Monday, October 12, 2009

A Quarter of the World

A new comprehensive study by the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life has found that a quarter of the World's population are Muslim. More than 60% are found in Asia and 20% of worldwide Muslims reside in the Middle East. There are a lot of interesting figures and interactive maps in this new report which can be found and downloaded here. Here are a few more interesting and random findings from the study.

[Prayer in Cairo, 1865,By Jean-Léon Gérôme]
  • 1% of Worldwide Muslims live in Russia (11% of Russia's population) figuring for roughly 16.5 million Russian Muslims
  • There are roughly 1000 Muslims living in Puerto Rico where my father was born.
  • .2% of Worldwide Muslims live in the U.S. (.8% of U.S. population) just under 2.5 million Muslims in America.
  • 2/3rds of Worldwide Muslims live in the following 10 country with the largest percentage of Muslims per country: Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco.
  • Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country at 13% of world wide Muslims around 203 million.
The report also broke down the number of Shias and Sunnis by country and region. The Pew Forum also stated that "These findings on the world Muslim population lay the foundation for a forthcoming study by the Pew Forum, scheduled to be released in 2010, that will estimate growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and project Muslim populations into the future. The Pew Forum plans to launch a similar study of global Christianity in 2010 as well." So what does this all mean? Well other than the fact that most of the world's Muslims are NOT Arabs they're also not living in the Middle East. I am highly interested in seeing the growth rates for both Islam and Christianity to see which areas have had a population boom in either religion. Although Christianity does put a heavy focus on missionary work and spreading the Gospel, what would would the major Christian leaders do if the 2010 report found Islam had a faster growth rate than Christianity? How would the rising Spiritual but Not Religious group in the U.S. (which I count myself a part of) react to next years findings? Now that we have this information what will the world do with it? Will Christian extremist push for eradicating this rising "evil"? Will Christians in general try harder to learn more about their Muslim neighbors? (Which I recently found out I have a few Muslim living in my neighborhood) Now that 1 out of every 4 people on the planet may be a follower of the prophet Muhammad, how do we reach out to them?

These numbers may mean little to most people out there but to those seeking to connect with a spiritual community this might mean a lot. A year ago I even considered converting to Islam myself. The first thing people ask me is "what kept you from converting?" as if I had learned some dark secret in my studies that kept me from joining. I tell them that I could not find any skeletons in Islam's closet that are any more horrifying than the skeletons in the closet of any other religion. The only thing that keeps me from joining a religion is exclusivity. Although I yearn to find a community to connect with, it would be devastating to my spirituality if I shunned all others. I may one day find myself (when I have free time and strike up the nerve) praying at a Hindu temple or Muslim Mosque but more as a way to connect with and learn more from my fellow man.

There is a LOT I love about Islam (which most of my knowledge of Islam comes from boring history books) but there is also a lot I love about Christianity. Judaism currently has my attention and I also admire the teachings in Buddhism and Hinduism (I tried meditating for a couple weeks straight during the summer and fell out of the habit). Some have said that I am creating a new religion by picking and choosing what I want from each, and that I'm doing this to cover my own rear end (fire insurance). The core idea that causes this line of thinking is the assumption that ONE AND ONLY ONE religion has it right. I do not believe that any one faith owns a monopoly on the divine and even if one did, it would be impossible to figure out the right combination of beliefs. Life in this world is not about right beliefs but about right actions (not to confuse that with works). I pull from multiple religions that help me on my spiritual journey towards acting justly and loving. All religions (that I'm aware of) teach that in the end it is all about love, including Islam. We need to reach out to the Muslim quarter of the world not because Jesus instructed us Christians to love our neighbors, but because they're human, and all humans yearn to be loved.


Don said...

Exclusivity seems to be the characteristic of the "Big Three" world religions. Another reason religion no longer attracts me at all. I see nothing wrong with our current path. I find that I can never be stagnant in my beliefs or journey. I figure I'll be on this spiritual journey of searching for the rest of my time here. Good post.

captron52 said...

May I suggest that you look into the Science of Mind Philosophy. It was founded by Ernest Holmes several years ago. It is called a religious science for lack of a better term. Its beliefs take ALL teachings and incorporates many facets of each one without being closed minded about any ohter religion. It is akin to the Unity teachings. Their main office is in Los Angeles but have churches and study groups all over the entire world. I have been a follower for over 30 years nw and still find the teachings as relevant as ever maybe even more so in todays world. Just a suggestion since you stated you would like to find a spiritual home so to speak. I think you will find it very interesting if you have never given it a try before. Good luck in your personal search for spiritual enlightenment

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