I think I might have made some of you nervous in my past three posts. You might think I sound like the ACLU trying to push religion out of the public square.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and I want to take the next two posts to try to handle some misgivings you might have.
Notice that in the type of free marketplace of ideas I suggested, religious dialogue and practice are at the center of everything. Ideas are able to be debated, and, as in the economic marketplace, the best ideas are going to thrive just like the best businesses thrive. If Christianity is true, then in a free marketplace, it should thrive accordingly.
In fact, the research seems to support that conclusion very strongly. The National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a study in 2004 authored by Robert J Barro and Rachel M McCleary that evaluated which countries have state religions. Their research turned up that there are 72 countries in the world that did not have a state religion in 1900, 1970 or 2000.
In 2010, the Pew Forum conducted a study about Christianity around the world, and they compiled a list of the 10 countries with the largest Christian populations in the world. Of those 10 countries, six of them were on the list of countries that have not had a state religion for at least the past 100 years.
Of the remaining four countries that were on that list, one is China who abandoned Confucianism prior to 1970 as the official state religion. Similarly, Brazil removed Catholicism as the state religion and Russia removed Orthodox Christianity as the state religion prior to 1970. Ethiopia was the final country on the list, and they removed Orthodox Christianity as the state religion prior to 2000.
Let’s compare it to Islam. According again to the Pew Forum, of the 10 countries with the largest Muslim populations in the world, six of them are in countries where Islam is the official state religion. Of the remaining four, India and Nigeria have not had a state religion, Indonesia removed Protestant Christianity as a state religion before 1970 and Turkey removed Islam as the state religion before 1970.
Christianity seems to do all right in the marketplace of ideas. Even in countries where there is no state religion and therefore very little consequence to conversion, people are choosing Christianity. Could it be the case that they are choosing it because it is the best option? Why does Islam do the best mostly in countries where it is the official state religion?
You can draw your own conclusions.
I don’t advocate for freedom of religion because I want to take religion away from people. I want religious dialogue in the public square; it is not meant to be private. However, I do advocate for freedom of religion because I know I don’t need to be afraid of competing worldviews as long as that freedom is in place and Christians are willing to step up and be ambassadors for the cause of Christ.