million. There were estimates that the growth of Protestant believers has been as much as 600 percent over the past decade. Some new converts belong to unregistered evangelical house churches. Based on adherents' estimates, two-thirds of Protestants are members of ethnic minorities, including minority groups in the Nor


    1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    2.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports annual estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivisions within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    3.  The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.

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