“All the data I have seen indicate that Christians are at present the most persecuted religious group world-wide. ” (Peter Berger)
I am sure that Professor Berger is right that in many countries, especially those with Islamic majorities, Christians are horribly persecuted; but is Christianity the most persecuted worldwide? I’m skeptical.
I would have guessed that the distinction for most persecuted religion world wide belongs to the Baha’i.
They are treated horrendously in Iran and practically as poorly in Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco and several Muslim majority sub-Saharan African countries.
While Islamists can barely tolerate pre-Islamic Abrahamic faiths they have enormous difficulty tolerating post-Islamic monotheist faiths because the existence of religious movements like the Baha’i call into question the finality of Muhammad’s revelation.
Christians may have it really bad in some parts of the world but I suspect that the Baha’i have it even worse.
Prof. Berger, when you say “religious groups,” are you including as a group those who are religiously non-aligned/non-conformist, e.g., atheists, agnostics, dissident practitioners of organized religions (such as Muslims who deny the infallbility of Muhammad’s prophethood)?
It would seem to me that this loose group would be by far the most persecuted worldwide, since they face institutional opposition not only from the same authorities that are persecuting organized minority religions, but also suffer at the hands of many such religions themselves, such as dissident Muslims being charged with blasphemy, the shuttering of Chinese house churches that refuse to register with the government-sponsored umbrella group, the wide-ranging social ostracism associated with being “out” as an atheist in certain parts of the USA, etc. What is your take?
The world hated Jesus too.
“All the data I have seen indicate that Christians are at present the most persecuted religious group worldwide.”
Intercommunal conflict (in which one group targets another) has long utilized religion to essentialize members of a different religion (despite country’s political/economic institutional patterns) as vermin, villians, obstacles, etc. All over the world historically, belief in a specific supernatural has authorized the victimization of non-believers. The essay brings current at some level the constancy by which the elevation of parochial values to the realm of the sacred continues to provide many with a license to trample other people’s interests (Christian believers world wide).
An observation: “in 1924 91% of the students in a Middle-American high school agreed with the statement ‘Christianity is the one true religion and all peoples should be converted to it.’ By 1980, only 38% agreed.” That percentage is probably even smaller in 2013. America, though certainly not absolved of all religious intolerance, provides world with an institutional arrangement by which religious differences need not devolve into religious/ethnic hatred.
There is nothing wrong with believing that Christianity is a precious gift from God and the means of salvation of humanity, and that it should be shared with everyone in the world.
To forestall one common objection — Christ Himself is clearly against using violence or coercion to achieve these ends.
Wrong posting, Non sequitur; my Berger response centers on essay’s premise. Peruse essay and if you read Peter Berger regularly then Res ipsa loquitor.
You’re funny. Let me give you a history lesson:
The First Crusade was launched in 1095 with the battle cry “Deus
Vult” (God wills it), a mandate to destroy infidels in the Holy Land.
Gathering crusaders in Germany first fell upon “the infidel among us,”
Jews in the Rhine valley, thousands of whom were dragged from their
homes or hiding places and hacked to death or burned alive. Then the
religious legions plundered their way 2,000 miles to Jerusalem, where
they killed virtually every inhabitant, “purifying” the symbolic city.
Cleric Raymond of Aguilers wrote: “In the temple of Solomon, one rode in
blood up to the knees and even to the horses’ bridles, by the just and
marvelous judgment of God.”
In the Third Crusade, after Richard the Lion-Hearted captured Acre in
1191, he ordered 3,000 captives — many of them women and children —
taken outside the city and slaughtered. Some were disemboweled in a
search for swallowed gems. Bishops intoned blessings. Infidel lives were
of no consequence. As Saint Bernard of Clairvaux declared in launching
the Second Crusade: “The Christian glories in the death of a pagan,
because thereby Christ himself is glorified.”
Throughout Europe, beginning in the 1100s, tales spread that Jews
were abducting Christian children, sacrificing them, and using their
blood in rituals. Hundreds of massacres stemmed from this “blood libel.”
