Against Satanic Panics > Worldwide religious trends

The growing number of Christians of kinds which inherently fear demons, Satanists, witches, occultists, Pagans, and atheists

Why a new worldwide Satanic panic is likely, given worldwide religious trends

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. Introduction and brief summary
  2. Christian religious trends in the U.S.A.
  3. Worldwide Christian trends and their impact on the West
  4. The growing influence of Africa on World Christianity
  5. Christianity in Africa
  6. Christianity in Latin America
  7. Christianity in East Asia
  8. Christian religious trends in Europe
  9. The exorcism trend
  10. How can people of other religions respond to the inevitable Christian fears?
  11. Discussion about religious trends

  1. Introduction and brief summary
  2. Current worldwide religious trends make it very likely that we'll see another Satanic panic soon. Most likely its main form will be something other than the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) scare, which was pretty solidly discredited by the mid-1990's. But we'll likely see a mini-revival of the SRA scare too. Already, long-discredited SRA scaremongers have recently been receiving air time again.

    Worldwide, the fundamentalist/evangelical/traditionalist wings of both Christianity and Islam have been growing like wildfire these past several decades. And the kinds of Christianity which have been growing the fastest are the kinds which see demons, demons everywhere.

    Even here in the United States, fundamentalist/evangelical forms of Christianity have been growing at the expense of more moderate and liberal forms. The fastest-growing have been the Pentecostal/charismatic churches.

    Even more so than in the United States, entecostal/charismatic churches are by far the fastest-growing form of Christianity in Africa and Asia too - and also in Latin America, where evangelical Protestantism, primarily the Pentecostal/charismatic variety thereof, has been growing like wildfire at the expense of Catholicism.

    These trends have affected the more mainstream churches too. Within the international Anglican Communion, there is quite a bit of acrimony between liberals and traditionalists, with liberals predominating in the U.K. and in North America, whereas traditionalists and charismatics predominate in Africa and Asia. (Anglican joke: How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Shhh!!! The verger is changing it now .... Don't mention change in front of the Nigerian archbishop!)

    The Roman Catholic Church is affected too. As in the Anglican church, liberals are common in North America and in Western Europe, whereas conservatives, traditionalists, and charismatics predominate almost everywhere else in the world -- especially in Africa and Asia, where the church is growing.

    As part of the growth of conservative, traditionalist, and charismatic forms of Christianity, there has been an explosion in the demand for Christian exorcism. And the growing preoccupation with demons leads inevitably to a renewed fear of occultism and non-Christian religions. It also leads to a general paranoia about demonic influence in secular culture, e.g. worries about the Harry Potter books.

    Note: The articles linked on this page are written from a variety of points of view. Many are written by Christians. A listing on this page does not imply endorsement of the author's views.

  3. Christian religious trends in the U.S.A.
  4. In the United States, the more liberal and middle-of-the-road "mainline" Protestant churches have lost members, whereas the more evangelical, "born-again" fundamentalist-leaning churches have grown to the point of replacing the "mainline" churches as American Protestantism's mainstream. Fastest-growing have been the Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

    At the same time, the number of non-Christians has also increased, especially the number of people with no religion. (See Fastest-growing religious group: `None' by Mark O'Keefe, Religion News Service, USA, Jan. 9, 2004.)

    The Catholic Church is not losing members despite the pedophilia scandals. It's losing some U.S.-born members, but these ex-members have been more than replaced by Catholic immigrants.

    Below are web pages which document, from various points of view, the growth of evangelical Christianity here in the U.S.A.

  5. Worldwide Christian trends and their impact on the West
  6. Religious trends in the United States are buttressed by the even more dramatic similar changes that are occurring worldwide.

    Christianity has been growing rapidly in Africa and in parts of Asia. More than half the world's Christians now live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Again, the fastest-growing forms of Christianity are the evangelical churches, especially the Pentecostal/charismatic churches.

    In Latin America, which for several centuries was solidly Catholic with an admixture of traditional African and native American religions, Protestant evangelical Christianity has been growing at the expense of Catholicism. (Catholic conversion to evangelical Protestantism is also happening in Latin American communities here in the United States.)

    Because more than half the world's Christians now live in the Third World, Christian religious trends in Third World countries do have an impact on what goes on here in the U.S.A. as well, both via immigration (including missionaries) and via international church politics.

