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Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Decrease in Religious Freedom Around the World

In 2012 the Pew Foundation released a report documenting the level of government restrictions of and social hostilities toward people of faith around the world ("Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion"). The short story is that restrictions on religion have been on the rise. Their data only goes through 2010, so it is possible that things have changed, but probably not dramatically. The Pew study broke restrictions into two types: government and social. The two graphs below map the level of government restrictions and social hostilities for countries around the globe:

As one can see there is a strong correlation between government restrictions and social hostilities. These graphs, however, only capture the average level of restrictions and hostilities. The graphs below present the data in a slightly different format, showing how the two factors change from 2007 to 2010. They are relatively easy to read.  Each "bubble" represents a country; the size of the bubble indicates the country's population. In the lower left corner are countries with low levels of government restrictions and social hostilities, and those in the upper right corner have high levels of both.

At the study's website (see the link above), these graphs are interactive and one gets a better sense of how restrictions on religion have risen from 2007-2010. Even in the United States, which typically enjoys more religious freedom than most other countries, has experienced a rise (see the graph below). Still, when compared to so-called tolerant countries like the UK, France, and Germany, the US is doing much better.

Finally, it may come as a surprise to some that Christians are the most harassed religious group in the world. From mid-2006 to mid-2010 Christians were harassed in 139 countries. Muslims are not far behind, however. They were harassed in 121 countries during the same time period. Of course, Christians and Muslims are the two largest religious groups in the world, together accounting for more than half of the world's population. Jews, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced harassment in a total of 85 countries, while members of other world faiths were harassed in a total of 72 countries.

The study is eye-opening, and it's on-line summary (from where the above graphs were taken) is relatively short and highly accessible. I strongly recommend it ("Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion").

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