China estimate of the day (speculative)

by on April 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm in Data Source, Religion | Permalink

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country, but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations, in particular, have rocketed since churches began reopening when Communist leader Mao Zedong’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution. Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s No. 1 economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University in Indiana and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule. “It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared with 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Centre’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would be likely to put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the U.S. as the largest Christian congregation in the world, Yang predicted.

The article is here, via Noah Smith.

ummm April 20, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Catholicism or Islam has become the default religion for many countries

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I am afraid the Catholic Church in the occident hit the ‘slow motion self-destruct’ button around about 1965. As recently as 1983, nearly a third of the population of the Irish Republic would turn out for a papal visit and as recently as 1990, Mass attendance each week was north of 80% of the population. The Irish Church is a mess as we speak; the Quebec Church is a complete ruin; and the American Church is run by men of so little spirit and conviction that they cower in front of what one wag called “the Magisterium of sophomores” (see recent controversies in Providence and Charlotte).

Apeman April 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm

If you define Catholic Church as only being white people, this is self evidently true. Not as true if you broaden your definition of what the Catholic is. I always get a kick of news stories proclaiming that the Catholic Church needs to change it teachings because the only people who agree with it live in Asia and Africa (saw an economist article say just that). Europe is no longer the future but not everyone has realized that yet.

That said, it is true that Catholic Church is not growing as fast is its competitors.

Rahul April 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Don’t the people in Asia & Africa agree with its current teachings? So why change?

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 10:31 pm

The qualification was ‘in the occident’.

It would never be my argument that the Church needs to change it’s teachings. What it did not need to do was engage in wholesale mucking about with its liturgy, or to be the meat and potatoes of composers whose output was well suited only to score Hallmark specials, or to dispose of conventional disciplines and observances, or to radically alter the rules of its religious orders in a manner which induced institutional suicide (with knock-on effects on primary and secondary schooling), or to turn control of its colleges over to their faculty and self-regenerating lay boards, or to waste manpower on fruitless oecumenical wheel-spinning (which also had knock-on effects). It also needed to make incremental adjustments to formation in a salutary direction to contain and avoid what was a small problem ca. 1930 and a large problem ca. 1950 and an enormous problem ca. 1970: the entrance of sexual deviants into the clergy; diocese were not given to addressing this last problem until the chanceries were hit with an avalanche of complaints ca. 1985.

Rahul April 21, 2014 at 12:33 am

I sometimes get the impression that some of the currently faster growing Protestant churches choose their teachings conveniently so as to maximize their flock. As opposed to a more rigid Catholic Church.

If that’s true I like the Catholic church for it. There seems an inherent tension between expanding your flock versus sticking to doctrine. Perhaps the non missionary religions are better off in this regard.

gwern April 20, 2014 at 5:10 pm

> I am afraid the Catholic Church in the occident hit the ‘slow motion self-destruct’ button around about 1965. As recently as 1983, nearly a third of the population of the Irish Republic would turn out for a papal visit and as recently as 1990, Mass attendance each week was north of 80% of the population.

So it was all Vatican II’s fault! And here I was thinking that sudden decline after 1990, 30 years after Vatican II, had a little something to do with the revelations of decades of sexual abuse and predation and imprisonment condoned and covered up by the Catholic Church, including (but far from limited to) the Magdalenes.

So Much for Subtlety April 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm

And here I was thinking that sudden decline after 1990, 30 years after Vatican II, had a little something to do with the revelations of decades of sexual abuse and predation and imprisonment condoned and covered up by the Catholic Church, including (but far from limited to) the Magdalenes.

Well obviously not. As children are safer in Catholic schools than in State run ones. What people are arguing for when they attack the Church is, basically, more sexual abuse. That is, the sexual abuse is the excuse, not the cause. As the Magdalenes, I expect history will judge them the best solution to single teenage motherhood. But again, the children are not the issue. People who attack the Church don’t care if more children suffer. Their animus comes from elsewhere.

Roy April 21, 2014 at 3:45 am

It is all Marty Haugen and Dan Schute and the Gather Hymnal’s fault. Or the bishops for deciding all the liturgical music should be rewritten by Lutheran heretics. I know a lot of conservatives argue that this is only a symptom, but it sure was an awful one.