    The recent religious trends in the United States should not be blamed on (or credited to, depending on your point of view) foreign influences. But the above-discussed U.S. religious trends are certainly reinforced by Third World trends, even though the Third World trends are not the primary cause of the similar U.S. trends. So, we should not make the mistake of completely ignoring what's going on in the Third World, as too many of us are in the habit of doing.

    1. The Next Christianity by Philip Jenkins, originally published in The Atlantic Volume 290, No. 3 (October, 2002), about the recent explosive growth of the more fanatical forms of Christianity in non-Western countries.
    2. A major flaw of Jenkins's article is that it underestimates the growth of fundamentalist/evangelical forms of Christianity here in the U.S.A.  -  largely homegrown, not just a result of immigration from Third World countries. Jenkins portrays Christianity in the U.S.A. as liberal, even though the liberal sector of Christianity has actually shrunk over the past several decades, while the more conservative sector has grown. Furthermore, here in the U.S.A., the political religious right wing is supported mainly by white people, as evidenced by its ties to Republican Party, which is dismissed as a white boys' club by most African Americans, whether American-born or immigrants. Jenkins's impressions of Christianity in the U.S.A. are apparently based on goings-on in the Catholic Church and in the so-called mainline denominations, which are the oldest Protestant denominations, but which have been shrinking. His portrayal of Western Christianity in general as liberal is more accurate for Western countries other than the U.S.A. Even in other Western countries, fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity has been growing, but not as dramatically as in the U.S.A.

      Still, Jenkins's article is an excellent eye-opener on the growth of extreme forms of Christianity in other parts of the world.

    3. Below are articles discussing the book The Next Christendom : The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University (paperback, on Amazon and Oxford Scholarship Online):
    4. An example of international church politics and its impact on Christianity in the U.S.A.:  The international Anglican Communion and the controversy about homosexuality in the Episcopal Church (U.S.A.) and the Anglican Church of Canada.
    5. Other pages documenting the explosive growth of Christianity in Africa and Asia:
    6. See also sections 5, 6, and 7 of this page.

  7. The growing influence of Africa on World Christianity
  8. Because Christianity has grown so rapidly in Africa, African Christians are becoming more and more influential on the world Christian scene.

    1. How Africa's Churches Are Changing Christianity - Interview with filmmaker James Ault, by Laura Sheahen, on Beliefnet. Among other things, Ault notes that "Africans are assuming leadership positions in the world church and in this country. The president of the World Council of Churches is a Kenyan. The president of the largest theological school in the U.S., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School outside Chicago, is from the Ivory Coast. One of the pastors we filmed in Zimbabwe came to Atlanta, Georgia to study at ITC. He now is chair of the evangelism committee of a huge African-American United Methodist church, a very charismatic church, showing them new ways of doing things." This article also notes that "deliverance ministries" (exorcism) and fear of witchcraft have been a major factor in the growth of many churches in Africa.
    2. Articles on Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is also prefect of the Catholic Church's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Before the current Pope was elected, there was considerable speculation that Arinze would be the first African pope.
    3. African missionaries to the West.  Africa used to be a place where American and European churches sent missionaries. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Now some African-born church denominations, known as AIC's (African Independent Churches, or African Instituted Churches, or African Initiated Churches) are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A.
    4. More about African immigrant churches in Europe and the U.S.A.:
    5. The Anglican church's international controversy about gays, already discussed on pages linked further up on this page. See especially the following articles in Christianity Today:

      Note, however, that Africa is not quite the uniform bastion of social conservativism that some articles on this topic portray. Social attitudes, including attitudes toward gays, do vary somewhat from one part of Africa to another, and are in a state of flux in some places. For example, South Africa's highest court has recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. News stories here:

    6. Nevertheless it does seem that Africans tend to be, on the whole, more socially conservative than many Westerners.

    7. Other African influence on world Christianity:

    One trend buttressed by African influence is the rising popularity of exorcism in both the United States and Europe. This trend should not be blamed solely or even primarily on African influences, but African influences are certainly reinforcing it.

  9. Christianity in Africa
  10. Given the rising influence of African Christianity, it would behoove us to learn a bit about African Christianity. Below are links to relevant sites I've found:

    1. African churches in general:
    2. AIC's (African Independent Churches, a.k.a. African Inititiated Churches, a.k.a. African Instituted Churches):
    3. Pentecostal churches:
    4. Witchhunts in Africa today:
    5. Note that witchhunts in Africa are not just Christian. Witchhunts are very much a part of many traditional African and other non-Christian cultures as well. And, when people from these cultures convert to Christianity, many of them are likely to become Christians with a witchhunt mentality - although, fortunately, it appears that there are also quite a few African Christians who oppose the witchhunts.

