BreakPoint: The Continuing Triumph of Faith

The World Is Becoming More Religious

Ever hear the old saw that religious people are on the wrong side of history? It isn’t true. Turns out, we’re on the right side of the future as well. Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

A year ago, National Geographic told readers that “religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.”

But as Rodney Stark documented in his recent book, “The Triumph of Faith,” that statement is wrong. In fact, it’s the opposite of the truth. According to Stark, “The world is not merely as religious as it used to be. In important ways, it is much more intensely religious than ever before . . .”

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. For years, Chuck Colson, John Stonestreet, and I have been telling you about the explosive growth of Christianity around the world, especially in what is called the “global south.”

We’ve told you about what’s happening in places like sub-Saharan Africa, and even China, which, by some estimates may have more Christians than any other country by the middle of this century.

But the story that Stark tells goes beyond these two examples. The growth of Christianity in Latin America is, in many respects, just as amazing as its growth in Africa.

That might sound strange, since Latin America has been ostensibly Christian since the sixteenth century. But until the mid-20th century, it was largely a nominal kind of Christianity. As recently as the 1950s, only between 10 and 20 percent of Latin Americans were “active in their faith.”

The arrival of Protestant missionaries, especially Pentecostals, changed this. Not only did they succeed in turning nominal Christians into practicing ones, they also forced the Catholic Church to, as they say in sports, “up its game.” This, in large measure, took the form of the Charismatic renewal.

Today, Charismatic Catholic rallies fill the same stadiums as Pentecostal ones. And the result is that in large parts of Latin America, sixty percent or more of the people attend church on at least a weekly basis.

Another largely untold story is what’s happening in India. The son of a BreakPoint colleague recently traveled to India. One Tuesday, he went to Mass. When he arrived, he was stunned to see that the church was full—so full that the worshippers poured out onto the street. On a Tuesday.

Late last year, Christianity Today ran a story on “Incredible Indian Christianity.” Since 1980, the number of pastors sent out by the Delhi Bible Institute has grown from 100 per year to nearly 7,600 in 2015. As CT tells us, part of India’s so-called “tribal belt,” which runs across central and northeast India, is becoming India’s “Bible belt.”

But even in Europe and the United States, the rise of secularism has been overstated, if by “secularism,” you mean “denying the supernatural.” For example, sociologists consider Iceland to be one of the most secular nations on Earth. Yet, here’s a list of things that a significant percentage of Icelanders believe in: reincarnation, elves, gnomes, fairies, fortune tellers, and Spiritualism. You find similar results across so-called “secular” Europe.

Here in the U.S., the same period that witnessed the rise in the religiously unaffiliated did not witness a decline in church attendance or an increase in atheists. The increase in the so-called “nones” was a function of people who rarely, if ever, attended church finally admitting as much.

Those who claim that people of faith were “on the wrong side of history” have it exactly backwards. Religion, especially Christianity, is not in decline. It’s going from strength-to-strength. You just need to know where to look, or, in this case, what to read.

 

The Continuing Triumph of Faith: The World Is Becoming More Religious

Get a balanced perspective on religion in the world. Take a break from reading the National Geographic and pick up Rodney Stark’s book “The Triumph of Faith.” It’s available at the online bookstore.

 

 

Find a BreakPoint radio station in your area–Click here.

Resources

The Triumph of Faith: Why the World Is More Religious Than Ever
  • Rodney Stark | Intercollegiate Studies Institute | November 2015
Unbroken in China: The Growing Chinese Church
  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | August 15, 2016
Aslan Is on the Move: Christianity Is Growing in the Muslim World
  • Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | June 10, 2015

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • ElrondPA

    While the growth of Christianity in numerous places around the world is good news, the full picture includes noting that Christianity isn’t the only faith that’s growing. Islam is growing strongly in Africa and parts of Asia (both by conversion and by birth), as well as by immigration in Europe, and Hinduism is becoming more fervent in much of India. The thesis that development causes reduced religiosity has been disproven; Europe’s experience is not a harbinger of other areas. It is true, though, that development tends to reduce the number of adherents to tribal religions, making them more likely to belong to one of the major faiths (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism).

