Okay, so I may have fibbed a little in the title . . . or a lot. Pew’s study on the Global Religious Landscape tells the story that many of us knew to be true, yet the “persecuted Christian minority” seems never to grasp.
The first thing that we notice from the study is that Christianity remains the religion with the greatest number of adherents in the world, beating Islam by over half a billion adherents (2.2 billion to 1.6 billion).
Also interesting is the fact that the third largest group is the religiously unaffiliated. Now, this does not mean strictly agnostics or atheists. From Pew: “Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith.”
The next thing that stuck out to me in the study is just how stark the Christian majority worldwide is when seen in map form.
The countries colored red represent places where Christianity is the majority religion. Yet conservative Christianity in this country continues to be gripped by a persecution complex with no evidence to back up their views. Not only does 78.4% of this country self-identify as Christian (while 0.6% of this country is Muslim, it should be noted), but the USA contains 11.2% of the world’s Christians, the highest percentage of any country, with Brazil coming in a distant second at 8%.
What continues to be interesting to me is that Christians of all stripes are constantly engaged in the politics of identity formation. Thus, certain groups of Christians can continue to spread their “we’re a persecuted minority” lie by the way in which they define “we” and “Christian” such that they are “in” and those whom they dislike or with whom they disagree on certain issues are “out.”
Christianity is not under attack, but the idea that it is sure is a powerfully persuasive rhetorical tool.