Some of the supposed sacrifice victims — Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln,
the holy child of LaGuardia, Simon of Trent — were beatified or
commemorated with shrines that became sites of pilgrimages and miracles.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III launched an armed crusade against
Albigenses Christians in southern France. When the besieged city of
Beziers fell, soldiers reportedly asked their papal adviser how to
distinguish the faithful from the infidel among the captives. He
commanded: “Kill them all. God will know his own.” Nearly 20,000 were
slaughtered — many first blinded, mutilated, dragged behind horses, or
used for target practice.
The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 proclaimed the doctrine of
transubstantiation: that the host wafer miraculously turns into the body
of Jesus during the mass. Soon rumors spread that Jews were stealing
the sacred wafers and stabbing or driving nails through them to crucify
Jesus again. Reports said that the pierced host bled, cried out, or
emitted spirits. On this charge, Jews were burned at the stake in 1243
in Belitz, Germany — the first of many killings that continued into the
1800s. To avenge the tortured host, the German knight Rindfliesch led a
brigade in 1298 that exterminated 146 defenseless Jewish communities in
Also during the 1200s, the hunt for Albigensian heretics led to
establishment of the Inquisition, which spread over Europe. Pope
Innocent IV authorized torture. Under interrogation by Dominican
priests, screaming victims were stretched, burned, pierced and broken on
fiendish pain machines to make them confess to disbelief and to
identify fellow transgressors. Inquisitor Robert le Bourge sent 183
people to the stake in a single week.
In Spain, where many Jews and Moors had converted to escape
persecution, inquisitors sought those harboring their old faith. At
least 2,000 Spanish backsliders were burned. Executions in other
countries included the burning of scientists such as
mathematician-philosopher Giordano Bruno, who espoused Copernicus’s
theory that the planets orbit the sun.
When the Black Death swept Europe in 1348-1349, rumors alleged that
it was caused by Jews poisoning wells. Hysterical mobs slaughtered
thousands of Jews in several countries. In Speyer, Germany, the burned
bodies were piled into giant wine casks and sent floating down the
Rhine. In northern Germany Jews were walled up alive in their homes to
suffocate or starve. The Flagellants, an army of penitents who whipped
themselves bloody, stormed the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt in a gruesome
massacre. The prince of Thuringia announced that he had burned his Jews
for the honor of God.
As a side note, Christianity can directly be blammed for
causing the Black Death. See during this time of religious madness, the
Inquisitors ordered all cats to be killed off because they were
considered familiar of witches and satans buddies. So they sent out the
Christians with the order to kill any cat they came upon. The cat
population was decimated. Now the Black Death was caused by rats
carrying the fleas that brought the Black Death onto the human
population. Without cats to control the rat population, this allowed
these rats to multiply and spread throughout the lands, releasing their
deadly fleas that bit the humans who then got infected with the Black
Death. So how many people died during this Black Death? An estimated 75
In the 1400s, the Inquisition shifted its focus to witchcraft.
Priests tortured untold thousands of women into confessing that they
were witches who flew through the sky and engaged in sex with the devil
— then they were burned or hanged for their confessions. Witch hysteria
raged for three centuries in a dozen nations. Estimates of the number
executed vary from 100,000 to 2 million. Whole villages were
exterminated. In the first half of the 17th century, about 5,000
“witches” were put to death in the French province of Alsace, and 900
were burned in the Bavarian city of Bamberg. The witch craze was
religious madness at its worst.
The “Protestant Inquisition” is a term applied to the severities of
John Calvin in Geneva and Queen Elizabeth I in England during the 1500s.
Calvin’s followers burned 58 “heretics,” including theologian Michael
Servetus, who doubted the Trinity. Elizabeth I outlawed Catholicism and
executed about 200 Catholics.
Protestant Huguenots grew into an aggressive minority in France in
the 15OOs — until repeated Catholic reprisals smashed them. On Saint
Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, Catherine de Medicis secretly authorized
Catholic dukes to send their soldiers into Huguenot neighborhoods and
slaughter families. This massacre touched off a six-week bloodbath in
which Catholics murdered about 10,000 Huguenots. Other persecutions
continued for two centuries, until the French Revolution. One group of
Huguenots escaped to Florida; in 1565 a Spanish brigade discovered their
colony, denounced their heresy, and killed them all.
