This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Religious Intolerance Marks and Mars the Holidays

Religion is a characteristic that influences how people behave socially, economically, and demographically. Technically, it is an "achieved" characteristic, because we can theoretically change our religion any time we want, but in the real world it is largely an ascribed characteristic--being given to us at birth by our parents. It is closely related to ethnicity and because people often dress or behave differently based on their religion, it is something that can be used against us--an inspiration for xenophobia. Thus, it was sad, but not surprising, that the Christian-based holiday season was marred by a mosque being burned in Sweden, and by Christian churches being demolished in China. The Swedish case seems like pure xenophobia (Muslims encroaching on a predominantly society), whereas the Chinese case seems more complicated than simply Christians encroaching on a predominantly non-Christian society):
Many Christians say their faith has been singled out because authorities, wary of its rapid growth, are seeking to curb its spread in a campaign that has targeted China’s most thriving Christian communities.
Estimates for the number of Christians in China range from the conservative official figure of 23 million to as many as 100 million by independent scholars, raising the possibility that Christians may rival in size the 85 million members of the ruling Communist Party.
Of course, it could be argued that both acts are similar--it is just that in Sweden the attacks are attributable to extremists who think the government is too lax regarding immigrants of a different religious group, whereas in China the attacks come straight from the government. On the other hand, if one were to try to promote any religion other than Islam in a country like Saudi Arabia, they would likely end up immediately in jail.

Is there any chance that such intolerance will abate in the future? An interesting article at BBC News suggests not. Sociologists see religion as a form of social control practiced in some way or another by every society (even atheism is a religion of a sort--the belief that there is no God is still a religious-type belief). Psychologists see religion as filling in the gaps of our understanding of the world around us, and there is no likelihood that we will ever know everything, so religion is likely to be with us forever (whatever that means!).


  1. I think it was Karl Mrx who said that "religion is the opiate of the masses". Or perhaps Lenin? Well, I doubt that is entirely accurate. I would say that TELEVISION has become the opiate of the masses. And close behind it - probably FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and YOUTUBE!!! Hahahahahahahaha!

    Religion is one form of our human struggle to find the "TRUTH", or the "MEANING OF OUR EXISTENCE". Our great dilemma, is that we have no universal foundation on which to anchor all of these belief systems. There is no Rosetta Stone that is guaranteed to offer a unifying glimpse of God, The Creation, or The Essence of the universe. Sadly, we battle for our malformed impressions of these powerful ideas. Maybe we are more like apes fighting in the fog ... as opposed to illuminated disciples of a Higher Existence!

    Pete, Redondo Beach, CA

    1. Indeed it was Karl Marx who said that, but people like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Castro generated the sentiment that communism should be the opiate of the masses.