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December 19th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Christianity goes global as world's largest religion

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world's biggest Christian communities in surprising places.

Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world's largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

China also appears on the list of top 10 largest Christian populations - with an estimated 67 million Christians, it has more followers of the faith than any western European country.

There are nearly 2.2 billion Christians around the world, making up about one-third of the world's population - the same percentage as a century ago, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Islam is the world's second largest religion, with about 1.6 billion followers worldwide, the Washington-based organization calculates. That's just under one-quarter of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the biggest explosion in its Christian population in the past century, going from about 9 million Christians in 1910 to about 516 million today - nearly a quarter of all the world's Christians. Three of the world's ten largest Christian populations are in Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

The study, "Global Christianity," is based on demographic and opinion data from 232 countries and territories. It's part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, which has also included reports on the current and projected number of Muslims in the world.

It does not measure practice or belief, merely counting as Christian anyone who says they are.

The report calculates that half the world's Christians are Catholic, 37% are Protestants, and 12% are Orthodox. The remaining 1 percent belong to other traditions such as Mormonism.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (2,648 Responses)
  1. Binky42

    What's the best way to turn someone from Christianity? Have them actually read the whole Bible, cover to cover, instead of just picking out the individual verses suggested by a pastor.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Darth Vader

      You are correct.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Binky42

      What really gets on my nerves are these Christian book stores that have hundreds and hundreds of "companion" books for the Bible that tell people how to read it and how to interpret different parts. If the Bible really is the word of God, do you think it was supposed to have supplements?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Ian

      Please, I've read every word, every single word, and yes I'm still a follower.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Binky42

      Ian – how do you deal with all the contradictions?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • chongno

      The same way you deal with all the contradictions in science, only in the bible there are far fewer of them. Context and seeking to understand.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Ian – Good question from Binky42. Are you a cherry picker, a compartmentalist, etc... Which one?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • George

      I have read the Bible cover-to-cover at least once. It is the most wonderful book that I have ever read. You can just feel the pearls of wisdom drop from the pages. It is quite clear that it is indeed the Holy Word of God.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "It is quite clear that it is indeed the Holy Word of God."

      And that god is REALLY obsessed with genealogy

      December 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Binky42

      What really boggles my mind is why so many Christians protest Gay marriage, but no one protests the weekly lunch special outside Red Lobster. And yet the same book in the Bible that forbids Gay relationships also prohibits eating shellfish. This is the kind of thing I just don't understand, and no one has been able to explain it to me.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • streetsmt

      George,
      You need to find a good book club.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • LowlyOne

      There are a lot of translation problems going from the original text to english and also cultural differences that lead to a lot of confusion in reading the bible causing many to see what they think are contradictions. That is why bible companions and educated pastors are needed.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      Your babble is a mediocre (at best) work of fiction, with a few decent parables to live by. big deal, the Brothers Grimm had better stories, better parables and frankly are a lot more interesting

      December 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • JF

      If the Africans read what the Bible says about slavery, they may not be so quick to convert.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Binky42

      Lowlyone – if the Bible needs translators, interpreters, and pastors for people to understand the message, what about Jesus saying that you need only him to understand the message of God?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • JF

      Lowly One,

      "educated" pastors...right....that's what the world needs, more educated pastors.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • LowlyOne

      Binky42, The bible states in the old testiment that those laws (including the shellfish and porks ones) were meant to be temporary to later be replace with laws written on the heart. The new testiment states that those laws have passed away. BTW: Port and shellfish can cause one to become sick even when cooked properly which is why they were originally outlawed.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Binky42

      Then why all the hate against gay marriage?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  2. Raymond

    That's a lot of stunted minds.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  3. Sybaris

    2.2 billion christians?

    That's A LOT of willful ignorance.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  4. palintwit

    Christmas is almost here everyone. Don't forget to get that someone special an autographed copy of Sarah Palin's famous "crosshairs" poster. On sale now, in Walmart gun and knife departments everywhere.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  5. Binky42

    Many of the articles in this blog recently have been about Tim Tebow's "miracles". Well, where's Tom Brady's article? He certainly earned it yesterday.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  6. JohnQuest

    Looked at from the flip side: If numbers really matter, 4.5Billion people think Christians are wrong in their beliefs.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  7. Binky42

    And yet 50% of Christians in the United States couldn't even name the four gospels, according to a 2010 Pew study. It's one thing to claim you are Christian, it's another thing to actually understand what you claim to believe in.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Dan Brown from NOLA

      Amen!

