The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-first Century. By Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011. Pp. xiii, 257. £50 /$85; paperback £16.99 /$24.99.

After demonstrating the broad extent of religious persecution and the denial of religious freedoms around the world today, the authors argue that attempts to control religion by supporting a single one or by restricting religions believed to be dangerous lead to violent religious persecution. Their theoretical component seeks to explain how and why persecution tends to be the result of the denial of freedoms - an argument traced back to Voltaire, Adam Smith, and David Hume. Their empirical component compares reports of religious freedom and persecution around the world compiled by the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARD A) .

Their arguments, supported by ARDA and case studies, is that when a specific religion dominates and has access to governmental power, the temptation is to persecute rivals. When all have the same privileges, however, then none has the authority of the state. The forces against religious freedom and for persecution can be governmental or social forces that work either with the government or against it. The data indicate that 33 percent of countries dominated by one religion have high levels of persecution, versus only 20 percent of countries where no single religion dominates (p. 67).

The authors look at a variety of case studies: Japan (with high levels of religious freedom), Brazil (with freedoms but some tensions), Nigeria (with partitioned religion and state power), China (where religion is viewed as a threat), India (with a social monopoly), and Iran (with a social and political monopoly). …