Thursday, March 02, 2006

One Man's View on Religion

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, 82, was featured in the 12th December 2005 edition of the Time Magazine, and the closing paragraphs of the interview provided an insight of his view of religion:

TIME: Do you think of yourself as a religious man? Do you have a religious faith that keeps you going, sustains you?

LEE:"We do psychometric tests on our candidates for important jobs. There is a scale of values: social, aesthetic, economic, religious, etc., six values. I cannot judge myself, but I believe I would not score very high on religious value. I do not believe that prayer can cure, but that prayer may comfort and help. At the same time, I've seen my closest friend [former Finance Minister] Hon Sui Sen on his deathbed; he had had a heart attack and was fighting for his life, doctors were there, the priest was there, but there was no fear in his eyes. He and his wife were devout Catholics. They were both convinced they would meet again in the hereafter. I believe a man or a woman who has deep faith in God has an enormous strength facing crises, an advantage in life.

Many years ago I read a book - The Real Enemy by Pierre d'Harcourt, a French Catholic. He recounted his experience in a Nazi concentration camp. There were two groups of people in his camp. Those with convictions survived, and those who had no deep convictions died. The two groups who had convictions were the deeply religious - of whom he, a Catholic, was one - and the communists. They had the same unshakeable conviction that they will triumph. The others - famous doctors, talented musicians and so on - they woud trade their food for cigarettes, knowing that if they did that, one morning they would not be able to go out into the cold for the roll call. But they had given up. The communists and the deeply religious fought on and survived.

There are some things in the human spirit that are beyond reason."

His friend Mr S Rajaratnam, who would have turned 91 years old on Saturday 25th Feb 2006, died of heart failure at 3.15 pm on Wednesday. Speaking to journalists in Jakarta, where he heard news of Rajaratnam's death, Mr Lee said the sorrow he felt went back 8 years.

The two had met in 1952, when Mr Rajaratnam was a journalist and Mr Lee a trade union lawyer. In 1959, Mr Lee persuaded Mr Rajaratnam to stand for elections and they went on to shape the early history of Singapore.

Mr Lee said, "Well in the case of Mr S Rajaratnam, mentally his brain died several years ago. When I last saw him in 1998, he could not recognise me. And he could not speak to me. So this is just.. the end. In fact it came then - because when the brain stops to function, then you only have the body.

"So I have got used to it now for 8 years. So my sadness went back to that period....I'm sad for him and the people who had to look after him for all this period."