      December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  8. streetsmt

    A lot of people think religion, by way of education, will gredually disappear. And we do see this happening in the developed world. However, I worry about the sheer numbers of the uneducated being indoctrinated. Look what happens when an idea like genocide takes over an uneducated mob (Rowanda). It's possible that someday, we will be confronted with a mob of religious nuts that can't (or won't) listen to reason.
    That's why we can't stop combating bad ideas.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • chongno

      This belief of education removing spirituality has actually been proven untrue. In a recent study posted on this very site, it said that many were leaving religion during college years only to return in their late 30's and early 40's. Anyone who has worked any job knows exactly what happens in these years (20's and 30's)- people get a little knowledge and think they know everything. Then they learn more and realize they don't know anything, become humble, and once again are open to the feelings of truth they get from religion. Seems like you are still in the "I know everything" stage. Don't worry, you'll grow out of it. Probably embarrassingly so.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  9. EatYouAlive

    As an atheist and a small business owner, I would lose half my business if my "beliefs" were public.

    it is humiliating to have to hide my atheism when clients are beaking off about the love of god.

    Then again, I have vowed to tell the truth if asked, and I was asked once, told the truth, and lost a 14 year old client.

    Religion. *spit*

    December 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Steve

      A 14 year old client? Did you lose him to a Catholic Priest?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Sybaris

      A 14 year old client?

      What do you sell, bicycles?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      LOL. Awesome. A business customer that we supported for 14 years.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • cosmo

      I think what he meant was that he had a client for 14 years, not that the client was actually 14 years old. Just sayin'...

      December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • George

      Rightfully so. I would never knowingly do business with an ahteist.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      George...what kind of "business" are you into anyway? Most priests like to do their business in little alter boys, so I can see where you are going. Chances are they are not Athiest and after the event they are so messed up they'll believe in anything.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @George – that's because you are a willfully ignorant and bigoted, as demonstrated by about 99.9% of all your posts.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • cosmo

      George,

      Are you serious or just trolling? If you are serious, why would you let someone's religion, or lack there of effect who you do business with? Do you really think that if someone is an atheist it automatically makes someone a bad person, or if they are a Christian a good one? I truly can't fathom what difference it could make. As an observant Jew, I have to deal with people who are not of my religion every single day, and the majority of them are good decent people, who are just trying to make i through the day and live there lives the best they can. If you couldn't tell if someone was "good or bad" before you know there religion (or absence of), why do you think that just knowing that one small detail makes any difference?

      December 19, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • George

      @Mark from Canada

      I don't defend priests. I'm no longer Catholic. I am a proud ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "Rightfully so. I would never knowingly do business with an ahteist."

      The parable of the Good Samaritan went WAY over your head, didn't it.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • George

      @cosmo

      Yes, I truly believe that atheists are bad people. Without God all morality is relative which is no morality at all. Moreover, as Christians we have to combat atheism, and the best way to do that is with our dollars. There is a culture war going on, but we Christians have monetary clout and so do our Jewish brethern. We can easily win this culture war.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      sadly even i have a hard time doing business with an Atheist but an agnostic or a secularist I’m cool with. I’m just not sure I can go into business with someone who’s anti anything. Frankly my dear I would rather go into business with a grizzly bear,…or worse a Christian.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      @Louisa – who says we are anti everything? people like george? he's a zealous hate monger troll from all appearances. yeah I sure would go out of my way to do business with that fool.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  10. Melissa

    Uh huh. So the Christians want us to believe. I don't believe it for a flat second.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  11. christopher michael

    according to you, Felix. in reality, however, by accepted definition, science is the human practice of systematically building knowledge through organized, verifiable study of a BODY OF FACTS, while knowledge is gained by sight, experience and report of a BODY OF FACTS. since ALL religion is built on NONE of this, i'd say there's a pretty good chance that someday, Colin's theory "is going to work."

    science and knowledge decidedly aren't gifts from a fantastical God, Felix. they're things...tangible, provable, verifiable, indisputable things.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Joe T.

