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  • About those Koreans and religion…


    by Sunny
    9th November, 2007 at 5:10 am    

    The Economist has published an interesting report on Religion and Public Life. I gleaned this interesting fact:

    In fact, many of the biggest churches are outside the United States. In Guatemala, Pentecostals have built what may be the largest building in Central America: Mega Frater (Big Brother) packs a 12,000-seater church, a vast baptism pool and a heliport. One church in Lagos can supposedly bring 2m people out onto the streets. But five of the world’s ten biggest megachurches are in just one country: South Korea.

    Korean Protestantism is certainly export-minded: Yoido sends out 600 missionaries a year. One target is North Korea, which used to be the more Christian end of the country. Yoido already has plans to build a second sanctuary in Pyongyang. Yanbian, a district in China that has a large ethnic Korean population, is choc-a-bloc with missionaries.

    The article also points out that worldwide, Christianity is still the most evangelical religion and will continue to attract converts (especially in the East)

    What I find most interesting from that report is that globally the picture is very different from what is painted by the usual suspects in Britain. Increased education does not seem to lead to decreased religiousity; the axis of all religions, including Christianity, is shifting East along with economic power; Christians are more aggressively evangelical than Muslims and will maintain their larger numbers.

    It also means that when fundamentalist Christians in this country, perhaps epitomised by blogger Archbishop Cramner, complain that Muslims show far more religious fervour and Christians are losing out in the power stakes, they don’t understand that religious power itself is moving to the East. The major conflicts of the this century, whether over religion, resources or territory, will mostly take place in the East. In economic stakes and religious stakes ‘the western hemisphere’ (albeit the US) will become a bystander.

    The conclusion is interesting:

    Choice is the most “modern” thing about contemporary religion. “We made a category mistake,” admits Peter Berger, the Boston sociologist, who was once one of the foremost champions of secularisation but changed his mind in the 1980s. “We thought that the relationship was between modernisation and secularisation. In fact it was between modernisation and pluralism.” Religion is no longer taken for granted or inherited; it is based around adults making a choice, going to a synagogue, temple, church or mosque. This has a profound affect on public life. The more that people choose their religion, rather than just inherit it, the more likely they are to make a noise about it.

    The question here is: how will atheists react? How will our definition of a secular society change? After all, if you’re going to exclude a Sikh girl from wearing her kara from school, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well? Shouldn’t societies strive to treat everyone equally?


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    1. Ministry of Truth » Blog Archive » On religion and poverty

      [...] Sunny has picked up a rather interesting special report on religion in public life in the Economist (start here - there are about 7 or 8 articles that can be read in sequence by following the ‘next article’ link at the bottom of each piece) which has prompted him to some intriguing observations: What I find most interesting from that report is that globally the picture is very different from what is painted by the usual suspects in Britain. Increased education does not seem to lead to decreased religiousity; the axis of all religions, including Christianity, is shifting East along with economic power; Christians are more aggressively evangelical than Muslims and will maintain their larger numbers. [...]


    2. Pastorpreneurs, Megamosques, Public Life « Balneus

      [...] About those Koreans and Religion (Pickled Politics - 2007-11-09) [...]




    1. Halima — on 9th November, 2007 at 6:50 am  

      Hey Sunny. Interesting. There is something a little Huntington-esk in this article, not sure i would agree with all the conclusions.

      Though interesting they pick up on South Korea..

      What were the Americans fighting for in South Vietnam and South Korea respectively at different times? Apart from fighting communism? Godless people, I think! As they might have seen it. Others might say free-markets, but certainly a mixture of both. Perhaps godless communists sums it up.

      Not surprising, Christianity will attract interest in the Far East because it’s not the dominant religion there and will appeal to people looking to convert…

      The Far East is fertile ground for Christianity, esp confucionism (can’t spell, sorry) and taoism appear to be more about ritualistic ancestral worshiping so perhaps Christianity gives people a stronger basis for collective faith.

      Should we ban Christmas because we can’ treat other religions equally? No, we should celebrate all religions and then we get more holidays, as I am finding out with Diwali…

      Seriously, though, if we are arguing for a ban Christmas on grounds of equality, we should be looking to make it an equal playing ground for all religions, not penalize the dominant religion because we cannot guarantee equality for all. Just a thought.

    2. Morgoth — on 9th November, 2007 at 9:46 am  

      After all, if you’re going to exclude a Sikh girl from wearing her kara from school, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well?

      Definitely.

    3. Rumbold — on 9th November, 2007 at 10:23 am  

      “The axis of all religions, including Christianity, is shifting East along with economic power.”

      Surely, moving back East?

    4. Cranmer — on 9th November, 2007 at 11:15 am  

      If you think His Grace epitomises ‘fundamentalist’ Christianity, you either misinterpret him, or utterly fail to comprehend the meaning of fundamentalism. If you had any grasp of hermeneutics, ecclesiology, Church history, Christian ethics, or biblical doctrine, you would see how erroneous and fatuous your assertion of fundamentalism is.

    5. Bert Preast — on 9th November, 2007 at 11:37 am  

      Isn’t the religious power in islam moving east, too?

