By Aaron Earls
In countries around the world, more people favor an expanded role for religion in their society than oppose it, according to a new study from Pew Research. Were this to become a reality, it would not be an unadulterated good for Christians worldwide.
Compiling data from 27 nations, Pew found 39% favor a more important role for religion, with 13% opposed and 22% saying they’d prefer no change.
In the United States, 51% would like to see religion become more of a factor. Around 2 in 10 oppose (18%) or prefer no change (21%).
However, 58% of Americans say religion has a less important role in the U.S. compared to 20 years ago. Fewer say there has been no change (21%) or a more important role for religion (19%).
European nations are the most split about their desires for the role of religion in society. One in 3 (33%) opposes a more important role for religion, but virtually the same number (32%) supports a higher priority for religion.
Sweden is the most opposed to granting religion a more important role. Half (51%) are against and 20% are in favor. Pluralities in France (47%), Netherlands (45%), and Spain (38%) also oppose more religion.
Germany (35% to 34%) and the U.K. (31% to 32%) are more evenly split.
Around the world, majorities support an expanded role for religion in Indonesia (85%), Kenya (74%), Nigeria (74%), Tunisia (69%), South Africa (66%), Brazil (59%), Philippines (58%), and India (53%).
While this desire for more influence of religion debunks the notion of an inevitable rise of secularism globally, an increased role for religion in some nations can be dangerous for Christians.
The 2019 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, mentioned Nigeria, India, and Indonesia—all countries in which Pew found majorities supporting a more important role for religion—as nations engaging in or allowing significant religious persecution.
Many of the nations designated as the most dangerous for Christians in the 2019 World Watch List by Open Doors, a ministry that tracks global Christian persecution, are places where more religious involvement in the government would mean increased pressure and persecution on Christian minorities.
“In seven out of the top 10 World Watch List countries, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression,” according to the report.
Open Doors reports that 245 million Christians, or 1 in 9 globally, experience high levels of persecution.
During the 2019 World Watch List reporting period, 4,136 Christians were killed for their faith in the top 50 countries for persecution. On average, that’s 11 Christians martyred every day.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor for Facts & Trends.