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Humanist's Guide to Religion: Christianity
The purpose of this series is to develop a reference guide for how the various religions of the world rank against humanist values. Humanism for this purpose is a secular worldview that values human happiness, knowledge and physical wellbeing, exclusively in this life and this world. We will analyze religions according to their effect on three areas: the body (safety), the mind (knowledge, rationality), and the world (material goods).
The analysis uses as much quantification as possible. Each of the religions, cults and faith communities will be considered on the following criteria:
- Safety: deaths and violence caused for religious reasons; weighted as 50% of the total score
- Rigidity: openness to and support for rational inquiry, skepticism and doubt, including natural science and its findings; weighted as 30%
- Material wealth: income and GDP per capita; weighted as 20%
In this hub, we look at the sects and communities of Christianity, the largest religion on earth.
The following sources and data are used for each criterion. Each is ranked on a scale of 0 to 100%.
- Safety: Notable religious violence, crime and terrorist attacks over the last 20 years (from 1990 to 2010) is weighted as 60% of this score. (Every 10 people killed will count as 1 percentage point off, making 1000 dead a zero percent weight). The Pew Forum's global religious Social Hostility Index (SHI) (a higher SHI means more hostility) will be calculated for countries where more than half the population follows the religion in question, and is weighted as 40% of the safety score.
- Rigidity: The Pew Forum's statistics on religion in the US: (1) college completion, (2) certainty that God exists, (3) frequency of prayer, (4) literal interpretation of holy text, and (5) attitude toward homosexuality. Any notable beliefs that increase or decrease rigidity will also be considered. College completion is weighted as 60%, an average of the remaining four Pew factors as 30%, and additional beliefs will be weighted as 10% for this score.
- Material wealth: The Pew Forum's statistics on income by religion in the US is weighted as 40% and GDP per capita for countries where the religion constitutes more than half the population is weighted as 60%. (The GDP per capita is converted to a percentage of $100,000).
Where statistics outside the US are not available or relevant, only US data will be used.
ROMAN CATHOLICISM: Total Score=58%
- 186 Protestants were killed by Catholics in the Northern Ireland "Troubles" from 1990 through 1998. Many hundreds more were injured.
- SHI: For countries where half or more of the population is nominally Catholic, the average SHI is 18.5%
- Score: 81%
- 47% of American Catholics have at least some college education.
- The Roman Catholic doctrine of Papal infallibility is a tremendous factor of rigidity. Intellectual authoritarianism is totally antithetical to free thought and skepticism, therefore earning Catholicism a score of 10% on "extra factors."
- 72% of American Catholics are "absolutely certain" that God exists.
- 13% of American Catholics seldom or never pray
- 27% of American Catholics believe the Bible is a book written by men, not God.
- 58% of American Catholics believe homosexuality should be accepted by society.
- Score: 39%
- 49% of American Catholics earn $50,000 or more
- For countries with 50% or more of the population nominally Catholic, the average GDP per capita is $17,841, which is 17.8% of $100,000.
- Score: 30%
PROTESTANTISM: Total Score=45%
*These calculations include Mainline Protestantism (including Anglicanism/ Episcopalianism) and Evangelical Protestantism. The US Pew study's figures used here are a straight average of the Mainline and Evangelical numbers (Historically Black churches are excluded).
- 277 Catholics were killed by Protestants in the Northern Ireland Troubles from 1990 through 1998 (the year of the peace agreement).
- 300 Mulsims were killed by Christians (mostly Protestants) in Nigeria in early 2010. This is in addition to dozens killed in previous years in Nigeria. We can easily estimate an additional 100 killed since 1990, for a total of 400 killed by Protestants in Nigeria.
- The SHI for countries where at least nominal Protestantism accounts for more than half of the population: 17%
- Score: 53%
- 51% of American Protestants have at least some college education.