    I'm proud to say I no longer am a Christian.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  13. Colin

    There are some pretty fundamental objections to Christianity that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, an “angry atheist”, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections. If you have a disagreement with a point I make, post it. However, if you only object to the fact that I said it, please understand that I do not buy into the whole “it is immoral to be skeptical of the Christian religion” argument.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Christianity requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.o.mo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as lusting after their hot neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is honestly not believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including, genocide, murder, slavery, ra.pe and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Christianity does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Christian morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one passage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. When backed into a corner, Christianity admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that Bigfoot exists is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Christian based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any groping guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 360 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Faith is not belief in a god. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Watch it there Colin. Logic has no place in a discussion about religion pal! Keep your facts and your reasoning out of it! Got it? Now prepare to burn for all eternity.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Not

      You're an evil angry atheist and you're gonna burn in hell!

      December 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • tldrman

      tl;dr

      December 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • manfromthe24thcentury

      What's really interesting about the Jesus myth is that you have to believe in him to be saved – and if you happened to have been born prior to Jesus walking and talking, then you are doomed.
      There were billions of people living happy / sad / productive / useless lives before the virgin birth (yea, right, Joseph – nod, nod, wink, wink) that were doomed to hell simply because they were born in the wrong year.
      If Jesus did exist, he's a jerk.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • rkdres

      Reminds me of something cosmo Kramer once said
      "A story like that has to be real...."

      December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Kent

      Hey guess what, the Bible has already identified you: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" Proverbs 1:7

      December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Colin

      Kent, your admonition is part of your superst.ition. your comment is like an astrologer responding to a criticism of the nonsense of astrology by retorting, "well, isn't that just the sort of thing we'd expect from a Virgo."

      December 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Kent

      And how exactly will you explain your logic when you meet your maker Colin? You WILL get that opportunity, it's only a matter of time.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Kent, what's to say that the Bible is the true source of wisdom? What, because the Bible says it is? I'm going to write a book and say that I'm spouting the words of God. How could you argue with me? If i say it's from God, it must be. No reason to look into it or question it. Quick, send me money and God will bless you with an extra 5 minutes in heaven.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself

      "And how exactly will you explain your logic when you meet your maker Colin?"

      Here's how I would do it, if there is a god and I meet him/her/it someday:

      "You gave me a brain and I used it to the best of my abilities."

      Simple. Though I realize that the biblical god would prefer that we be dumb, so I imagine this won't go over well. But that's not really anything I get stressed about.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Colin

      Kent brings up one of my favorite Christian superst.itions. The whole "believe or burn" myth. This allows believers such as Kent to smugly tell non-believers they’ll get their “comeuppance”. Think it through, though. You don’t have to kill, you don’t have to steal, you don’t even have to litter. All you have to do is refuse to believe in the Christian god and he will inflict a punishment on you an infinite times worse than the death penalty….and he loves you.

      Its silly stuff and obviously made up to keep the gullible in line. Most got over it after the Dark Ages. Kent lags a little behind.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • George

      I agree with Not. Unless you repent, you will burn in hell. I wonder how much atheists get paid to work "bronze Age" into a post. It's a tired expression. Put it to rest.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • chongno

