Religions and empires
The Manila Times, March 17, 2013
It is when a new Pope needs to be elected that most people, through television, get to witness the majesty and glory of Catholicism’s capital, the Vatican in Rome
Never mind that it was mainly financed by Pope Leo X’s so-called indulgences, basically pay-to-get-to-heaven schemes that triggered the Lutheran revolt that led to Protestantism. The Basilica of St. Peter must be the most magnificent building on earth, and as you walk beneath Michelangelo’s dome, the largest in the world that it signifies the heavenly firmament, you can very easily imagine – with the colossal statues of the evangelists, saints, and Popes looking down on you – that you’re no longer on earth but in the Palace of the Gods.
Thanks to the spread of television and in the Philippines, to the networks’ cerrado Catolico devotion, millions of the Catholic faithful watched the Vatican’s spectacle for choosing the new Vicar of Christ. What they saw seemed unearthly scenes, and for many, a confirmation that the Roman Catholic Church indeed represents the Deity that rules all of the Cosmos.
A proselytizer would follow up an assertion of faith: 1.2 billion Catholics can’t be wrong in their belief.
The quick answer to that: There are 1.6 billion Muslims, 800 million Protestants, one billion Hindus, 800 million Protestants and other types of Christians, and 500 million Buddhists. Scratch the surface of ancestor worship, and China (population 1.3 billion) and Japan (127 million) are atheist countries. Although difficult to estimate, atheists either of the strong or weak varieties are believed to number 1.1 billion, and by all accounts growing.
The long answer, which explains why Christianity and Islam are the two biggest religions of the world, and in one word: Empire. (more…)