Did Christians Really Win a Gold Medal in the Oppression Olympics?

A couple of weeks ago, the Pew Research Center came out an extensive and confusing-as-hell report on religious hostilities around the world and found that Christians, more than any other religious group, were the most persecuted:

(Atheists are in there, too, lumped in with “others”)

One conservative website even uses the headline: “Pew Study: Christians Are The World’s Most Oppressed Religious Group.”

But there are two points worth noting.

First, there are literally billions of Christians around the world (nearly a third of the global population). And when you’re as spread out as Christians are, the countries in which reports of harassment can be found are bound to be higher than groups like Hindus and Buddhists which tend to be more geographically bounded. The Pew report was looking at raw numbers here, so Christians are likely to be higher in damn near every category you can think of.

Second, the Pew report makes clear that the severity of harassment was irrelevant in their counts. If there were reported instances of oppression, they were included in the calculations. If you look at the questions asked, there’s no distinction between, say, being intimidated or being killed. (And is it considered “harassment” if, say, the Affordable Care Act mandates that Christian-owned businesses pay for insurance that includes employees’ birth control? I couldn’t find a clear answer to that.)

It’s also worth mentioning that if you break things down in terms of government or social harassment, turns out Muslims have it the worst:

Look, none of this is okay. I want all of these numbers to come down for all groups, religious and not. People should be free to exercise their religious beliefs (as long as they’re not stopping others from doing the same). I oppose government interference in religious practice as well as any sort of social intimidation. There’s no denying that anyone who believes or disbelieves anything about God is in danger somewhere in the world, with very religious and very irreligious groups at a particular disadvantage in countries that function as theocracies.

If anything, the report shows how important it is that all of us fight for religious freedom no matter what people believe. Punishing or banning the safe practices of religion has no place in the modern world.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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