- Absolutely certain God exists: 82%
- Seldom or never pray: 10%
- The Bible is written by men, not God: 18%
- Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 41%
- Mainline Protestantism features one of the most senior church officials to be openly gay in Christian history (Gene Robinson, of the American Episcopal Church). But the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, among some Mainliners and especially Evangelicals, contributes significantly to rigidity and criticism of scientific findings that clash with the Bible. This is seen, for example, in the questioning of evolution and the age of the earth. Extra factor: 40%.
- Score: 41%
- 48% of American Protestants earn $50,000 or more.
- Countries with 50% or more of their population nominally Protestant have an average GDP per capita of $20,645, which is 20.6% of $100,000.
- Score: 32%
ORTHODOXY: Total Score=33%
- Thousands of Muslim Albanians were killed in Kosovo in 1998-99 for exclusively religious reasons by Serbian Orthodox forces
- The SHI for countries where at least half the population is Orthodox is on average 42%
- Score: 23%
- 68% of American Orthodox have at least some college education.
- Absolutely certain God exists: 71%
- Seldom or never pray: 16%
- The Bible is written by men, not God: 29%
- Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 48%
- The Orthodox are more democratic than their Catholic counterparts (there is no equivalent to "Papal Infallibility" for instance). However, the authority of tradition plays just as important a role in the Orthodox world, contributing to rigidity. Extra factor: 30%
- Score: 53%
- 57% of American Orthodox earn $50,000 or more.
- Countries with 50% or more of their population Orthodox have an average GDP per capita of $11,685.
- Score: 30%
MORMONISM: Total Score=72%
Safety: The Mormons are a largely peaceful religious community, with little religious violence to speak of in the last 20 years. The exception to this rule is the oppression and abuse of girls and women within the fundamentalist wing of the religion. Deaths have not been caused by Mormons for religious reasons. The SHI measure is not applicable because no country has more than half the population as Mormon. Score: 95%
- About 60% of American Mormons have at least some college education.
- Absolutely certain God exists: 90%
- Seldom or never pray: 5%
- The Bible is written by men, not God: 4%
- Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 24%
- Mormonism places great emphasis on the authority of church leaders and officials, potentially stifling dissent and skepticism. This effect is exaggerated among Fundamentalist Mormons, who nevertheless comprise a minority of all Mormons. Extra factor: 50%
- Score: 44%
- 54% of American Mormons earn at least $50,000 per year.
- No country has more than half the population Mormon.
- Score: 54%
JEHOVAH'S WITNESS: Total Score=61%
Safety: Jehovah's Witnesses are a peaceful religious community, known for their conscientious objection to military service. Religious violence has played effectively no part in their history over the last 20 years, although there have been allegations of some toleration of domestic violence, in the context of strongly patriarchal values. Score: 95%
- 31% of American Jehovah Witnesses have at least some college education.
- Absolutely certain God exists: 93%
- Seldom or never pray: 1%
- The Bible is written by men, not God: 1%
- Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 12%
- Jehovah's Witnesses are kept on a tight intellectual leash by their leadership. Anyone who slightly disagrees with official doctrine is banned. The authoritarianism is effectively total, and thus more severe than in Catholicism. Extra factor: 0%
- Score: 20%
- Only 35% of American Jehovah's Witnesses earn $50,000 or more.
- Although Jehovah's Witnesses are found in many countries, they do not constitute half of any country's population
- Score: 35%
CHRISTIANITY: Total Humanist Score= 54%
Christianity appears as a moderately humanist religion. Its score is heavily influenced by Catholicism, which accounts for the majority of all Christian adherence in the world. Catholicism is largely peaceful, with the exception of Northern Ireland in the 1990s, but suffers from mediocre and low rankings on rigidity and especially material wealth.
Orthodoxy, the lowest-scoring sect, suffers tremendously on this scale from the thousands killed in its name during the Kosovo conflict. It performs just as poorly as Catholicism on material wealth, although scoring the highest of any sect on openness to skepticism and reason.
The relatively obscure belief systems Mormonism and Jehovah's Witness are the highest scoring Christian communities principally because of their peaceful nature, which is the most important factor from a humanist standpoint. Next in the series will be the Humanist's Guide to Islam.