The Anabaptists, communal “rebaptizers,” were slaughtered by both
Catholic and Protestant authorities. In Munster, Germany, Anabaptists
took control of the city, drove out the clergymen, and proclaimed a New
Zion. The bishop of Munster began an armed siege. While the townspeople
starved, the Anabaptist leader proclaimed himself king and executed
dissenters. When Munster finally fell, the chief Anabaptists were
tortured to death with red-hot pincers and their bodies hung in iron
cages from a church steeple.
Oliver Cromwell was deemed a moderate because he massacred only
Catholics and Anglicans, not other Protestants. This Puritan general
commanded Bible-carrying soldiers, whom he roused to religious fervor.
After decimating an Anglican army, Cromwell said, “God made them as
stubble to our swords.” He demanded the beheading of the defeated King
Charles I, and made himself the holy dictator of England during the
1650s. When his army crushed the hated Irish Catholics, he ordered the
execution of the surrendered defenders of Drogheda and their priests,
calling it “a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches.”
Ukrainian Bogdan Chmielnicki was a Cossack Cromwell. He wore the
banner of Eastern Orthodoxy in a holy war against Jews and Polish
Catholics. More than 100,000 were killed in this 17th-century bloodbath,
and the Ukraine was split away from Poland to become part of the
Orthodox Russian empire.
The Thirty Years’ War produced the largest religious death toll of
all time. It began in 1618 when Protestant leaders threw two Catholic
emissaries out of a Prague window into a dung heap. War flared between
Catholic and Protestant princedoms, drawing in supportive religious
armies from Germany, Spain, England, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, France
and Italy. Sweden’s Protestant soldiers sang Martin Luther’s “Ein ‘Feste
Burg” in battle. Three decades of combat turned central Europe into a
wasteland of misery. One estimate states that Germany’s population
dropped from 18 million to 4 million. In the end nothing was settled,
and too few people remained to rebuild cities, plant fields, or conduct
When Puritans settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s, they created a
religious police state where doctrinal deviation could lead to flogging,
pillorying, hanging, cutting off ears, or boring through the tongue
with a hot iron. Preaching Quaker beliefs was a capital offense. Four
stubborn Quakers defied this law and were hanged. In the 1690s fear of
witches seized the colony. Twenty alleged witches were killed and 150
In 1723 the bishop of Gdansk, Poland, demanded that all Jews be
expelled from the city. The town council declined, but the bishop’s
exhortations roused a mob that invaded the ghetto and beat the residents
In 1801 Orthodox priests in Bucharest, Romania, revived the story
that Jews sacrificed Christians and drank their blood. Enraged
parishioners stormed the ghetto and cut the throats of 128 Jews.
Late in the 19th century, with rebellion stirring in Russia, the
czars attempted to divert public attention by helping anti-Semitic
groups rouse Orthodox Christian hatred for Jews. Three waves of pogroms
ensued — in the 1880s, from 1903 to 1906, and during the Russian
Revolution. Each wave was increasingly murderous. During the final
period, 530 communities were attacked and 60,000 Jews were killed.
In the 1950s and 1960s, combat between Christians, animists and Muslims in Sudan killed more than 500,000.
In Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978, followers of the Rev. Jim Jones killed
a visiting congressman and three newsmen, then administered cyanide to
themselves and their children in a 900-person suicide that shocked the
In 1983 in Darkley, Northern Ireland, Catholic terrorists with
automatic weapons burst into a Protestant church on a Sunday morning and
opened fire, killing three worshipers and wounding seven. It was just
one of hundreds of Catholic-Protestant ambushes that have taken 2,600
lives in Ulster since age-old religious hostility turned violent again
Now Christian apologists claim Hitler and the Nazi’s were not
Christians and therefore can not be included in any discussion about
their evil and bloody history, yet I beg to differ. The Nazi’s and
Hitler considered themselves Christians and these very words from Hitler
himself proves this.
In a speech 26 June 1934, Hitler stated:The National Socialist State
professes its allegiance to positive Christianity. It will be its honest
endeavour to protect both the great Christian Confessions in their
rights, to secure them from interference with their doctrines (Lehren), and in their duties to constitute a harmony with the views and the exigencies of the State of today
Former Prime Minister of Bavaria, Count Graf von Lerchenfeld-Köfering
stated in a speech before the Landtag of Bavaria, that his beliefs “as a
man and a Christian” prevented him from being an anti-Semite or from
pursuing anti-Semitic public policies. Hitler while speaking the
Bürgerbräukeller turned Lerchenfeld’s perspective of Jesus on its head:
I would like here to appeal to a greater than I, Count Lerchenfeld.