Btw, this is an awesome parody

http://youtu.be/uwFJv-kmaCc

yang April 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Christianity and Islam continue to dominate the planet.
Hinduism loses 700k adherents a year to out-conversion. Hinduism is holding it’s own only due to high birthrates.
Islam is the best at preventing other religions from gain a foothold in areas where it dominates because it is the most murderous.
The folk religions of the world are being exterminated.

The most important new religion is, of course, Environmentalism. Environmentalism is just a warmed over, anti-human nature cult and has mainly found success in the post-Christian ruling class of the West.

Environmentalism has the benefit of being the new State Religion in much of the West. That’s the benefit of being the preferred cult of the Ruling Class.

I think most people are realizing how evil and anti-human the eco-cultists are though, and are sick of being forced to follow their food and purity rituals (aka consumer recycling which is inefficient and wasteful, like most purity rituals).

Environmentalist April 20, 2014 at 12:41 pm

You’ll never stop us in our mad quest to internalize pollution costs! MWAH HA HA HA HAAAAA!

msgkings April 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

And to murder humankind on the altar of Mother Gaia!!

Jun April 20, 2014 at 12:42 pm

After the spam bots, the trolls…

Rahul April 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Religions are almost axiomatically exclusive. I wonder, are there any religions that allow (tolerate?) dual membership?

Alex' April 20, 2014 at 1:03 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/01/opinion/being-partly-jewish.html

Some upper class liberals would like to think so. My personal opinion is that if you raise people in two religions, you might as well be raising them in none.

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I remember the Democratic Party’s stenographers in the press corps repeated the contention of Michael Dukakis’ press agents that they were ‘raising their children in both traditions’. None of their children had ever been baptized and Dukakis himself had been excommunicate since 1963.

Rahul April 20, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The practice seems not so harmful for the kids themselves but rather more damaging to the parent religions.

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 10:36 pm

The pre-supposition of ‘not-so-harmful’ is that there is no harm in either false or frivolous teaching.

Rahul April 21, 2014 at 12:27 am

That’s assuming you can decide which side has the false & frivolous teaching.

Adrian Ratnapala April 21, 2014 at 1:53 am

Jews have special incentives because of their hereditary membership rules. I have a staunchly anti-religious friend who is happy to call himself “ethnically Jewish”. This makes sense, because even if the daughter of a Jewish mother rejects religion entirely, she can still produce lawfully Jewish children who might grow up to be true believers.

dirk April 20, 2014 at 1:29 pm

There used to be Zen Catholics like Jack Kerouac.

Roy April 21, 2014 at 3:47 am

Kerouac was inescapably catholic both in ideology and aesthetics. But I always say that a good catholic upbringing makes a superior revolutionary.

de Broglie April 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Transcendental Meditation.

raj April 20, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Hinduism is historically very syncretistic. There are folks who talk about being both Hindu and Christian. Many Nepalese observe both Hindu and Buddhist practices.

Most Japanese self-identify as Buddhist, but observe older Shinto practices. You see similar syncretism throughout southeast Asia.

Pretty much wherever new religion meets old, you’ll see strange hybrids. Though nominal “dual-membership” may not persist.

carlospln April 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Read David Eagleman’s ‘Sum’, for possibilianism: http://www.possibilian.com

Adrian Ratnapala April 21, 2014 at 1:48 am

Yes it is natural for humans for from exclusive doctrinal clubs, but I think the Abrahamic religions exaggerate this. Buddhism are quite tolerant of being mixed with Hinduism, Animism, or whatever happens to be around, and I think that was just reflects the way things were in pre-Islamic India.

Buddhist monks and their ascetic rivals are supposed to be beggars. Non-ascetic Brahmin priests seem to resemble small businessmen. Neither is willing to turn away a donor just because that donor also donates to his rivals. This encourages a piecemeal approach to belief and practice. I expect Buddhist monks in the West are very happy if committed Christians turn up for a strictly secular meditation class.

Pierre April 21, 2014 at 5:15 am

Polytheist religions tend to accept others gods, as they are just one more. Monotheisms don’t.

