It is estimated that about 25-30% of the American population are Evangelical Protestants. With this religious group being such a significant portion of America, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life‘s release of their study on the views and opinions of Evangelical Protestants from around the world is quite interesting.
As a follower of the Sikh faith, one chart stood out for me:
There was a striking difference in how Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Atheists were viewed by Evangelicals among those who had a preference. While the Pew Forum doesn’t break out Sikhs or Sikhism in its own category, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Evangelical Protestants would view Sikhs as they do Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims – that is, as “unfavorable”.
Another interesting graphic from the study looks the way Evangelicals perceive how followers of other faiths view them:
It would appear that, based on this survey, Evangelical Protestants perceive that followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and (particularly) Islam have a predominantly neutral or unfriendly view of evangelicals.
One wonders if the lack of favorability and perceived friendliness is really as two-way as this study demonstrates.
Given the leanings of evangelicals towards non-Judeo-Christian religions, it’s not hard to fathom that the way evangelicals view followers of other faiths would be influenced by their leaders. It would be very interesting to narrow down the chart above to just American Evangelical leaders (a little over 400 of those surveyed in this study were from North America) and get a sense of how American Evangelicals view other faith groups in this country. There would probably be lessons for both Evangelicals and non-Evangelicals alike.
In a way the “friendliness of non-Judeo-Christian religions” towards evangelicals is a self fulfilling prophecy. If an evangelical starts off by telling you that you are following satan and deserve to burn in hell unless you convert (which many do) then its quite hard to be friendly in response.
Also I have come across evangelicals who believe that it is quite acceptable to denigrate and insult other religions, but who see a response that maybe Jesus was just teaching to his disciples and not the only way as an unfriendly attack on their beliefs! These people might see even friendly non-Christians as unfriendly just because they express a different belief.