Who is the most religious nation in the world? Depends upon the standard of measurement. This past week, one study was released detailing the most religious nations in the world, at least according to people’s perception. The answer may surprise you . . . or it may not. Researchers suggest it is Saudi Arabia.
To many that is startling because we would expect the most religious to either be a more predominant religions or one of the more predominant countries. Yet according to the perspective of those surveyed, Saudi Arabia is presented as the most religious. This is a bit surprising considering that Saudi Arabia also ranks high on the United States watchlist for violations of religious freedom (according to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998). We must remember that this is based upon a person’s perception, which is very subjective.
Yet, the very fact that this particular study is based upon perception offers a unique context that prompts some serious questions. Consider the following:
- What is this perception based upon? There is a reason that this perception exists, so we are left wondering where their information is coming from. Is it their own research? Perhaps the media?
- How does their perception of the religion itself affect their perception of being religious? For example, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. Do those responding to the survey view the religion in a positive or negative view, and did that impact who they thought was more religious?
- Does compelling one to religious conformity constitute conversion and qualify as being religious? Nine of the top ten countries on the list are predominantly Muslim with many of them forcing their country to abide by sharia law. This brings into question how many of those people are actually faithful to the religion they claim versus how many are simply submitting out of fear and does that count as being religious?
Without more background information, answering these questions is hard to do. However, merely answering them is not the sole purpose of asking about them. Instead, we should seriously contemplate these because it forces us to consider where Christianity stands as well.
Undoubtedly, many are surprised that Christianity isn’t represented upon this list. However, one must wonder if the answer to the above queries might shed some light on the issue. Regardless, one thing is certain: Christians are not perceived as very religious. Such a revelation is surprising, noteworthy, and unremarkable all at the same time.
Considering the pummeling that Christians are taking for their stance on various moral issues, it’s surprising that there is little reference to this in people’s perception of religious people and countries. At the same time the world’s perception of Christians does not matter considering that the secular world often does not understand the spiritual world. Even more, our judgment is not before men, but before God. Therefore our concern is not with people but with God. However, we must also consider what our testimony before the world should point them to God, and so if it does not, there is reason to be concerned.
With that in mind, why are no Christian nations found higher up on the list, and why are Christians viewed as less religious in comparison to other religions? Because generally speaking, there is a claim without conviction. While many claim to be Christians, few live out that conviction with their lives. To many, Christian faith and principles are open to personal interpretation leading to compromise. Therefore, Christianity to many is not a religion for the religious, but one for the comfortable.
The point here is to recognize that Christians are not viewed as overtly devout in their faith. Such principle should cause pause and reflection. Such a reflection is not merely an evaluation of all Christians, but one of self- assessment that causes us to consider our commitment to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you convicted by who you are in Christ, or merely comfortable by who you are in Christ?
Photo “World Map – Abstract Acrylic” courtesy of user Nicolas Raymond and Flickr.