Are Mormons really more persecuted than other faiths or do Mormons just perceive that because the criticism is aimed at us? Are there as many anti-[insert religion here] as there are anti-Mormons? I decided to take a very cursory, unscientific, yet interesting look at this question.
The methodology of my experiment was simple: I did a Google search of 22 different religions. I then did a search for “anti [religion]” for each of those faiths. Some of what I found may surprise you. Some will not.
A few quick caveats:
- There is a big difference in internet presence between religions.
- Google searches render a different number of hits on different days; these numbers are constantly in flux. My searches were done on March 28, 2008.
- I only searched in English.
- My selection of churches was not comprehensive.
- Some churches (like Mormon/LDS/Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have multiple names that can be searched. For Mormonism, I have two separate search results based on the nickname Mormonism and the formal name Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Site hits with just religious name returned both supportive and non-supportive sites; I did not differentiate.
- Site hits with “anti” will also include supportive sites discussing discrimination, not just sites that are opposed to the religion in question; again, I did not differentiate.
Internet presence. Based on sheer number of hits for the religion name, I grouped the religions into how much internet presence they have. For consistency sake, all numbers of hits are expressed in millions.
- High presence: Islam (123.0 million), Christianity (51.9), Baptist (39.9)
- Moderately high presence: Buddhism (18.0), Judaism (15.5), Evangelical (13.2), Mormonism (12.2)
- Medium presence: Scientology (10.8), Anglican (9.3), Amish (8.6), Hinduism (8.5), Catholicism (7.9), Atheism (7.6), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (5.8)
- Low presence: Jehovah’s Witness (2.8), Mennonite (2.8), Seventh-day Adventist (2.7),
- Very low presence: Episcopalian (1.0), Universal Unitarian (0.8), Methodism (0.7), Lutheranism (0.5), Presbyterianism (0.4)
First Blush, I noticed that only the following religions had an “anti” site (a site opposing the religion) on their first page of hits:
- Scientology & Atheism – 5th site listed was anti
- Mormon & Seventh-day Adventist – 6th site listed was anti
- Jehovah’s Witness – 7th site listed was anti
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – 8th site listed was anti
Interestingly, these religions (with the possible exception of atheism) are all newer religious movements (I chose not to use the pejorative NRM which is often used synonymously with “cult”), and all but atheism and Scientology are Restorationist Christian movements from the Second Great Awakening (1800-1830). I also noticed that on the Evangelical search (no first page anti sites returned), the 7th site specifically warned “unsaved not welcome.”
“Anti” Site Hits. I next googled the “anti” of each of these religions and found:
- High anti yield. Presbyterianism (1.83), Islam (1.74), Episcopalian, Methodism (0.8), Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness (0.7)
- Medium anti yield. Atheism, Evangelical, Lutheranism, Buddhism (0.6), Mennonite, Anglican (0.5)
- Low anti yield. Judaism (0.4, although 5.18 for anti-Semitism), Hinduism, Catholicism, Amish, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Scientology (0.4), Mormonism (0.3, although 2.19 for just “anti-Mormon“), Universal Unitarian (0.3), Seventh-day Adventist (0.2)
Anti Ratio. Then I determined the ratio between anti hits and regular hits to estimate which churches may be getting the most proportionately negative internet press. (Again, this is a flawed assumption and not very scientific, but the results were interesting nonetheless).
- Excessive anti ratio. Some of these religions actually had more “anti” hits than regular hits: Presbyterianism (4.82 ratio), Lutheranism (2.92 ratio), Methodism (1.08 ratio), Episcopalian (0.84 ratio). Many of the “anti” hits were historical in nature, explaining protestant schisms and the “heresies” of these religious movements.
- High anti ratio. Universal Unitarian (0.36 ratio), Jehovah’s Witness (0.25 ratio), Mennonite (0.20 ratio)
- Moderate anti ratio. Atheism (0.08 ratio), Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (0.07 ratio), Anglican (0.06 ratio), Hinduism, Catholicism, Evangelical, Amish (0.05 ratio)
- Low anti ratio. Scientology, Buddhism, Judaism, Mormonism (0.03 ratio), Baptist (0.02 ratio), Islam, Christianity (0.01 ratio)
To address the problem of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints having multiple names, I ran an additional search using each of the following names: Mormon, Mormonism, LDS, and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The composite anti ratio was still in the same range at 0.06. However, both “Mormonism” (0.20 ratio) and “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (0.33 ratio) had a higher anti ratio on par with the Universal Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness and Mennonite group above. The “Mormonism” search, however, had a significantly lower “regular” hit return which created the higher ratio (2.2 million hits vs. 12.2 for “Mormon”). The same was true for “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (1.5 million hits vs. 12.8 for LDS; however, several “LDS” hits were unrelated to the church).
This exercise does not address the quality of the sites (or level of antagonism of “anti” sites) returned by a Google search, only the quantity. A few possible conclusions:
- All religions (including atheism) are openly opposed by someone on the internet.
- The lower the internet presence, the higher the negative ratio.
- Established protestant religions receive proportionately more “anti” hits due to how they were formed and tend to have lower internet presence.
- Newer religious movements (Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh-day Adventist) have more active, open and targeted opposition on the internet.
So, are Mormons more persecuted than other faiths? I, for one, found some comfort that in this regard we’re not as special as we like to think we are. Discuss.