Amidst all this, the Pew Research Center has released its 2012 religious freedom reports cataloguing government restrictions and social attitudes toward religion across the world. It reveals that religious toleration has deteriorated across the globe from 2006 through 2010, with 75 percent of the world’s population living in countries where religious freedom was either highly restricted or very highly restricted.
But the West should not feel superior. According to Pew, the region of the world where the highest increase of religious intolerance exists is in Europe. The 2012 report also discredits the United States, grading it from “low” in 2009 and 2011 to “moderate” in 2012. In terms of social hostility to religion, the U.S. now rates below China, Syria, Laos, the Congo and Uzbekistan.
It’s hard to envision the United States faring worse than Syria for its social hostility to religion, but for a country that cherishes its freedoms, now is a good time to reassess where we truly stand. Freedom of expression is clearly endangered worldwide, and it’s not particularly healthy at home, either. If it’s up to free societies like ours to protect free speech and freedom of conscience, we need to consider our own inconsistencies.