The Distribution of Religious Persecution

The complications of statistical representation: Christians may face somewhere between 60% and 80% of the total religious persecution in the world, but only 78% of Christians live in countries which harass them, as compared with 97% of Muslims and 99% of Hindus and of Jews.

The apparent disparity is influenced by Christianity’s being far the world’s largest religion but also “Christians were actually harassed mostly in Christian-majority countries. In some of these countries, the Christian majority was itself harassed, often by the government.”

Notably, Pew’s list of countries which proscribe religious freedoms includes France, Austria, Germany, the United States, Iceland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy, ranked from higher to lower within the “moderately restrictive” category.


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The Mobility of the Religiously Unaffiliated

A recent study has charted the mobility of the Religiously Unaffiliated, showing that, from 2010 to 2014, 48% of self-identifying agnostics, 42% of No Particular Religion, and 18% of atheists changed their religious identification. By way of comparison, slightly more than 10% of Protestants and slightly fewer than 10% of Catholics changed theirs. This general trend that the non-religious should change more than the religious is not surprising, since religions survive by encouraging continued adherence. There are, however, some interesting developments within the “defections”.

20 of the 42% of No Particular Religion defectors went on to identify as atheistic or agnostic. While described in the article as moving “away from traditional faith”, this could well be simple relabelling, given that neither atheists nor agnostics have any particular religion. On the other hand, the 17.3% who joined a church were more definitely moving towards religion; the fact that one can attend a church without subscribing to all of its tenets means that mere attendance cannot be taken as a change in belief.

In contrast, only 4.5 of the 48% of agnostic defectors joined a church, while 18.9 identified as Nothing in Particular, and 22.5 as atheists. It is difficult to speculate how much of that might be mere relabelling as the term “agnostic” is confusing to quite a few people: some who express agnostic views nonetheless self-identify as “atheist”, especially in the United States, quite possibly as a deliberate rejection of religious labels; some who self-identify as “agnostic” express definite, atheistic views, perhaps taking the former label as a more nuanced one.

Meanwhile, the fact that change was far rarer amongst atheists than amongst agnostics or those of No Particular Religion is coherent with the church-like behaviour of militant atheism: the production of a self-reinforcing, adherence-encouraging rhetoric.

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Suffering prevents belief

A Barna study presents Generation Z teenagers as predominantly dissuaded from Christianity by the Problem of Pain, the question as to how G-d can be good, given the suffering in the world.

While the Problem of Pain rates as a obstacle for 29% of Generation Z and 30% of Millennials, it is only an issue for 22% of Generation X and 18% of Baby Boomers.

For the older three, however, Christian hypocrisy is the greater issue: an obstacle for 31% of Millennials, 25% of Generation X, and 29% of Baby Boomers.

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Scientists and Faith

A 2016 Ipsos Mori survey of 3000 scientists in the UK, France, and Germany found that about as many (c.43%) are “spiritual” or “religious” as are non-religious.  Meanwhile, a 2009 Pew survey in the USA found that 41% of chemists, 32% of biologists, 30% of geologists, and 29% of physicists and astronomers are religious, and a worldwide study found that 47% of scientists are “spiritual” or “religious”.

What I find most curious, however, is that the Pew survey demonstrates a greater tendency towards religion amongst young scientists, a tendency which is directly opposite to the trend in the general population worldwide. It is also notable that fewer scientists in the US than in the UK, France, or Germany are religious, and yet the US has by far the most religious general population. In addition, the worldwide study shows that, while 44% of the general population of Taiwan identify as religious, 54% of Taiwanese scientists do. In Hong Kong, those figures are 20% and 39%.
I wonder, then, what the correlation between scientists and cultural divergence is, and whether the probability of a scientist’s being religious is inversely proportional to the probability of the average citizen’s being so.


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The Economics of Sectarianism

Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ (George Mason University, Virginia, USA): “Europe’s witch trials reflected non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share in confessionally contested parts of Christendom. By leveraging popular belief in witchcraft, witch-prosecutors advertised their confessional brands’ commitment and power to protect”.

The paper also discusses the difference between “coercive exclusion” (i.e. monopolistic) tactics, and how those are only successful in areas where “brand loyalty is strong”.  In more-contested markets, churches had to “make their brands more attractive to religious consumers”.  That is a lesson which many churches today need to learn, especially the ones who imagine that fear is the only motivator towards religion.

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Ancient Greek skin colour

Ancient Greek writers tended not to talk about skin colour in quite the ways which we do now, but there are references.

Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazeusae 191-192 has Euripides describing Agathon, as λευκος (white), γυναικοφωνος (woman-voiced), and ‘απαλος (soft).  His Ecclesiazeusae 428 has a young man described as λευκος proposing that women should rule the city.  Xenophon’s Hellenica 3.4.19 records Spartan soldiers, on seeing that their enemies are λευκος, deciding that fighting against them would be ει γυναιξι δεοι μαχεσθαι (like having to fight women).  Euripides’ Bacchae 457 has Pentheus describe Dionysus as λευκος, and also ουκ αμορφος […] ‘ως ες γυναικας (not ill-formed […] as unto women, 453-4).  The association is quite consistent.

Pseudo-Aristotle’s Physiognomica 812a makes the same connection, while it also describes too dark a hue as cowardly.

People sometimes get the idea that the Greeks were white because they refer to some gods’ and heroes’ hair as χανθος, a term often translated as “blond” but also used to describe lions, which are also described as πυρρος (“fiery”, used in Aristophanes’ Knights 900 for looking “flushed”), and the Byzantine lexicographer Hesychius Alexandrinus tells us that those two are synonyms.  “Light” might be a clearer rendering than “blond”.

In other words, the Greeks themselves were neither white nor black.

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The Decline of Religion amongst the Young

Studies in the USA show a distinct correlation between youth and such philanthropic matters as
* acceptance of homosexuality
* support for gay marriage
* concern for the environment
* belief in the value of governmental assistance
* concern for immigrants
* concern for black people.
And then there is a the *negative* correlation between youth and church attendance. What image are those correlations going to produce regarding the *moral* position of Christianity? Here are a couple of hints.
Meanwhile, members of the older generation persist in blaming the young for leaving church. Had they not so thoroughly abdicated the moral high ground in their pursuit of dogmatism, they wouldn’t need to be facing this position.

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