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The Increasing Secularization of the West

October 25, 2017
The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

43 of the countries in the world have a State religion, and that many countries, while claiming to be secular, uphold an unofficial religion.

This statistic was published by the Pew Research Center, an American think tank, on October 3, 2017, in a study on the attitude of governments towards religion.

The Pew Research Center is an American think tank that provides statistics and information of a social nature. It is financed by the powerful “Pew Charitable Trusts”, a non-governmental association founded in 1948 with the goal of “improving public policy, informing the public, and invigorating civic life”. 

The research center classified 199 countries into four categories, according to their attitude towards religion:

  1. nations with an official State religion;
  2. nations with no recognized religion;
  3. countries hostile to religion;
  4. nations who informally prefer a religion.

The vast majority of the 43 countries with an official State religion is Muslim. The Pew Research Center includes in this category states that have an official religion but whose society is nevertheless largely secularized, the Jewish State of Israel, for example, or the Anglican United Kingdom.

The study also lists ten states that are hostile to all religions. These include China, Cuba, North Korea, and several former Soviet Republics in central Asia.

Finally, the study lists 40 countries which, although secular, concretely favor one religion over others. Based on an analysis of the constitutions and laws in effect, the Pew Center provides a list of countries that “have government policies or actions that clearly favor one religion over others, typically with legal, financial or other kinds of practical benefits”. This is the case with Russia, where the Orthodox Church is extremely close to political power, but also in Spain, Peru, Greece, Argentina, Italy, and Poland.

What the American study involuntarily highlights with its online interactive map is that secularization has gained significant ground in Western societies that were once Christian. 

St. Pius X was right when in the early days of his pontificate, he confided:

[I am] terrified beyond all else by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is - apostasy from God, than which in truth nothing is more allied with ruin, according to the word of the Prophet: ‘For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish’ (Ps. 1 xxii., 17). cognizant of Our weakness, We recoiled in terror from a task as urgent as it is arduous.

(Encyclical E Supremi Apostolus, October 4, 1903)