      You have based everything you are saying on "knowledge" of man, which is temporary at best and rarely lasts even a few years before being changed. You are essentially saying "how could the world be round, when I was taught that my friends uncle sailed off the end of it. There's proof!" Lets start at the beginning.
      1. 13 billion years ago is the "beginning of the world" a number that has changed literally every 5 years for the last 100 years and before then was just as much a guess as it is now. We haven't even found all the stars in our galaxy, let alone be able to nail down when it was created. This argument is you simply saying you know everything, so there couldn't possible be something you don't understand. That in and of itself is the flaw in the rest of your comments as well.
      2. Besides the aforementioned problem of thinking you know everything, I know what my son is thinking most of the time, just because I know him and love hime, yet I don't have "telepathic powers". Is it possible to know what someone is thinking and doing? Well at least on a very minimal scale, it seems the answer is yes just by knowing them well.
      3. Most Christian religions dont believe you are banished to hell just for not believing. Check out original protestantism or mormonism, or a number of religions that believe it has to do with your choices and what you would do if given the chance to accept the Savior, not whether you were born in the right place to have a christion church in your neighborhood.
      4. They are based on much more than the bible. Check out any ancient civilization and their records of a great spirit, or records of the Savior teaching other peoples. IF you need links I can IM them to you.
      5. Your definition of morality has no standard to it, it shifts with the winds. Morality is not individual, it is inherent within us. We know what is right and wrong, despite being told otherwise. We are born feeling sorrow when we hurt someone, or pain when someone lies, etc. It is because morality is universal. This is going to opena can of worms with all the atheists on here, but your response only proves the point and the reason you feel so compelled to defend your turning away from morality. You know inside what is wrong.

      By the time i finish debunking all your "prrof" your comment will be to far down for anyone to read it, so I'll stop her with: please face the facts that none of know everything, and therefore proving another is false is silly. Either from me or you.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • squiddy79

      That was the best comment I have ever read...ever! Very well said!

      December 19, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • Observer

      Colin,

      You left something out in statement 6. God also discriminates against the handicapped. He doesn't want them in his church and specifically mentions men with crushed testicles. That's important to God. He can kill millions of people, but that would gross him out.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • JohnW

      I get the points, but keep in mind that most Christians don't necessarily believe the Bible in the literal sense, but treat it as more of a spiritual guide. Anyway, I just wanted to point out two things.
      One, the Bible doesn't say anywhere that Jesus was born during the winter solstice. In fact, the fact that there were shepherds keeping watch during the night suggests spring, probably some time in May. The Catholic church changed Christmas to winter solstice time to get my Scandinavian ancestors to wholly convert.
      Second, a book being written in third person doesn't mean that person didn't write it.
      Otherwise, your logic is sound even if it isn't necessarily true.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Drew

      Colin, great post.

      chongno, I'm assuming that this probably won't be read since it's already down a few pages now, but I couldn't let this pass.

      Before reading, know that I was a Christian the majority of my life. After years of research, studying, and experience, I am now an Atheist. Morally, I'm a better person than I was in my Christian years. I look out for others more then myself most of the time. Part of this may be simply growing up, another part may be because I don't believe in life after death, so I live everyday to the fullest and treat people how I like to be treated. My family is Christian, and I respect them because they respect my beliefs/non-belief and don't spew hell fire down my throat. With that said, here is my response.

      1. I don't think Colin is claiming he knows everything. Nobody does, but pursuing education should be a virtue, not a condemnation. Updating what we know about the universe is not disproving altogether what we've discovered this far. Evolution for example, is widely accepted as fact among scientists because the proof points to it. What proof do you have for "biblical biology?"
      2. Knowing what one person is feeling/thinking is completely different than knowing what 7 billion people are thinking/feeling.
      3. Have you ever been to the south? While the idea of hell is decreasing, there are an incredible amount of people who still believe in it.
      4. Are you referring to Colin's statement on borrowed myths (5)? If so, your response ignored what was said and just tried to use distraction instead of fully responding to what was posted.
      5. Now this I agree with. Although your reasoning is implying that the holy spirit is what is responsible for our morality. My reasoning is simple. Whether you want to call it evolution or just common sense, we do certain things for a reason. We know killing and hurting people is wrong, because if someone killed/hurt someone close to you, you obviously would not feel very well. Humans work better when in a group, just like many of our mammal friends. We know that if we start killing off people, we are going to be separated from the population or put to death. Now I'm not saying that the only thing keeping people from killing each other is the fear of being killed ourselves, but what I'm saying is that that's how our primal and instinctual morality came into being.

