Alex Jürgen Thumm clarifies its role:
Misconceptions abound about China, and that’s no less the case when it comes to the country’s Christian population. Many assume a Communist country that is officially atheist would allow no religion. (Mao Zedong once said “religion is poison.”) But religious freedom is guaranteed in the 1978 constitution — or at least what the government considers “normal religious activity,” occurring in government-sanctioned places of worship serving one of the five official faiths: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism. Religion is on the rise in China, with one-third of people claiming an affiliation. To all my Chinese friends’ surprise, there are as many as 130 million Christians in China; the only countries with more are the United States and Brazil. Churchgoers in China outnumber those in all of Europe.
In an interview, religion scholar Richard Madsen discusses the country’s growing Catholic population:
The Catholic Church has…
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