Religious Freedom is Declining in Most of the World


According to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Life, nearly a third of the world’s population live in countries where practicing their religion freely is difficult or impossible.  The background research for the report was conducted between 2006 and 2009, when Pew says a significant number of restrictions were imposed on religious freedom in a number of different countries.  Disturbingly, only 1% of the world lived in places where the opposite was true.

Most of the countries where the trend was occurring were in the Middle East and North Africa, although Egypt, for example, might get a very different rating now that Hosni Mubarak, who was hostile toward Egypt’s Christian minority as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, has been ousted.  The Arab Spring as a whole may have rendered some of the report’s data inaccurate.  But countries like France have actually gotten more restrictive since 2009.

However, there were also factors that were independent of government restrictions.  Social hostilities in countries like Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, and Great Britain made it difficult for people to practice and express their religion openly.  India was near the top of the list, along with Afghanistan, Israel and Indonesia.

The United States was not immune to scrutiny.  Although overall Americans enjoy high levels of religious freedom, 1,300 religiously-motivated hate crimes were reported while the data was being gathered.  Muslims and Christians were the most likely to report harassment based on their religion, but as Pew pointed out, that may simply because they comprise more than half the world’s population.

Other smaller religious groups, like Jews, were disproportionately likely to say that they had suffered some form of religious persecution.  Jews, who represent less than 1% of the world’s population, were harassed in a shocking 75 countries.

Overall, these findings show that although religious freedom is still limited in the Middle East, that Europe, the United States and other countries need to do more work to improve tensions, especially in places where there are significant social hostilities between different religious groups.  Even Australia, which appears nowhere in news coverage of the report, may issue legislation to force women to remove their face veils for police.

And, of course, European countries should be careful to make sure that they are not isolating their Muslim populations with restrictive legislation (Belgium, France, and now Italy – take notice!).  The recent violence in Norway is even more of a wake-up call to prevent more religiously based attacks.

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Photo from Ze.Valdi via flickr.


Ian Brown
Ian Brown4 years ago

I don't know if religious freedom is declining but, tolerance between religions certainly is.

Ryder W.
Past Member 5 years ago

good. religion = ignorance + child abuse

elaine v.
ain v.5 years ago


what you all said is what i'm talking about.

PJ McNeill
Philip Jordan5 years ago

What the hell are you talking about?

elaine v.
ain v.5 years ago


that's not religion. that's politics. *insert DUH here* is it that hard to figure out for someone who cries out "separation of church and state" every chance he gets?

PJ McNeill
Philip Jordan5 years ago

Jane B, it was the National Secular Society's protests against the taxpayer bearing the cost of the Unholy Father's visit to Britain last year that caused me to join them.
Outrageous that someone who declares himself to be infallible, and 'god's' representative on earth should be responsible for covering up one of the grossest crimes imaginable, and on such a scale, And, who knows, that may just be the tip of the iceberg. How anybody can still put their faith in this creepy institution is beyond me.

And I had it forced upon me from birth. One of the sickest things I remember is our primary school class being told by our teacher (we must have been being prepared to make our 'first communion') about a girl who had taken 'holy communion' without first going to confession, and 'little black devils' were seen crawling all over her body.
I remember this frightening and disturbing me, as a sensitive 7-year-old. Most 7 y.o.s would probably laugh at the teacher nowadays, but this was 50 years ago.

Then we have the likes of Bush and Blair with their fake god-fearing sanctimoniousness, as they burn Iraqi and Afghan children. What god do they really believe in? Seems to me more like their Satan.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

PJM, indeed that's what I was saying. All religions are about power, control, big bucks
and stealing other peoples' land. You just gave some great examples. Super-religions
are responsible for the destruction of the world.

PJ McNeill
Philip Jordan5 years ago

In the United Kingdom, we have the National Secular Society, which fights religious privilege, such as local councils (local government) holding prayers before their meetings; and Cherie Booth (Tony Bliar's wife), when sitting as a judge, sparing from prison a muslim man who had committed a vicious assault, because he was 'a religious man'.

It seems to me that most of the 'religion' in the US is fake, anyway, and a big moneymaker for eg, 'Superchurches', who exploit vulnerable people.

This unthinking acceptance of 'religion' is also exploited by politicians such as Bush and Bliar, who pretend to embrace it for popular support, whilst committing their war crimes.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton5 years ago

Barbara, you called me incendiary. I stand by my opinion, I think all religions should be
banned. They have done more harm than good. I am sick of religious people presenting
their opinions as FACT. If you want to believe there is a god that's fine with me but quit
trying to shove fairy tales down my throat. I don't believe your opinions, I don't have to
believe your opinions and I have a right to believe that NOBODY ON EARTH KNOWS
WHY WE ARE HERE. Nobody has any proof of anything, just fairy tales. And just because
I think all religions should be banned doesn't mean they ever will be. I have a right to
my opinion so get over it. I am not insulting you whatsoever, I just don't believe in your
religion in any way. I call it fairy tales because that's what it is. ;)

Barbara Chally
Barbara Chally5 years ago

Jane, you say you have no problem with the constitution, as long as you can choose the parts of it you want to follow. ("All religions should be banned.") Jane, I am a Christian, and I neither shoved nor called you a name nor insulted your intelligence. You believe others are as careless with accusations in posting as you are.

You came to this forum to post your theories about Religious Freedom. Yet no one called you names or tried to shove a single thing about their personal faith down your throat, though clearly you must have expected that! In fact you try to provoke that, or at least an argument, with your insults and then say you "donj't care what anybody believes." Not one of us who has yet to post in this forum has argued with: "The separation of Church and State should be vigorously enforced." We'd all like nothing more than that. Please use your freedom and leave alone Christians and all religious people who definitely would prefer to leave you alone too.

Jane B., Aug 12, 2011, 9:30 AM: "All religions should be banned. All religions were created BY men FOR men..... People who claim to be intelligent should be embarrassed to admit they believe in fairy tales and talking snakes."

Jane B., Aug 13, 2011, 10:57 AM: "Elaine, I invoke my freedom to be safe from you religious hypocrites who continually try to shove your fairy tales and stupid theories down our throats. We don't think you religious people are superstitious, we know it. You are the ones who spo