      I don't know why you think you debunked any proof, because you did not in any way.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • christopher michael

      colin, this is the best commentary on this subject i've seen, ever. it simply doesn't get any more pointed than this. you're dealing with poster, Kent, only further illustrates your prowess in this subject area. i also speak to this subject quite frequently out there...i'll be sure to share your thoughts.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • soundnfury

      Colin:

      In the spirit of explanation and discussion, I respectfully offer my differing viewpoints. I don't doubt we will disagree, but I wanted to offer my thoughts about your premises:

      1. I believe that you are right on this point and that an all-powerful God would have many other duties rather than sit and wait. However, I know His perception of time and ours are vastly different, and that we cannot be so narrow as to focus on our existence as the primary reason for Him. As to the allusion of sheep and goats, I know you well know that they are simply parables, or stories to teach others using symbols familiar to their culture, without losing them on the depth of other things His Son may know. As any good teacher, His Son would tailor His message to his listeners.

      2. I fear that you assume a "Big Brother"-type deity that relentlessly monitors and swiftly punishes. However, we know that is not the case. In the end, what will matter is what kind of person we have become, as seen through our thoughts, words, and deeds. As a loving God, He will be able to see what we truly have been trying to become.

      3. Your assertion that God is a vindictive giver of justice is misleading. Please remember that the Bible has been passed down for thousands of years, and just like anything handed down from person to person, is likely to miss some points. I do believe that God sent His Son to suffer for our sins, and that justice demands that if we do not accept His merciful offering, we must suffer ourselves. However, I also believe that God will reward each person according to what they have become and with a perfect understanding of our weaknesses. I too, do not believe that a person will "burn" for not believing something they have not had the opportunity to learn, but that His plan is much more encompassing than that.

      4. Just as you said, the Bible is very old. However, just as we cannot validate something from so long ago, neither can we invalidate because a lack of evidence. This one Christians take on faith (which I know you will fundamentally disagree with, so let's move on).

      5. Since I do not have your research to validate/discuss this, I will not take issue with it. My only comment is that archetypes are unchanging, and original authors cannot be validated with so little knowledge of long ago. I do not doubt your intense research, though.

      6 and 7. The Lord works with people as they are, in the situation that they are in to make them be better. Some peoples in the Bible could only handle a very direct law, and so were given as much as they could follow. The Lord has a personal plan for a person or society's salvation, which further shows his Benevolence. As for "blindly following," He asks us to search the scriptures, ponder what we know (which includes research such as you have so ably done), and ask Him. What many struggle with is finding the faith to do something before knowing it outright, and with that I cannot help. I do look at the issues very carefully and come to my own conclusions, as I hope anyone does. I am not a "blind follower," and refuse to be categorized as such.

      8. Again, we go back to the troubled history of the Bible, including the Christian dispersal, apostasy, Reawakening, Enlightenment, Protestant movement, discovery of the Apocrypha and Dead Sea Scrolls, and modern historical critiques of an ancient book. Humans are not perfect, and so there will be errors. However, there will also be truth. Another thing that I believe is that a loving God would not require one

      9. I have mentioned faith multiple times, and without a common ground I can only offer my definition of faith: Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things, instead is evidence of things not seen which are true. That seems quite unpredictable to many agnostics/secular humanists/atheists, but a trait that many must develop.

      Should you like more in-depth answers about the Bible's translation, the belief that God is merciful (I know He doesn't just throw away all unbelievers) and has a personal plan for you, I invite you to visit http://www.mormon.org. Thanks for allowing me the chance to reconsider my beliefs. God lives!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Razier

      The only thing I have to correct you on is your statement that Jesus's story was based on Apollonius of Tyana. Other than a few healing stories I'm not aware of their stories having that much in common. Besides when just about every part of Jesus's story can be explained as a midrashic retelling of Moses and Elijah's stories why do you even need to bring Apollonius into it? Other than that, great post.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  14. Nick

    Here's hoping the 2.2 billion Christian's coupled with 1.6 billion Muslim's can help 1% radical Muslim's reliaze the mistake and futility of killing others.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • verbal

      Simply kill them and you won't have to waste time talking to deaf idiots or saying you're sorry afterwards. Death works very well.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • GodOfAbraham

      'Verbal' u sound like one of those 1%- whether it b 1%of christians like KKK or 1% of muslims like Al qaeda. really, u do.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • musa

