Research conducted by the Pew Research Center found Islam is the most common official state religion among the nearly 43 countries that have a religious faith, with many Islamic nations making affiliation with the faith mandatory.
After analyzing data from 2015, Pew Research Center found 43 countries have an official state religion, 40 countries have a “preferred faith,” 10 countries are openly hostile to all faiths, and the remaining 106 have no official or preferred religion.
Of the 43 countries with an official state religion, 27 countries name some form of Islam as their state religion. 13 countries name Christianity as their official state religion, while two cite Buddhism and only one (Israel) cites Judaism.
Christianity is the most frequent “preferred religion” with nearly 28 countries expressing preference for some denomination of the faith. Another three countries prefer Islam, while four name Buddhism and the remainder cite multiple faiths.
It is noteworthy that the only nations that force religious membership on its citizens – Comoros, Maldives, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia – are countries that cite Islam as their official state religion.
Many Islamic countries, including Jordan, subsidizes certain mosque activities and manages Islamic institutions, while other religious organizations must register with the government to own land or perform religious rites.
Ten countries declare no state religion, and are openly hostile to all religious activities. Some, including China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam, are Communist nations that oppose organized religion as such activities threaten central governmental power.
While China nominally claims its citizens have “freedom of religious belief,” the Communist government only allows five government-sponsored “patriotic religious organizations” to hold religious services. In addition, practitioners of Falun Gong are brutally repressed by the Communist government, with many subjected to torture, execution and organ harvesting.
The remaining six nations, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, are all former Communist bloc nations that retain the Soviet Union’s hostility to organized religion, despite the population of each nation being overwhelmingly Muslim.
“Most governments around the globe, however, are generally neutral toward religion. More than 100 countries and territories included in the study have no official or preferred religion as of 2015,” the report said. “These include countries like the United States that may give benefits or privileges to religious groups, but generally do so without systematically favoring a specific group over others.”
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