From Christian to Taoist priest: NUS student shares about his religious transformation
Growing up in a family of free thinkers, religion was never something that crossed Lee Chee Tong's mind – until he attended a church service with his friends during his junior college days.
He found solace and comfort in the faith, and especially loved the teachings of compassion preached in the church.
“At that time, I was very passionate and managed to convert some of my friends to Christianity,” the 24-year-old told TNP.
But he also sensed an internal discord, as some of the Christian doctrines didn’t make sense to him.
“I couldn't understand the concept of people who do good (but) will go to hell. There were a lot of questions I didn't have answers to. And when asked, they would always tell me to just have faith,” he said.
Ever the curious individual, Lee picked up the sacred book of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, one day in 2021 – and it was an eye opener for him.
Many aspects of Taoism appealed to him, especially the fact that the Chinese culture has its roots in Taoism.
"I realised that its philosophy of cultivating oneself to benefit others fit my beliefs, and how embracing death as a natural cycle of life frees one's soul in some sense,” Lee said.
So captivated was he with the teachings of Taoism, that he immersed himself in its texts. He then began sharing his experiences with Taoism on his TikTok account QZ Taoism.
Two years on, though still pursuing a degree in social work at NUS, he has been ordained as a priest.
“Being a priest has duties of helping the dead and spirits, which aligns quite closely to what I believe in. Currently, I'm studying to be a social worker. So, I want to help the living and the dead,” Lee explained.
@tnpdigital “People may judge you for hopping from one religion to another. I think ultimately, religion is very personal. So, experience it for yourself and don't care about what others think.” Read about the journey of this 24-year-old priest on our site! 🙏✨ #fyp #sgnews #sgtiktok #taoism #taoistpriest ♬ original sound - TNP
“As a person that believes death is not the end of a journey, I think that being a priest fits my worldview of helping someone.
“I think a lot of people have this misconception that being a priest is a career; it’s not really a career, but more of a lifestyle.”
When Lee’s family and friends found out about his decision to be a priest, they were quite surprised.
His family members, though not devoted to any particular faith, were open to all religions, he said.
“They didn't expect me to become a Taoist priest because (growing up), we didn't believe in any religion,” he added. “We were very much free thinkers.”
Lee said he was glad to see more youths taking an interest in religion, and encouraged them to continue exploring until they find the faith that is best suited for them.
“People may judge you for hopping from one religion to another. I think ultimately, religion is very personal. So, experience it for yourself and don't care about what others think.”