    6. Bartholomew — on 9th November, 2007 at 12:44 pm  

      Yoido was founded by a guy named Paul Yonggi Cho, who changed his name to David Yonggi Cho on instruction from God. Jesus apparently appeared to him dressed as a fireman.

      A couple of issues about “the East”, though: while there are certainly a lot of Chinese Christians, there are not many conversions happening in Japan. And in Taiwan, modernisation appears to be connected to a decline in Christianity.

    7. Jakey — on 9th November, 2007 at 1:46 pm  

      If religion is being practiced by more and more people in the world then it is necessary to have more inter-religious dialogue especially at the highest level of power. It is one’s own feeling of religious superiority that causes religious conflict.

      Most religions came from the East including Christianity. Over the years many of the values we regard as superior in the West actually came from the East.

      William Dalrymple has a nice article about this here: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_25359.shtml

    8. DavidMWW — on 9th November, 2007 at 7:39 pm  

      If you are going to enforce your uniform policy across the board, regardless of the opinions of the pupils in your charge, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well?

      Bit of a non sequitur there, Sunny! :-)

    9. Hettie — on 10th November, 2007 at 12:05 am  

      Sunny, maybe you think that those Christians who aren’t sympathetic to Muslim fundamentalism are fundamentalists? I read Cranmer, and I don’t agree with some of his views, but fundamentalist he is? I don’t think so. And a little grounding in Christianity hasn’t hurt anyone.

      It’s not necessarily the Christians who could stop a ban, since banning Christmas would probably bring down the retail industry. :)

    10. The Heresiarch — on 10th November, 2007 at 8:25 am  

      Of course atheists are becoming caught up in the evangelical fervour as well. Hence the Dawkins/ Hitchens/ Harris phenomenon. Rather than sliding into atheism, people are increasingly making it a positive choice, and so they want to shout about it. And I can see a new orientation. Previously atheists have been mainly interested in bashing religion. They still are, of course, but I increasingly see evidence of an attempt to make a positive case: Dawkins’ previous book “Unweaving the Rainbow” was a stab at this.

      As to the situation in the orient, Islam has ancient and active outposts in the East, while Christianity never really got going there. So it has the appeal of novelty, and also its association with the West (especially the US) which is still seen as the model of modernity. I suspect that its appeal to individualism (especially Protestantism) also has attractions to people in parts of the world which have traditionally had stiffling levels of societal and familiar conformity.

      A most interesting post, Sunny.

    11. Ravi Naik — on 10th November, 2007 at 10:59 am  

      “The question here is: how will atheists react? How will our definition of a secular society change? After all, if you’re going to exclude a Sikh girl from wearing her kara from school, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well? Shouldn’t societies strive to treat everyone equally?”

      Christmas is not a religious holiday: it is a secular one. Santa Claus, santas little helpers, christmas trees, presents from Santa Claus, Santa’s raindeers… are not christian at all.

    12. Ravi Naik — on 10th November, 2007 at 11:05 am  

      Similarly, Easter is becoming secular as well: the easter bunny and chocolate eggs are not part of the christian folklore. The fact that Christians celebrate the birth of Christ in Christmas and the death and ressurection during Easter, bears little to the secular meaning of these holidays, making them all-inclusive and non-religious. So there is nothing inconsistent of a secular society celebrating a secular holiday.

    13. Jai — on 10th November, 2007 at 12:23 pm  

      Santa Claus, santas little helpers, christmas trees, presents from Santa Claus, Santa’s raindeers… are not christian at all.

      Damn right. Just ask Billy Bob Thornton, as depicted in the movie “Bad Santa”. And no, I’m not miffed just because he got to Angelina before I did, dammit.

    14. Jakey — on 10th November, 2007 at 5:00 pm  

      Christianity may be growing in the East but it also faces hostility in many countries. Unlike in colonial times Christianity is not spreading by forced conversions. As long it is not forced I don’t see a problem with it. It should be the decision of the individual what religion he chooses to practice.

      At my local church last week, an Iraqi Christian parishioner was saying that since the invasion of Iraq Christians face terrible persecution; although they are 5% of the Iraqi population they make up 40% of Iraqi refugees. Churches are desecrated, priests are murdered, and Christian refugees are unwelcome in neighbouring countries. Palestinian Christians are today an endangered species.

      In India Christians have done sterling work with the poor; and Christian educational institutions are easily some of the best in the country. Christianity arrived in India in 52AD with the arrival of St Thomas; that’s before it arrived in Europe. Although the official Christian population of India is 2.34% (24 million) there are millions of new “secret” converts to Christianity from the lowest castes who have not changed their “official” religious status because they won’t be entitled to affirmative action benefits for low caste Hindus.

      Along with the rise of Hindu nationalism violence against Christians in India has also increased: http://hrw.org/english/docs/1999/09/30/india1626.htm . Some states have introduced “anti-conversion” laws to check conversions from Hinduism but its also a tool frequently used by Hindu militants to attack Christian missionaries.

    15. Leon — on 11th November, 2007 at 12:04 am  

      The question here is: how will atheists react?

