Three Quarters of World’s Population Live under High Religious Restrictions

From mid 2007 to mid 2010, the share of the world’s people living in areas of “high or very high” restrictions on religion grew from 68% to 75%. This is according to a recent report from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The report combines scores on government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion. Findings include the following:

  • The percentage of countries with combined high or very high restrictions rose from 29% to 37%.
  • Six countries scored “very high” in both categories (government and social), as of mid 2010:
    1. Afghanistan
    2. Egypt
    3. Indonesia
    4. Russia
    5. Saudi Arabia, and
    6. Yemen
  • In the year ending in mid-2010, 28% of countries showed “moderate” levels of government restrictions, while 35% were in the “low” category.
  • At the end of the four-year period, 19% of the global population lived in countries in the “moderate” range of social hostilities, with 6% living in “low” countries.
  • Overall, from 2009 to 2010, 66% of countries showed an increase in restrictions, while 28% showed decreases.
  • The three groups that were harassed in the highest number of countries were Christians (in 139 countries), Muslims (in 121), and Jews (in 85).

While the United States ended the four-year study in the “moderate” range in both categories, it was one of sixteen nations whose scores on both indexes rose by one or more points in the final year. This was a first for the US during the four-year period.

(Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, September 20, 2012)