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)


Pop Quiz: World Religions

In 2010, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a phone survey of over 3,000 Americans, asking them factual questions on a variety of topics, including religion. Eleven of those questions dealt with “world religions other than Christianity.”

Answers were tracked by the religion of those surveyed, showing that the group with the highest score on the world-religions questions were Jewish (with 7.9 correct answers), followed by Atheist/Agnostic (7.5) and Mormon (5.6). Catholics as a whole answered 4.7 questions correctly, while Protestants were right on 4.6.

To see how you compare, take a look at the 11 questions below. Do not click on the answer you choose (that will simply reload this page). Rather, hover your pointer over your selection and wait for the verdict to appear. Hovering over the correct answer will also show the percentage of participants in the original survey who answered correctly.

  1. Is Ramadan the Hindu festival of lightsthe Islamic holy month, or a Jewish day of atonement?
  2. Do you happen to know the name of the holy book of Islam? (answer)
  3. Which religion aims at nirvana, the state of being free from suffering? HinduismIslam, or Buddhism?
  4. Is the Dalai Lama Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic, or Mormon?
  5. In which religion are Vishnu and Shiva central figures? TaoismHinduism, or Islam?
  6. What is the religion of most people in India? Buddhist, MuslimChristian, or Hindu?
  7. What is the religion of most people in Pakistan? HinduBuddhistMuslim, or Christian?
  8. What is the religion of most people in Indonesia? ChristianMuslim, Hindu, or Buddhist?
  9. Who is the king of Gods in Greek mythology? MarsZeus, or Apollo?
  10. When does the Jewish Sabbath begin? Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?
  11. Was Maimonides Catholic, MormonBuddhist, Jewish, or Hindu?

(“U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, September 28, 2010)

[photo: “The Prayer,” by Connor Tarter, used under a Creative Commons license]