      Are there really any atheist groups in the same way there are religious groups?

    16. Heng — on 11th November, 2007 at 4:07 pm  

      A couple of issues about “the East”, though: while there are certainly a lot of Chinese Christians, there are not many conversions happening in Japan. And in Taiwan, modernisation appears to be connected to a decline in Christianity.

      Taiwan’s Christians are almost all either Catholic or Presbyterian. If you look at what is happening in terms of denomination rather than at Christianity as a whole in fact very similar patterns are being replicated everywhere and everything looks more simple.

      USA - Evangelicals (particularly Pentecostals) are increasing in number, Catholics and mainline Protestants increasingly becoming “no religion”. Net effect is a reduction in total number identifying as Christians over time.

      UK - Evangelicals (particularly Pentecostals) are increasing in number, even after factoring out African immigration. Though Evangelicals are growing from a much smaller base than they were to start with in the US. Catholics and mainline Protestants increasingly becoming “no religion”. Only other growing segment is Orthodox Christianity, but this appears to be essentially entirely immigration related unlike the growth in Pentecostalism which is at least half indigenous.

      Latin America - Evangelicals (particularly Pentecostals) are increasing in number, Catholics increasingly becoming “no religion” as well as switching to Pentecostalism.

      China, South Korea - Evangelicals (particularly Pentecostals) are increasing in number, Catholics increasing in number but more slowly. In China growth is largely in secretive “house churches” in Korea it is in “megachurches”. “No religion” decreasing, Buddhism increasing in China after previous government suppression but it is decreasing in South Korea, often losing out to Pentecostalism.

      Africa - already quite thoroughly Pentecostalised. Mainline Protestant denominations have a very Evangelical character, even the Quakers. In 1900 non Muslim areas were mostly animist / pagan, today they are thoroughly Christian, the majority of that conversion happened after colonialism. In 1900 Africa was 3% Christian, today it is over 50% Christian with the fortysomething percent of the continent that is Muslim remaining static. Catholicism and Islam holding steady in terms of total proportions. Very little sign of people becoming “no religion”.

      Western Europe excluding UK - Large falls in Catholic and mainline Protestants to “no religion”. Pentecostal / Evangelical presence very small but growing, mostly indigenously, even in unexpected places like the Republic of Ireland and France but from a tiny base.

      Eastern Europe including Russia - “No religion” decreasing. Orthodox Christianity increasing. Pentecostals / Evangelicals increasing but as in western Europe only from a very small base.

      India - Pretty large scale conversions to Christianity amongst lower castes in southern states but small beer in terms of total proportions. Again Evangelicals and Pentecostals are making most of the running. Hinduism and Islam holding steady without much slippage to “no religion”. Islam somewhat eating into Hinduism’s percentage but for demographic rather than conversion reasons.

      Muslim world - Islam holding steady against “no religion” and increasing strongly through high birth rates, though they are decreasing. Unlike Christianity Islam is only gaining a trickle of converts outside it’s borders but where it interfaces with Christianity, such as Nigeria, it holds firm against it’s spread, though often violence results. There is some Christian conversion of Muslims occurring in some parts of Africa and in the former Soviet “Stans” however and very little going the other way. Worldwide Christianity and Islam are largely increasing in tandem, Christianity adding somewhat more new members a year in absolute numbers and Islam adding slightly more new members in terms of the proportion of the total.

      Philippines - As per Latin America, rapid growth of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism, falling Catholicism and some slippage to “no religion”.

      Well that describes what’s happening in most of the world. Apologies for the long post.

    17. Sunny — on 11th November, 2007 at 4:45 pm  

      Thanks Heng, a very interesting round-up.

      David - heh.

      The Heresiarch - thanks for that too.

      Halima - I agree with all of that, and yes I’d rather make it an equal playing ground than ban Christmas (silly idea but my point remains)

    18. puzzled — on 11th November, 2007 at 5:34 pm  

      I don’t understand this article at all. What is ‘religious power’ and why is it ‘shifting east’ (rather than, say, South, to Africa, given the increasing confidence of African Anglicans)?

      Religion hasn’t had much hold on Western Europe for a long time, so where is ‘religous power’ (whatever the heck that is, the term completely baffles me) supposed to be shifting _from_?

      And you should have provided a link to explain your reference to the ‘Sikh girl’, a story I seem to have missed. All I remember from my school was they quickly gave up on having any dress code at all, they were just grateful if anybody actually turned up!

    19. Ravi Naik — on 12th November, 2007 at 8:06 pm  

      The question here is: how will atheists react? How will our definition of a secular society change? After all, if you’re going to exclude a Sikh girl from wearing her kara from school, why not be consistent and ban Christmas as well? Shouldn’t societies strive to treat everyone equally?”

      Sunny, I don’t follow you. If you want equality, then you can’t oppose having all students - including Christians - to stop wearing religious symbols. Why should this preclude from celebrating Christmas? Because I am not aware that Diwali and all other celebrations are banned as well.

      What does ‘equal playing ground’ mean then? That there should be a holiday for every religion in the UK, regardless of the number of people who celebrate it?

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