Current status; diversity of beliefs;
this web site's section on Christianity
It is not a simple task to write about Christianity. There are on the
order of 1,500 different Christian faith groups in North America which
promote many different and conflicting beliefs. Further, many groups believe
that they alone are the "true" Christian church
and that all of the others are in error. As a result, one cannot write anything
about Christianity that is acceptable to all faith groups.
Current status of Christianity:
About 33% of the world's population -- in excess of 2 billion people -- regard themselves as Christian. This percentage
has been relatively stable for decades. (The second most popular religion is Islam at about
20%. It is growing. If its present growth rate continues, it will to become the dominant religion of the world during
in a few decades.) About 75% of American adults and a similar number of Canadians identify themselves as Christian. This
number has recently been dropping almost one percentage point per year.
This is mainly due to:
||The rapid increase
in non-theists, such as Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, etc. They are
growing about one percentage point per year.
||An increase in the numbers of followers of minority religions, largely caused by immigration
from regions of the world which are predominantly Buddhist,
||The emergence of new spiritual/religious movements like
New Age, Wicca and other
Wicca, for example, is doubling in size about
every 30 months.
Christianity in North America is a severely divided faith, consisting of
over 1,500 denominations, which are often categorized into conservative,
mainline and liberal wings:
||Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians regard "saved"
the only true Christians. They maintain separate religious denominations,
radio stations, publishing houses, book stores, local ministerial associations, etc --
even exercise videos. They
tend to look upon Christianity as a living
relationship with their Savior. Many regard other religions as lacking
truth; they believe that truth is found
exclusively in Christianity.
||Mainline Christians tend to be much more inclusive. They accept as
Christian almost anyone who follows the teachings of and about Jesus
Christ. Most value the contribution of non-Christian religions.
||Liberal Christians agree with mainline Christians, and are even more
inclusive. Some liberal theologians, particularly those who are members of the Jesus
Seminar, have abandoned or completely reinterpreted most traditional Christian
beliefs. Some take a pluralistic approach to
other religions, accepting all of them as true, as interpreted within
their own culture.
An example of diversity of belief: life after death:
There is perhaps no other aspect to Christian belief that contains as much
diversity as the expectation of one's life after death. Many Christian's prime
focus is on the afterlife for themselves, family, and others. Life on Earth is
merely considered a type of anteroom to Heaven:
conservative Protestant Christians
believe that people are born and remain sinful. They will end up after death being eternally
tortured in Hell unless they were "saved"
during their life on earth. Salvation is a free gift of God. It is attained
by repenting of sin and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
||Roman Catholics also believe that salvation comes from God. But they
believe that it is channeled through church sacraments to sinful but
repentant persons. Most people, at death, enter Purgatory, which is a type
of temporary Hell and considered to be both a place and a state of existence. A
very few go directly to Heaven; others go permanently
to Hell for eternal punishment without any hope of relief. Their destination depends on the good and evil deeds
that they have performed during life, and their exact status with regard
to the sacraments at the time of their death.
||Liberal Christians generally interpret hell symbolically,
not as an actual place. They reject the concept of a loving God having creating
a Hell -- a place
of eternal torment for the vast majority of humans. On Earth, governments that
Imprison people for thought crimes, that torture prisoners, and/or give
prisoners very long sentences for minor crimes are all judged to be
profoundly immoral; many religious liberals feel that God would not sink to
the ethical level of such pariah nations and their dictators.
||Some progressive Christians do not believe in
an afterlife. They believe that the only part of us that survives our death
are the influences that we have had on others.
About this section of our web site:
The main Christian menu is linked to many hundreds
of essays covering a wide range of beliefs, practices and social policies. We
hope that the essays will help visitors to this web site to understand the great
diversity of beliefs and practices found Christian denominations different from
their own. It describes how they developed through time, and how they will
probably change in the future.
As a minimum, we try to compare and contrast the beliefs of the most conservative and liberal
Christians. We realize that many, if not most, Christians hold intermediate views.
We also describe the beliefs of the early Christian movements,
which are often quite different from those of modern conservative and
liberal Christians. Where beliefs of prominent Christian faith groups differ
from the conservative and liberal positions, we describe them as well. We often
describe the beliefs of the early Christian movements.
We receive many critical Emails about these essays. Some are quite angry and
hateful. Some accuse us of promoting our own liberal beliefs. Some say that we
are a stealth Islamic, Satanic, Scientology or Mormon group trying to undermine
Christianity. Others perceive us as lacking any deeply held
beliefs. Still others say that we are just plain wrong. In our opinion, none of these
assertions are true. We are
a multi-faith group (Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Wiccan, and Zen Buddhist). Each
holds firmly to their own religious and spiritual beliefs.
Our essays describe the wide diversity within Christianity. Yet many of our
readers are distressed at seeing their beliefs mentioned beside those of other
Christian groups. We have prepared a list of common
from our visitors,
along with our responses.
Copyright © 1995 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2008-MAR-02
Author: B.A. Robinson