      Yes thats what muslims think bro but the media thinks all 1.6-1.8 billion muslims are fanatics and want to end the world. Unity between muslims and christians is needed to take out the fundamental roots of terrorism.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Darth Vader

      When the Empire disposes of these rebel scu.m, then the circle will be complete.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  15. DP

    Seriously - 247 million Christians in the USA? 24.7 million is probably closer. Perhaps 222.3 million claim they are just for fun.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      Try being open about any faith either then Christian in America if you don’t have a gun I suggest you don’t do it I live 20 miles out of any city because, 1 I like the forest 2 because I got death threats every day. But now I’m slowly owning the town…mwahahahahahahah

      December 19, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  16. DeeNYC

    Spreading across the world like a plague.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  17. Eric G

    "It does not measure practice or belief, merely counting as Christian anyone who says they are."

    Uh, right. Facts, details and supporting evidence are irrelevant regarding belief. I guess it's more important to be a member than understanding what membership means.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  18. Pastor Evans

    Jesus is Lord and King!!! He reigns over all the earth and not in hatred but only in Love!!! Jesus you are the best!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Rev. Parson

      By actual count !

      December 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Unless you're gay, then burn in hell. You atheists too.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Eric G

      Evidence, Pastor Evans?

      You made a very specific claim of fact. The burden of proof lies with you. Please provide your evidence for verification.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • verbal

      Come on fred / george! Let's see your proof! Come on!

      December 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      Luke 14-26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

      God is only love. Dude take it from me, you know they Angel who went to war with god because god killed our loved ones then dined us to even think about them. The only love god wants is love of him. It’s always me me me me with that dude,…you would think Gods a cat

      December 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • rick

      If you express healthy skepticism, his daddy is going to torture you forever.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Mark from Canada

      If he reigns over the Earth and I live on the moon as a future Athiest, will I be okay? Is that covered in the bible? Bunch of nonsense this religious stuff. Do you actually believe that you can communicate telepathically with an omnipotent being that floats about in the aether? I wish I could live on another planet founded by rational minded Athiests. Then we would see our true potential, none of this fake make believe love, but a true fellowship for humanity.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Copper's Donut Shoppe

    When the christians have the power they will force conversion of kill. All the major christian brands in africa all have one Rule 1 ~ no convert – no food.
    You must convert to what they are peddling or you do not get to ear.
    They will line up n on-believers and kill them at a pace the muslims never thought of.
    let's eat some more body and drink the blood of a 2000 year dead guy.
    and you thought the chicken killers were wierd

    December 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Krystal

      Seriously? Where do you get this information from? Actually, this is what we do at church each Sunday. We plan how we are going to achieve world dominion and how we are going to prosecute resistance once we do. Hey, don't believe in God. That is your right. Just stop spouting off stupid information off the top of your head or from your bogus sources. It will interest you to know that the bible teaches that christianity will be on a decline during the last days. That means that other religions (including atheism) will rise in popularity. There are actually signs that this is beginning to occur.
      One last point. It makes me equally as angry when "christians" spout off false information about any other religions and their followers. We are all human beings and should treat each other respectfully.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  20. Jerry

    I believe that just about all Christians will end up in HELL because of all their hate filled beliefs. The world would b a better place without them.

    December 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • ????

      THAT'S STUPID.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Bob

      Sorry chicken killer, but you are weird

      December 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • SK

      Jerry, boring post. You suck. I read to see what good arguments are made, and you show what uneducated individuals are capable of arguing. Please do yourself a favor and turn off your computer.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • GodOfAbraham

      Jerry, as a Muslim, I can quote from Quran where God says that anyone who believes in one God and does good deeds (similar to those in 10 commendments) will b considered to heaven...where God goes on listing Christianity, Islam, Jewish, etc. The key is to believe in the God of Abraham...not some stones, or sky or sun, ...so ur statement about ALL going to hell is not justified in my book. Only God knows who will go where. let's not make judgments.

      December 19, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • pstome

      To Jerry.... The world would be better without Christians........ are u out of your mind!!!!!!!!!!!
      Do you want to go and live in Iraq, Syria and Iran?.....b/c i did for a f.. long time and let me telll u boy.....without the Chruch my family would not be alive today after escaping the f...war.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.