Counting China's Christians: There Are as Many Christians in China, According to Rodney Stark, Byron Johnson, and Carson Mencken, as There Are Members of the Communist Party
Stark, Rodney, Johnson, Byron, Mencken, Carson, First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life
Through much of the twentieth century, it was widely believed among Western intellectuals that the Chinese were immune to religion--an immunity that long preceded the communist rise to power. When, in 1934, Edgar Snow quipped that "in China, opium is the religion of the people," many academic and media experts smiled in agreement and dismissed the million Chinese claimed as converts by Christian missionaries as nothing but "rice Christians"--cynical souls who had frequented the missions for the benefits they provided. Then, in 1949, Mao Zedong came to power. Religion was outlawed, and it was widely agreed among social scientists that China soon would be a model of the fully secularized, postreligious society.
But it wasn't to be. Instead, belief in a coming post-religious China turned out to be the opium of Western intellectuals. The Chinese Christians of 1949--those ridiculed in the West as rice Christians--were so "insincere" that they endured decades of bloody repression during which their numbers grew. And as official repression has weakened, Christianity has been growing at an astonishing rate in China.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of disagreement over just how astonishing the growth has been: Are there now 16 million or 200 million …
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Publication information: Article title: Counting China's Christians: There Are as Many Christians in China, According to Rodney Stark, Byron Johnson, and Carson Mencken, as There Are Members of the Communist Party. Contributors: Stark, Rodney - Author, Johnson, Byron - Author, Mencken, Carson - Author. Magazine title: First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life. Issue: 213 Publication date: May 2011. Page number: 14+. © 2009 Institute on Religion and Public Life. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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