Future of Religion
Not a Time of Slumping Religion: An Interview with Rodney Stark
Now the same sort of process is playing out around the world, largely because of the fragmentation of Christianity and its enormous missions and evangelistic efforts. Sub-Saharan Africa is very, very Christianized. But there are hundreds and hundreds of African denominations responsible for this. In other words, there are a whole lot of Protestant bodies born and bred in Africa that are very effectively recruiting people.
On the other hand, by the way, it's important to realize how effective the Catholics have been in Africa as well, in the last thirty to forty years. I have very good data from Gallup world polls on the number of Catholics in various African countries. The numbers in almost every instance are well above what the Vatican claims to have in membership. The growth has been so rapid that Catholics counts haven't kept up.
I find that amazing, and so does the Vatican. They can't believe my numbers. They say, "We have that many there? We didn't know that."
My colleague Philip Jenkins has written some wonderful stuff on the growth of Christianity in Latin America and Africa. And it's true: Latin America is suddenly becoming a Christian world. For years it was said to be a Catholic continent, but no one went to Mass. Now, with the Protestants down there to compete, the Catholics are going to Mass like they never did before. And of course a whole lot of Protestants are going to church.
Protestant inroads have made a lazy, monopolized church get off its haunches and do something. The Catholic charismatic movement, which is a lay movement, has been largely responsible. It's been extremely effective in responding to Protestant inroads and activities. It's fascinating stuff. Catholic Pentecostals and Protestant Pentecostals are all busy bringing people to church.
It's an interesting time -- but it certainly isn't a time of slumping religion.
Patheos recently discussed Professor Stark's book on the Crusades, in an interview entitled "Crusades for Christ." Other noteworthy recent books include The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success; Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome; and What Americans Really Believe.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.