  • Phoenix1977

    Ok, once again time for some nuances.

    “We’ve told you about what’s happening in places like sub-Saharan Africa, and even China, which, by some estimates may have more Christians than any other country by the middle of this century.”
    In the history of the world the African continent doesn’t really play a role anymore. Economically the entire continent is robbed blind of it’s future (mostly by Europeans, for which I apologize) and even the very rich oil fields that can be found in Africa are property of companies like Shell and BP. In large international institutions, like the UN, people listen to African countries patiently before shutting them down. The entire African continent could turn Christian and it would have approximately zero impact on the world, except an increase in population and therefor an increase in famines in Africa, demanding aid from the US and Europe.
    China is even better, since there is no Christianity without political control. The form of Catholicism and other forms of Christian faiths is under direct control of the Chinese Communist Party so most people consider religion in China a political movement, not a spiritual one.

    “The growth of Christianity in Latin America is, in many respects, just as amazing as its growth in Africa.”
    Latin America is also interesting. There may be more Christians in Latin America but at the same time they are letting go of strict interpretations of Christian rules. For example, Brasil, the largest Catholic country in Latin America, legalized same-seks marriage through parliament AFTER elections where same-seks marriage was debated in the campaigns. A large majority of the people in Brasil support equal rights for LGBTs and same-seks marriage despite the protests from the Catholic Church.

    “Another largely untold story is what’s happening in India. The son of a BreakPoint colleague recently traveled to India. One Tuesday, he went to Mass. When he arrived, he was stunned to see that the church was full—so full that the worshippers poured out onto the street. On a Tuesday.”
    Your collaegue’s son probably travelled to the South-West of India. I’m guessing the Mumbai region or the state Kerala. Christianity is indeed strong there. However, in regions around Delhi and Agra, or states like Madras (in the South-East) or West-Bengal (North-East) there are no Christian churches to be found and Hinduism reigns supreme there.

    “the rise of secularism has been overstated, if by “secularism,” you mean “denying the supernatural.””
    Except sociologist never defined secularism that way. Sociologists define secularism as the denial of organized religion and the believe in an omnipresent being. Most people who see themselves as secular, including myself, do believe in a higher power, but not in an organised way. And most definately not defined by rules, laws and writings, let alone that these higher powers communicate in any way with us.
    For example, Wicca is not considered a religion because it has no official holy book, no churches and hardly any rules (in fact, only one rule: “Do what ye will and harm none”) but is greatly spiritual. It even has it’s own holy trinity (Mother, Daughter and Goddess), depicted by the ancient Celtic symbol of the Triquetra. Everyone who respects nature, lives by the Wiccan mantra and believes there is more “out there” is free to call him- or herself Wiccan and can freely interpret the many writings that are available (but were never combined into 1 holy scripture).
    So it’s not as black and white as the author of this article wants us to believe. But than, the real world never is.