He said in the last session of the Landtag that his feeling ‘as a man
and a Christian’ prevented him from being an anti-Semite. I say: My
feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It
points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few
followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to
fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer
but as a fighter. .. How terrific was His fight for the world against
the Jewish poison
So I would guess this also made Hitler a self professed
Christian and his slaughter of the Jews can also be blamed on his idea
of what Christianity was all about.
Is that how you rationalize telling Christians to drop dead?
Why yes Margaret, yes it is.
Why not? If you all can preach death and defend it with your religious beliefs…then I can say those whom do these things in the name of a religion deserve to die themselves.
Boo hoo Margaret…I guess it is perfectly alright in your book for Christians to slaughter anyone they wish to in the name of their religion…but heaven forbid anyone demands the same thing be done to them for their crimes against humanity right?
Oh and Margaret please stop stalking me or I will report you to the police department. You have been stalking me throughout the internet…keep it up sunshine and I might think you got a massive crush on me and want to rape me.
I posted response in Aug. I’ve definitely moved on vis-a-vis this essay (It is now November).
Typical go hide your tail between your legs response from a Christianist like you. Can’t answer the truth, so you go hide your head.
Then you have pastors like Scott Lively, Charles Worley, and many others whom are persecuting gays and lesbians by demanding we build nazi style concentration camps for them, or that the government should kill them, or heck with it…Lively and his Ugandan Kill the Gays bill.
So explain to me why Christians can persecute and slaughter anyone they disagree with as proven through their own history, or even current history where your pastors can demand these things on others….but we are NOT supposed to speak out against this or ANY of the other atrocities and persecutions commited by those whom claim they were Christian……cause then we are persecuting you for your religious beliefs?
Screw that…you demand death for my gay and lesbian friends? You will get the same demand from me about YOU.
So I say we should pass a bill that allows us to Kill All Bigoted Christianists whom preach this evil.
Why not? They just want to slaughter others?
Boo hoo hoo Christian evangelists and Catholics are being persecuted. Good. They deserve it. Why is it that it is perfectly ok for Christian pastors to scream to shouts of hearty amens from their congretation, from their pulpits when they say we should:
Pastor Charles Worley states: I had a way, I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians
and queers, but I couldn’t get it passed through Congress. Build a great
big large fence, fifty or a hundred mile long, put all the lesbians in
there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers
and the homosexuals, and have that fence electrified ‘til they can’t get
out. Feed them, and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. Do
you know why? They can’t reproduce.
Pastor Scott Lively whom designed the Kill the Gays bill in Uganda. A suit against Lively alleges that he “conspired with religious and
political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings
that gay people would sodomize African children and corrupt their
Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill was initially dropped after an international outcry but was reintroduced in February 2012. It is possible that this new version of the bill may nix the capital punishment clause, according to The Times. Lively voiced his support for the revision on his blog,
writing, “Since the alternative to passing this bill is to allow the
continuing, rapid, foreigner-driven homosexualization of Ugandan
culture, I am giving the revised Anti Homosexuality Bill my support.”
These are just two examples of Christian pastors persecuting others…and then we have the thousands upon thousands of children whom have been raped by priests, pastors, ministers and other heads of the Christian Church but none of the leaders whom have covered this up are prosecuted. Instead we are told to leave them alone and stop picking on them.
Christians have been persecuting whole civilizations since pretty much Constantine declared it the religion of the world.
You have the Crusades, the various Inquisitions, the Genocide of the Native Americans and their children kidnapped by them, put into Christian reeducation centers and stripped of their heritage and rights. We have many examples of Christians terrorizing people in the dark of the nights. Try reading about the Inquisition tortures and see how Christians persecuted those whom they declared witches, pagans and others.
So to say Christians do NOT deserve a dose of their own medicine…then stop persecuting others…because what you do unto others will come back upon YOU.