Alan April 21, 2014 at 8:15 am
Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I believe the fertility rate in India is now 2.56 births per woman per lifetime and declining at a sufficient clip that it is a reasonable wage that it will fall to replacement level within a dozen years or so. They’re not so fertile.

Rahul April 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm

What’s the differential fertility? Hindu vs. Muslim.

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm

I think the tfr in Pakistan is 3.3 children per woman per lifetime; it is also declining.

Art Deco April 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

No state religion in the west, but there is an inchoate social ideology amongst the elites. A generation ago, you’d have said it was the property of the word merchant element. It now seems to have over-run the corporate business sector and to have occupied territory in the military and the uniformed civil service. See Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed.

A B April 20, 2014 at 2:17 pm

The elite worldview resembles the bubbles at the top of a pot of boiling water… Looking down at everything else, not recognizing where they come from and unwilling to accept that if the water disappears, so do they.

Amelanchier April 20, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Though not a believer, I’m inclined to say a good thing. In east and south Asia, Protestants seem to be more liberal than the traditional religions of the region: Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Islam. Think Kerala, South Korea, Ambon (once you control for ethnic conflict), even Singapore. Worldwide, Protestant missions are robustly associated with democratization: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8600535

Rahul April 20, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Christianity in Asia is a surrogate for long standing western influence from colonial times & hence the correlation with liberalism. e.g. Both Goa & Kerala had strong Christian influence since centuries.

But not sure how much that holds for the post-colonial converts. Besides, I wouldn’t credit just Protestants. Goa is even more liberal & modern than Kerala and is Christian but Catholic.

Roy April 21, 2014 at 3:50 am

Korean christians are more liberal than non christians and catholics are very left wing there. Almost all of that was postconial and none of it came from Japan.

Todd April 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm

India has been the second (or third) most populous Islamic nation in the world for some time. The world seemed to absorb that fact fairly well, even though it creates externalities for India and its neighbors.

Thiago April 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

The Soviet Union was in a similar situation.

jon April 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

well, it only makes sense since Jesus was Chinese blood. He was half Chinese half Jew.

Ronald Brak April 20, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Jesus’s brother was Chinese. Unless of course Hong Xiuquan was lying, but if you accept that possibility it opens up a whole can of worms.

Alan April 21, 2014 at 8:20 am

“Jesus in Kashmere” :-) Did you really think all that pacifist teaching sprang from Judaism?

jtf April 21, 2014 at 9:45 am

Wut. How can a nation in which only 10% of the population (and no context is provided for any other religion, by the way) is Christian be considered a “Christian nation”? I was under the strong impression that that particular term defined a country whose public life was informed by Christian values and morality…

Thiago April 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm

“Well obviously not. As children are safer in Catholic schools than in State run ones. What people are arguing for when they attack the Church is, basically, more sexual abuse. That is, the sexual abuse is the excuse, not the cause.”
No, they are arguing against the protection the Church gave to pedophiles.

Art Deco April 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm

No, they are arguing against the protection the Church gave to pedophiles.

Again, the Church as a common institution did not act or fail to act. Individual dioceses and religious orders did.

As it happened, the vast majority of these accusations were too dated when they were made either to chanceries or to law enforcement to be justiciable in the first place (typically 25 years after the fact in my diocese) and many of the remainder too thin on credible evidence to stand up in court. You will recall that John Geoghan was tried on a single count of one incident 10 years after the fact; the accuser remembered no secondary details of the incident. That’s the best case the prosecutor could locate. The Geoghan case was epitome of irresponsibility on the part of the Boston Archdiocese; please recall, however, that 95% of those who lodged complaints against Geoghan did so after he had been removed from parish work and confined to a retirement home. Very few of these cases could ever have been prosecuted.

So, your complaint amounts to one that they did not dismiss these priests and that many were put back into parish work. That’s a legitimate complaint in many cases, bar this: you do not make the youth of the nation any safer by defrocking someone, you merely ensure that any crimes he commits are not under your auspices. There’s also a problem with ascertaining just what may of these characters did do and did not do. These accusations are commonly disputed by the one accused and the evidence against them is fairly thin, so the diocese is left to hedge its bets as to their guilt and future conduct.

While we are at it, a minority of these cases involved pre-pubsescent children. The majority were instances of pederasty, not pedophilia.

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