Between mid-2006 and mid-2009, restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12%). They decreased in 12 countries (6%) and remained essentially unchanged in 163 countries (82%), according to a 2011 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

But because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, the increases affected a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people — nearly a third (32%) of the world’s total population of 6.9 billion — live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period. Only about 1% of the world’s population live in countries which experienced declines.

Looking at the world’s 25 most populous countries, restrictions on religion substantially increased in eight countries and did not substantially decrease in any. In China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, the increases were due primarily to rising levels of social hostilities involving religion. In Egypt and France, the increases were mainly the result of government restrictions. The rest of the 25 most populous countries, including the United States, did not experience substantial changes in either social hostilities or government-imposed restrictions. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.