    • MAJE

      Where to begin?
      “In the history of the world the African continent doesn’t really play a role anymore. Economically the entire continent is robbed blind of it’s future (mostly by Europeans, for which I apologize) and even the very rich oil fields that can be found in Africa are property of companies like Shell and BP. In large international institutions, like the UN, people listen to African countries patiently before shutting them down. The entire African continent could turn Christian and it would have approximately zero impact on the world, except an increase in population and therefor an increase in famines in Africa, demanding aid from the US and Europe.”
      This entire statement reeks of racism and ignorance that I don’t even think it bothers a response. Still, I’ll humor you.
      It doesn’t have a role to play anymore? I guess that’s why several of the world’s fastest growing economies are from Africa. I guess that’s why Europe, which right now is in the midst of demographic decline, needs African migrant workers to do the things that many companies require simply because they can’t get enough workers from the native population. And Africa is already significantly Christian (it’s also significantly Muslim). This has led to some form of reverse evangelization. Europe and the US, which once sent missionaries across the world, is now the one being sent missionaries. Heck, as a Catholic, Pope Francis’ successor might just come from the continent. Talk about irony. Exactly what was the purpose of that entire statement? To highlight just how ignorant you are?
      “China is even better, since there is no Christianity without political control. The form of Catholicism and other forms of Christian faiths is under direct control of the Chinese Communist Party so most people consider religion in China a political movement, not a spiritual one.”
      You know what you and the Communist Party of China have in common? Ignoring or concealing facts. The CCP should hire you.
      You apparently never heard of the numerous underground churches scattered around China. This is precisely why it is hard to determine just how big Christianity has become in China. Heck several members of the CCP are rumored to be Christian and some analysts believe that the reason why so many Chinese claim to be unaffiliated with religion is because they wish to avoid persecution from the CCP. In fact, that’s one thing wrong with your argument. You claim there is no Christianity without political control yet it is common knowledge that the CCP are actively persecuting those who claim to be Christian. If that’s the case, why would they persecute Christians if they have them under control?
      Suffice it to say though, China is expected to become the most Christian country before the end of the century whether you or the CCP like it or not.
      “Latin America is also interesting. There may be more Christians in Latin America but at the same time they are letting go of strict interpretations of Christian rules. For example, Brasil, the largest Catholic country in Latin America, legalized same-seks marriage through parliament AFTER elections where same-seks marriage was debated in the campaigns. A large majority of the people in Brasil support equal rights for LGBTs and same-seks marriage despite the protests from the Catholic Church.”
      Letting go of strict interpretations? Are you kidding me? Did you read the article? The Catholic Church in many Latin American countries have been forced to “up their game” simply because the people are now turning to Evangelicalism. We’re not talking about moderate Evangelicalism but the type of Evangelicalism that believes that every word in the Bible is to be taken literally. As a Catholic, I believe that the Bible is the word of God but to treat it as if it was the Koran is a big no-no.
      Heck, if that’s not enough, if I’m not mistaken the current mayor of Rio de Janeiro is a freaking Evangelical bishop (who happens to also hate the Catholic Church). And as for same-sex marriage in Brazil, last I checked it was the Supreme Court that forced it on the nation. Not very democratic don’t you think? Also, majority implies more than 50%. According to a survey by Pew at the time, only 45% supported it while 48% opposed. Significant support? Sure. Majority? Definitely not. And as for them not listening to the Catholic Church, they might not be listening to my Church but they are definitely listening to the Evangelicals. Hope you like them better than us.
      “Your collaegue’s son probably travelled to the South-West of India. I’m guessing the Mumbai region or the state Kerala. Christianity is indeed strong there. However, in regions around Delhi and Agra, or states like Madras (in the South-East) or West-Bengal (North-East) there are no Christian churches to be found and Hinduism reigns supreme there.”
      Exactly what is the point you’re trying to make? The author wasn’t saying that India was on the verge of becoming predominantly Christian. He was simply describing how Christianity in India was healthy and even flourishing.
      “the rise of secularism has been overstated, if by “secularism,” you mean “denying the supernatural.””
      Except sociologist never defined secularism that way. Sociologists define secularism as the denial of organized religion and the believe in an omnipresent being. Most people who see themselves as secular, including myself, do believe in a higher power, but not in an organised way. And most definately not defined by rules, laws and writings, let alone that these higher powers communicate in any way with us.
      For example, Wicca is not considered a religion because it has no official holy book, no churches and hardly any rules (in fact, only one rule: “Do what ye will and harm none”) but is greatly spiritual. It even has it’s own holy trinity (Mother, Daughter and Goddess), depicted by the ancient Celtic symbol of the Triquetra. Everyone who respects nature, lives by the Wiccan mantra and believes there is more “out there” is free to call him- or herself Wiccan and can freely interpret the many writings that are available (but were never combined into 1 holy scripture).”
      Technically, secularism was simply defined as separation between church and state. What I believe the author was talking about was the term “secular” which means absence of religion. Take note of the word “absence” not “denial” of religion or God. Which means anything that has nothing to do about religion can be regarded as secular. Me typing stuff here could be considered a secular activity even though the stuff that I might be typing about could be about religion.
      And as for that stuff you said about Wiccan Paganism… Exactly what again was the purpose of all that? Are you trying to advertise for them or something? Although, technically speaking, Wiccan Paganism is still considered a religion, albeit an unorganized one, since it deals with the supernatural.

