Faith is on the rise and 84% of the global population identifies with a religious group. What does it mean for the future?
How many believers are there around the world?
If you think religion belongs to the past and we live in a new age of reason, you need to check out the facts: 84% of the world’s population identifies with a religious group. Members of this demographic are generally younger and produce more children than those who have no religious affiliation, so the world is getting more religious, not less – although there are significant geographical variations.
According to 2015 figures, Christians form the biggest religious group by some margin, with 2.3 billion adherents or 31.2% of the total world population of 7.3 billion. Next come Muslims (1.8 billion, or 24.1%), Hindus (1.1 billion, or 15.1%) and Buddhists (500 million, or 6.9%).
The next category is people who practise folk or traditional religions; there are 400m of them, or 6% of the global total. Adherents of lesser-practised religions, including Sikhism, Baha’i and Jainism, add up to 58m, or well below 1%. There are 14m Jews in the world, about 0.2% of the global population, concentrated in the US and Israel.
Imagine for a moment that a big, admired multinational corporation, one selling a beloved product, was employing large numbers of male pedophiles and rapists, operating in rings all over the world, and that their crimes had been uncovered in Australia, Ireland, Canada, the Philippines, Belgium, France, Austria, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Britain, Germany and the United States, and, further, that senior executives had systematically covered up and suppressed evidence, transferring and enabling hundreds of predators, betraying thousands of victims.
In the early morning light, on the day after Ash Wednesday, the primary day in the Church calendar for Christian penance, Giordano Bruno, one of the most original minds of the sixteenth century, rode into Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori on a mule. Stripped naked and gagged with a leather bridle to prevent him from shouting out heresies to those present in the plaza, Bruno mounted the pile of firewood, charcoal, kindling, and pitch. Tied to the stake, Bruno turned his head away in anger when a crucifix was held up to his face. The pyre was lit and the flames leaped to consume the heretic.
A look back at the victims of the Salem Witch Trials and the mass hysteria that led to their deaths.
On September 22, 1692, eight people were hanged for their alleged crimes as witches. They were among 20 who were killed as a result of the hysteria that took place in the New England village of Salem where fear of demonic possession struck panic among the Puritans and led to more than 200 accusations against anyone suspected of witchcraft.
The Catholic Church may be in the business of saving souls, but amid the spiraling clergy sex abuse crisis, one pioneering legal mind thinks of the church as an organized crime organization.
That’s the view held by David Hickton, a former U.S. attorney in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
Two years ago, shortly after the state Office of Attorney General released a scathing report on widespread clergy sex abuse in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Hickton sought to prove that the church was criminally responsible for the egregious crimes committed by priests on minors.
Witchcraft is an area of history that most people feel familiar with. From the Salem Witch Trials to the witches of Macbeth, the figure of the witch is embedded in our culture. The problem is that most of what we think we know is wrong.
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Answered by Eugene Byrne
Published: August 16, 2012
St Thecla of Iconium (died early first century AD) was supposedly saved from burning by a miraculous downpour. Or there’s Lassi Didriksson, sentenced to burning for sorcery in Iceland in 1675, whose fire was put out by rain three times. The most famous rained-off burning wasn’t an execution, but a trial by fire in which the Italian preacher Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98) would demonstrate his divine protection as the rain fell.
Within the opening chapters of my book, Burning Blood, the witch Aurelia finds herself about to be burned at the stake.
‘Witch, you have been tried and convicted under the benevolent will of God. You are a consort of Satan and shall burn at the stake. Repent now and God may have mercy on your soul. Fail to repent and you shall writhe on that stake just as you shall writhe for eternity in the pits of Hell!’
The rough rope grazed her neck as it tightened, ready to take away her breath and leave nothing but an empty shell to cook in the flames. The cross danced in front of her face, with Christ’s tortured body hanging limply on it, the crown of thorns cutting painfully into his forehead.
‘Bring the flames and let that be the end of it,’ she intoned, her voice cutting through the rabble’s clamouring.