Monday, November 2, 2009

Christian Demographics Fun Facts (Heart of Darkness, Part Two)

Heart of Darkness:
Part One:
"By This Sign We Prosper"
Part Two: Christian Demographics Fun Facts
Part Three: Doing the Lord's Work In Rwanda
Part Four: Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from Rwanda
Part Five: Preparing the Way for Genocide in Rwanda


There are about 2 billion Christians in the world. This is 1/3 the human population. These Christians can be almost evenly divided into two categories.

Category 1: About 1 billion people are Christian today because they are descended from those who were converted over the last 500 years through a combination of enslavement, conquest and colonization.

In 1900 there were an estimated 9 million Christians in Africa, which was about 4% of the total population.

Today there are about 400-450 million Christians in Africa (about 45% of the total African population) as a direct result of missionary activity that was inextricably integrated with the colonialist "Scramble for Africa" by the European Great Powers (England, France, Italy, Germany and Belgium).

Prior to 1492 there were, obviously, no Christians in the Western Hemisphere.

Today there are very roughly 220 million Christians of indigenous descent in the Americas. This includes people categorized as indigenous, native american, amerindian, and american indian. It also includes people categorized as mestizo and latino.

There are also about 180 million Black Christians in the Americas.

(Statistics on ethnicity in Latin America can be found here. Stats for the US here.)

There are about 80 million Filipino Christians, the most significant concentration of Christians in Asia. The Philippines were Christianized as a direct result of Spanish colonialism.

Category 2: Another billion+ Christians are the descendants of those responsible for the above.

About 400 million white Christians of European descent live in the Americas.

About 600 million white Christians live in Europe itself.

At least another 100 million white Christians of European descent are spread across the rest of the world. For example, there are over 5 million Eastern Orthodox Christians in Kazakhstan of Russian or Ukrainian descent.

And just where did all these white European Christians come from? They themselves are the descendants of people who lived during centuries of theocratic rule, under which the profession of any religion other than Christianity was a crime punishable by death. That state of affairs persisted for about 1500 years of western history, and only very gradually came to an end over the last two to three centuries (see, for example, Perez Zagorin's How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West).

Voluntary, individual conversions (that is, genuine conversion of the heart) played very little role in the history of Christianity's spread in Europe (or anywhere else). Throughout the period of Christianity's expansion in Europe, any group of people who resisted Christianization were converted by force. Even in cases where conversion was not directly accompanied by bloodshed, once Christianity gained a position of strength anywhere, it was quickly "established" as the only legally allowed religion. And wherever Christianity became the state religion, there was only one monolithic form of Christianity allowed. The very concepts of religious diversity and tolerance appear to be utterly foreign to Christianity, although to a very limited extent some Christians have, over the last few centuries, begun to learn about these ideas from sources outside of their religion. That is obviously a good thing, but it does nothing to alter the historical facts about how Christianity has been spread throughout the vast majority of its history.

Nota Bene: Of all the other religions of humanity, that is, other than Christianity, only Islam has anything remotely resembling this relentless pattern of coercion, violence and intolerance century after century after century. Although Christians and Muslims don't like to hear it, this is actually good news. It means that human religion is not itself inherently and inevitably like this. And it also means that it is only very recently (relatively speaking) in human history that such aberrant, pathologically violent forms of religion have come to predominate. This dominance is due precisely to the savagery that has been employed, as a matter of course, by these two religions to not merely win new converts, but to simultaneously seek (and all too often to succeed in the attempt) to completely eradicate all other forms of religion.

Bottom Line: Nice religion ya got there.

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1 comment:

mamiel said...

The ultimate irony is that Europeans, the ones who largely promoted Christianity worldwide via the sword, have largely come to reject it themselves. Church attendance in most European countries (excepting possibly Poland and Ireland) is really, really low. I am only hoping that Islam is not what fills the void but rather belief systems that don't lend themselves to zealotry.