      • Phoenix1977

        “I guess that’s why several of the world’s fastest growing economies are from Africa.”
        What have you been taking and where can I get some? The fastest growing economies in the world are India and China, both very far away from the African continent. North of the Sahara dessert pretty much all countries are in ruin due to (civil) war or the lack of natural resources. The only countries that used to be an exception to that rule, were Libya (due to it’s oil) and Egypt (due to it’s tourism). Both countries took a heavy hit because of the Arabian Spring and are still struggling to get back to the level they had before the demand for democracy.
        The African West is still healing from the outbreak of Ebola which caused havoc and the eastern part of Africa just survived another summer of drought because Europe and the US kept the people alive. In Central Africa there are a few countries doing OK, but mostly because of the animal tourism (and illegal hunt). And all the way south, in South-Africa, it’s all poverty and crime.
        So please tell me which African countries are among the “world’s fastest growing economies” because I can’t think of a single one.

        “This is precisely why it is hard to determine just how big Christianity has become in China.”
        Isn’t that convenient? Because, last time I checked, the only people who claim Christianity is on the rise in China are Christians themselves. No non-Christian institution, locally or globally, believes Christianity is growing in China. Even UNESCO states there are only a handful of Christians in China, outside the state sanctioned churches. And I sure have more faith in organisations like UNESCO and Amnesty International than in Christian organisations.

        “And as for same-sex marriage in Brazil, last I checked it was the Supreme Court that forced it on the nation.”
        That would be interesting since Brazil does not have a federal Supreme Court. Legislation passed through the Brazilian parliament and was signed into law by the Brazilian president.

        “He was simply describing how Christianity in India was healthy and even flourishing.”
        Well, that is my point, actually. Christianity in India is not “healthy and even flourishing”. It’s a stable in a small part of India and barely tolerated in the rest of the country. If you visit only the part of India where Christian faith is celebrated openly I can imagine you think it is flourishing. But, as I said, that is only the case in a small part of the country in the Southwest. Everywhere else in India the dominating religions are Hinduism and Islam and they will make sure you won’t forget that.

        “Are you trying to advertise for them or something?”
        Hmm, perhaps I am. For LGBTs it sure is a friendlier religion than Christianity ever was or ever will be. And the rules are most definitely easier to follow.