      Witchhunts tend to be especially common in places undergoing rapid and destabilizing social changes, as is the case in Africa today (and as was the case in Reformation-era Europe, where most of the witchhunts took place in countries along the border between Catholic and Protestant zones).

  11. Christianity in Latin America
  12. In Latin America, a major trend is Catholics converting to Protestant evangelical Christianity, primarily to Pentecostal/charismatic churches. Many of these churches heavily emphasize exorcism ("deliverance ministry") and "spiritual warfare." In some places, notably in parts of Mexico, there has been quite a bit of Catholic-vs.-Protestant mob violence.

    The specific countries mentioned below are only a sampling. Protestant evangelical Christianity is also growing in plenty of other Latin American countries besides the ones mentioned below.

    1. Latin America in general
    2. Christianity in Mexico
    3. Christianity in Argentina
    4. Christianity in Brazil
    5. Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a rapidly-growing, wealthy, very secretive international Pentecostal-style sect born in Brazil in 1977. Its church services include mass exorcisms, and in general the UCKG places a lot of emphasis on fighting against Satan and demons. Oddly enough, in some parts of Africa, it has been accused of practicing "Satanism and human sacrifice." For details, see my separate page on Accusations against the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG).

  13. Christianity in East Asia
  14. Although Christianity has been growing rapidly in parts of Asia, especially in China and South Korea, it's hard to find much information about this trend on the Internet. Nearly all of what little information I found was from evangelical Christian sources. The Western secular media have not been paying much attention, for the most part.

    I did manage to find a bunch of secular news stories about China's semi-underground "House Church" movement preserved on the moderate evangelical Christian site But I found hardly any information at all on secular websites, which is surprising, given the potential dramatic consequences in terms of world politics, especially in China.

    1. Christianity in East Asia in general
    2. Christianity in China
    3. Christianity in Korea
    4. Christianity in the Philippines
    5. Christianity in Singapore

  15. Christian religious trends in Europe
  16. This section unfinished. More information to be added later.

    1. Christian trends in the United Kingdom
    2. In the United Kingdom, it appears that Christians are becoming a minority. Most people are nonreligious. Christianity is shrinking, and various non-Christians are growing. On the other hand, among those who are Christian, the majority are evangelical, even within the Church of England. Also, a very high proportion of the U.K.'s Christians these days are African immigrants. And there have been allegations that some (though certainly not all or even most) African immigrant churches may be involved in criminal activity including human sacrifice.

    3. Information on other European countries will be added later.

  17. The exorcism trend
  18. The fastest-growing churches, worldwide, have been the Pentecostal/charismatic churches. And many evangelical churches (even some non-Pentecostal, non-charismatic evangelical churches) have "deliverance ministries" which perform exorcisms galore.

    Exorcism has become commonplace even in the United States. It is even more popular in those parts of the world where Christianity is growing the fastest. In Africa, the fastest-growing churches are the African Independent Churches, some of which make most of their converts by claiming to be better at protecting people from malicious witchcraft than the local African traditional religions are. The traditional gods are, of course, denounced as demons who must be exorcised. There is a similarly heavy demand for exorcism among new converts to Christianity in Asia.

    One reason is because exorcism is also popular in the traditional religions from which the people are converting. Exorcism is, in fact, commonplace in many religions around the world, as an aspect of traditional healing.

    Like other forms of Christianity, the Roman Catholic church, too, is growing fastest in Africa and Asia, where there is heavy demand for protection from demons and from sorcery. Exorcism is in heavy demand in Europe too, even though Europe's Christians tend not to be fanatical at all. No wonder the Vatican's university, the "Athenaeum Pontificium Regina Apostolorium," now teaches a twice-yearly course on exorcism.

    At least the Catholic Church is cautious about performing exorcisms. For a long time the Catholic Church has insisted that people seeking exorcism should first see a medical doctor and a psychiatrist to determine whether their problems can be treated by more mundane means. Recently, the Catholic Church has also begun training its priests to recognize symptoms of illnesses that are sometimes confused with demon possession.

    Protestant evangelical deliverance ministries tend not to be anywhere nearly as cautious. And there are plenty of Protestant evangelical deliverance ministries right here in the U.S.A. and even in Canada.

