The latest research on the relationship between the world’s nations and religion has revealed not only the most common state religion globally, but the 10 most hostile non-religious countries against Christianity and other religious institutions within their borders.
After examining the data from 199 nations and self-administering territories through the end of 2015, Pew Research Center found that the majority of countries do not have any official or preferred religion at all.
With more than 80 different counties favoring a specific official/government-endorsed religion, Islam was the religion of choice for the greatest proportion.
“Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries (including most in the Middle East-North Africa region) officially enshrining Islam as their state religion,” Pew reported. “By comparison, just 13 countries (including nine European nations) designate Christianity or a particular Christian denomination as their state religion.”
Further analysis of the study showed that 43 nations (22 percent) ran state-sponsored religions, with Islam constituting 63 percent of those.
“Christianity [was next most popular] official religion among nations, along with two for Buddhism, and one for Judaism,” The Christian Post (CP) stated.
Governments adhering to Christianity span both hemispheres.
"Nine of these countries are in Europe, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Monaco and Iceland," Pew revealed about the Christian states. "Two countries in the Americas – Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic – and one in the Asia-Pacific region – Tuvalu – have Christianity as their official state religion. Only one country in sub-Saharan Africa is officially Christian: Zambia."
Christianity is still alive and well in many other societies around the world today, as well.
“But an additional 40 governments around the globe unofficially favor a particular religion, and in most cases the preferred faith is a branch of Christianity,” the researchers found. “Indeed, Christian churches receive preferential treatment in more countries – 28 – than any other unofficial but favored faith.”
Not fond of faith
A handful of nations have governments that view the practice of religion as a threat or as a diversion from being loyal to those in power.
“In 10 countries, the state either tightly regulates all religious institutions or is actively hostile to religion in general,” Pew informed. “These countries include China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and several former Soviet republics – places where government officials seek to control worship practices, public expressions of religion and political activity by religious groups.”
The remaining of the 10 non-religious nations hostile to Christians include Laos, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
However, the greatest number of governments worldwide make it a point to remain neutral when it comes to religion.
“More than 100 countries and territories included in the study have no official or preferred religion as of 2015,” the study found. “These include countries like the United States that may give benefits or privileges to religious groups, but generally do so without systematically favoring a specific group over others.”
When it comes to the world’s most brutal persecutors of Christians, North Korea and its “Supreme Leader,” Kim Jong Un, rank on the very top.
“[North Korea] believers [are] sent to prison camps and sometimes executed for owning a Bible or attempting to practice their faith,” CP’s Stoyan Zaimov noted.
Open Doors – a Christian nonprofit organization that serves the persecuted Church around the world – issued its annual World Watch List earlier this year of nations where Christians face the most severe persecution.
Here are the 10 worst persecutors – all of which registered in the most brutal “Extreme Persecution” category with scores between 100 (the most intense score possible) and 80.
- North Korea: 92/100
- Somalia: 91/100
- Afghanistan: 89/100
- Pakistan: 88/100
- Sudan: 87/100
- Syria: 86/100
- Iraq: 86/100
- Iran: 85/100
- Yemen: 85/100
- Eritrea: 82/100