        • MAJE

          (sigh) More nonsense I see.
          “What have you been taking and where can I get some? The fastest growing economies in the world are India and China, both very far away from the African continent. North of the Sahara dessert pretty much all countries are in ruin due to (civil) war or the lack of natural resources. The only countries that used to be an exception to that rule, were Libya (due to it’s oil) and Egypt (due to it’s tourism). Both countries took a heavy hit because of the Arabian Spring and are still struggling to get back to the level they had before the demand for democracy.
          The African West is still healing from the outbreak of Ebola which caused havoc and the eastern part of Africa just survived another summer of drought because Europe and the US kept the people alive. In Central Africa there are a few countries doing OK, but mostly because of the animal tourism (and illegal hunt). And all the way south, in South-Africa, it’s all poverty and crime.
          So please tell me which African countries are among the “world’s fastest growing economies” because I can’t think of a single one.”
          Among the ten fastest growing economies in the world in 2017, three come from Africa (Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Tanzania): https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/these-are-the-world-s-fastest-growing-economies-in-2017-2/
          Other African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria are also expected to do well:
          https://www.focus-economics.com/regions/sub-saharan-africa
          India is tied with Tanzania on the list of the world’s fastest growing economies and has a stable economy but growth is hampered due to corruption and a whole host of other reasons that many African nations also suffer with.
          China is not on the list however. China’s economic situation is very bad, not only has their economy stagnated, but it is expected to decline. And speaking of China…
          “Isn’t that convenient? Because, last time I checked, the only people who claim Christianity is on the rise in China are Christians themselves. No non-Christian institution, locally or globally, believes Christianity is growing in China. Even UNESCO states there are only a handful of Christians in China, outside the state sanctioned churches. And I sure have more faith in organisations like UNESCO and Amnesty International than in Christian organisations.”
          You really didn’t even bother doing your research did you? Here’s a few non-Christian sources about Christianity in China.
          https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/china-unregistered-churches-driving-religious-revolution/521544/
          http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/06/2011629646319175.html
          http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/in-atheist-china-christians-outnumber-communist-party-members/story-dNG9fAuLrPvSvoAwbWYL0K.html
          The first one is a left leaning newspaper. The second is Muslim and the third one is, as the name suggests, Hindu. All three say the same things: Christianity is on the rise in China, most Christians go to underground churches and that the Chinese government is persecuting them.
          With regards to UNESCO, chances are, most of their data comes from the Chinese government. You’re a naive idiot if you think that the data given by the Chinese Communist Party is reliable and honest. Then again, you do seem to love the CCP. Perhaps you’re just another one of their paid internet stooges? And as for Amnesty International, now you’re basically lying, even they have admitted China’s violation of religious freedom.
          https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/08/china-must-scrap-new-laws-tighten-authorities-grip-on-religious-practice/
          “That would be interesting since Brazil does not have a federal Supreme Court. Legislation passed through the Brazilian parliament and was signed into law by the Brazilian president.”
          Seriously? It’s like you’re not even trying anymore. A simple Google or Wikipedia search is enough to prove you wrong.
          http://www.aboutbrasilia.com/politics/supreme-court.php
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Federal_Court
          “Well, that is my point, actually. Christianity in India is not ‘healthy and even flourishing’. It’s a stable in a small part of India and barely tolerated in the rest of the country. If you visit only the part of India where Christian faith is celebrated openly I can imagine you think it is flourishing. But, as I said, that is only the case in a small part of the country in the Southwest. Everywhere else in India the dominating religions are Hinduism and Islam and they will make sure you won’t forget that.”
          You must really like contradicting yourself. You claim it is not healthy yet at the same time claim they are stable. And it’s also obvious that you didn’t even bother reading my entire comment or that you simply glossed over the parts that seem too inconvenient for you since I stated that the author wasn’t claiming that Christianity was about to become the dominant religion in India.
          As for tolerance, depends on who you’re talking about. If it’s the Hindu extremists, yeah of course they’re going to hate Christians. All extremists hate anyone who isn’t a part of their group. But the vast majority of Indians I can assure you are more moderate and neutral when it comes to their attitudes of Christians.
          Lastly, Christianity is healthy and flourishing. The fact that India can even send out over a thousand pastors shows this. If they were struggling they wouldn’t have that many surplus Pastors. Also, Christianity isn’t just flourishing in the Southwest.
          http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/christian-population-on-the-rise-in-arunachal-pradesh-manipur/story-8Go2uITu2BLFJ547MPwohM.html
          Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur are the northeastern most provinces of India just so you know.
          “”Are you trying to advertise for them or something?”
          Hmm, perhaps I am. For LGBTs it sure is a friendlier religion than Christianity ever was or ever will be. And the rules are most definitely easier to follow.”
          Do your advertising elsewhere. Most people on this website have already made up their mind on who they wish to worship. And as for all that LGBTABCXYZ nonsense, most religions and the vast majority of the world care little about a group of people that composes only a tiny portion of the world’s population. Also, easier rules doesn’t mean better religion. In fact, according to sociologists of religion, the best religions tend to be the ones that are strict and demanding. There’s a simple reason for this. Religions like those dissuade what they call “free-riders”, people who only join or remain out of self gain. And the ones who do join are those who dedicate their time and resources to propagating their faith. These people also want to be better than what they already are. Hence why Christianity was and still is so successful and why not many people belong to Wiccan Paganism or even know about the movement.
          If you’re going to reply to me, please be more coherent and honest.