    The ever-growing number of Christian exorcists and exorcism-seekers, worldwide, will almost inevitably lead to a renewed fear of all kinds of occultism - and to a renewed fear of anything even vaguely related to occultism (e.g. popular children's literature such as the Harry Potter books) - because involvement in the occult is believed to be one of the main ways a person gets to be possessed by demons. Note: If you're an occultist or a Pagan, explaining that you're not a Satanist will not be sufficient to get you off the hook in these Christians' eyes. Their theology requires them to believe that you are dealing with demons even if you don't revere Satan.

    For documentation of the exorcism trend, see my page of links on Exorcism, "spiritual warfare," and anti-occultism.

  19. How can people of other religions respond to the inevitable Christian fears?
  20. As amply shown on this page, the fastest-growing forms of Christianity are its most demon-obsessed forms - which, based on their theology, inherently must regard as "demonic" all kinds of occultism and all religions involving gods other than the Abrahamic one. If you're a Pagan or occultist, telling these Christians you're not a Satanist will not relieve you of demonic stigma, even if they fully understand that you don't worship Satan. Nor will it suffice to trumpet the "harm none" part of the Wiccan Rede. Even if they believe you when you tell them you would use occult powers only for beneficial purposes, the source of those powers is still necessarily "demonic" in their eyes. At best you'll succeed in convincing them that you are more "deceived" than Satan-worshipers are about the "real" source of whatever spiritual powers you call upon. That is, assuming you've managed to convince them you're not a deceiver yourself.

    Of course, the ever-growing number of demon-obsessed Christians will almost inevitably spark a renewed paranoia about Satanism too, as well as paranoia about occultism and Paganism. In connection with the Catholic Church's new exorcism course, Vatican spokespeople are often quoted as being worried about a recent growth of Satanism in Italy. And, of course, they confuse Satanism in general with the antics of the "Beasts of Satan" and other violent criminal fringe groups and individuals, who are not representative of Satanists in general.

    Don't hold your breath waiting for the Catholic Church to modernize in any way. It won't, at least not within the lifetime of anyone living today. Not only does the Church now have a very conservative Pope, but, given the feelings of a great many Catholics worldwide, especially in those countries where the Church is growing, it clearly would not be in the Church's best interests to modernize any further than it has modernized already. On the contrary, the Church is far more likely to move in a traditionalist direction.

    However, since the Catholic Church does pride itself on scholarship, it might be possible to persuade the Catholic hierarchy to try to get its facts straight regarding Satanism. Likewise, if past history is any indication, it will probably be possible to convince at least some fundamentalist/evangelical Protestants to try to get their facts straight too. (The tall tales of Mike Warnke, the original professional Christian "ex-Satanist," were debunked by two fundamentalist Christian investigative reporters, Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott.)

    Similarly, although it will not be possible for Pagans and occultists to get rid of the "demonic" stigma that will inevitably surround them in the eyes of more and more Christians, it nevertheless probably will remain possible to counteract at least some of the sensationalism and panic, and it probably will remain possible for Pagans to set the record straight on what their beliefs are - even if those beliefs are perceived as spiritual deception. Although Pagans and occultists will always be seen as a threat, the magnitude of the threat can still be greatly lessened, in even the most fanatical Christians' eyes, by setting the material facts straight. There is a big practical difference, for example, between believing that one's neighbor poses only a spiritual threat and believing that one's neighbor is out to kidnap Christian babies and eat them.

    It is in the enlightened best interests of Pagans to counteract sensationalism about all minority religions, including Satanism. Otherwise, a panic about Satanists will inevitably make Christians more paranoid about occultists and Pagans too. Amongst conservative, traditionalist, and fundamentalist Christians, paranoia about Satanists leads inevitably to paranoia about demons, which in turn leads inevitably to paranoia about all people who are believed to deal with demons, knowingly or unknowingly - and this, in the eyes of more and more Christians worldwide, necessarily does include all occultists and Pagans, regardless of the contents of an occultist's or Pagan's belief system. Another way in which most forms of modern Paganism, occultism, and the New Age movement are necessarily tied to Satanism in even the more knowledgeable conservative Christians' eyes is the following, as stated in Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the "New Age", an official Vatican statement by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, 2003 (another copy here): "Mind-expanding techniques are meant to reveal to people their divine power .... This exaltation of humanity overturns the correct relationship between Creator and creature, and one of its extreme forms is Satanism."

    See also the following pages on this site:

  21. Discussion about religious trends
  22. The following online forums include discussion about religious trends:

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