Religious Freedom around the World

We often take for granted the religious freedoms we enjoy in the United States.  We assume that others around the world have the same freedoms that we do.  However, a new Pew Forum study may help us gain a better understanding of the reality of the world situation.

You can link to the full study here.  A summary of the findings can be found in the charts below:


Christianity Today makes these observations:

The Global Restrictions On Religion report finds that only about one-third of the world’s countries impose high restrictions on religion, but these 64 nations contain 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people (thanks to India and China). While almost half of the world’s countries impose low restrictions on religion, this good sign is mitigated by the fact that they only account for 15 percent of world population.

And then later…

Other findings of interest:

  • 75 countries (38%) have governments that limit efforts at evangelism or proselytizing.
  • 178 countries (90%) require registration of religious groups, and in 117 countries (59%) registration requirements result in problems or discrimination against certain faiths.
  • Most countries (87%) have experienced public tensions between religious groups in recent years. Such tensions involved physical violence in 126 countries (64%).
  • Faith-based terrorism killed people in nearly 1 in 10 countries worldwide.

I was surprised to see that the U.S. is not the most religiously “free”, according to this study.  Read the full study and then let me know what you think.

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2 Responses to Religious Freedom around the World

  1. Kelsey says:

    This was a really interesting study, especially the contrast between social hostility and government restriction. I suspect the US is not the most religiously free country because we have a greater commitment to secularism and separation of church and state, which requires that certain acts and symbols aren’t allowed in the public sphere. I also wonder how much this might skew the results.

    I’m especially interested in this because I just got back from Turkey. 97% of the Turkish population is Muslim, but they are very proud of their secular system. It is technically one of the more restrictive nations because all religious symbols (Muslim, Christian, or otherwise) are banned in public settings. For example, women aren’t allowed to wear head coverings when they sit for their university exams. But this effectively guarantees a greater level of freedom in the private sphere, since all religions are legal and (in theory) equal under the law. Obviously, Turkey is fairly a-typical, but I guess it shows how levels of persecution or government-initiated harassment don’t necessarily correspond with levels of religious freedom.

  2. Tim Farley says:

    Thanks, Kelsey for your interesting perspective. I have to admit that my first-hand experience with the culture of other countries is pretty limited (Canada and Mexico), so I do not have much to offer to the discussion other than what I see in this study and others like it. I suspect that you are right about the U.S. and its commitment to secularism and separation of Church and State. Your insight concerning Turkey is very interesting and should make us pause before we jump to any conclusions.

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