Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Pew Forum's Report on Religious Groups Around the World

The Pew Forum has released a new study:  A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Major Religious Groups as of 2010.

Of the world's 6.9 billion inhabitants:  Christians make up 31.5%, Muslims 23.2%, unaffiliated 16.3%, Hindus 15.0%, Buddhists 7.1%, folk and traditional religionists 5.9%, and other 0.8%.

The unaffiliated, making up 1 in 6 of the world's population, are an interesting category.  The large majority of them are in the Asia-Pacific region, with many of those in religiously-stifled China.  Some of those unaffiliated actually believe in God or other deities.  Unaffiliated make up the majority in China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, and North Korea.  Unfortunately, some outlets are reporting "Unbelief" as the third largest religion worldwide (e.g., here), but unaffiliated does not equal unbelief.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some News on Religious Regulation Around the World

You can read about all of these on the Religion Clause site.
  • The United Nations Human Rights Panel has determined that a French Sikh student's religious freedom rights were violated when he was expelled from his school for wearing a turban.
  • The French government has new plans to emphasize secularism, including possibly teaching classes in  public schools on secular morality.  The goal is to reduce the influence of the particular religious movements, including a lay Catholic movement and Salafi Islam.
  • Kazakhstan is proceeding on its plans to close religious organizations that have not registered with the state.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2011 Hate Crime Statistics

(Don't worry, this is not on the final exam.)  The FBI just released its hate crime statistics for 2011.  Here is the press release.  Of the 6216 hate crimes, 19.8% were motivated by religious bias.  The majority of the crimes were crimes against property.  You can view the full report here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Pope's Twitter Account

Yes, Pope Benedict XVI has opened a personal Twitter account and will address faith in his first tweet, which is scheduled for Wednesday, December 12.  The CNN Belief Blog has a short write-up here.

Two key paragraphs here:
"The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters. The pope’s account on Twitter, the statement said, “can be seen as the 'tip of the iceberg' that is the Church's presence in the world of new media.”
A Vatican official told CNN the pope will be composing the tweets for the new account himself. For the first tweet from the account, the pope will also press the button to send the tweet himself, but after that others will send the tweets on his behalf.
But what effect will this really have on Catholics and Catholicism?  The only downside I see from this is the potential for the the Pope to spend time composing tweets that would be better spent doing something else.  But I suspect that will not be a problem;  tweets are short, and he doesn't need to send them that frequently to keep a presence.

So the real question is:  what is the upside?  Younger Catholics on Twitter will surely find this a neat thing.  It give them an additional and convenient way to feel connected with their Church's leader, which would imply a slight increase in their religious capital.  And it also allows the Pope a direct route for reaching out to younger Catholics with brief messages of faith, devotion, and inspiration.  This is not likely to generate hordes of converts into Catholicism, but the modest benefits in building ties within the Catholic community seem real.

With almost no downside, and a little upside, it appears like a smart move to me.

UPDATE 13-Dec-2012:  GetReligion reviews some of the articles about the Pope's first tweet here.