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A Brief History of Ancient Greece

Few cultures have left as strong a mark on civilization as the Ancient Greeks. From art and architecture to science, philosophy, and politics, the historical significance of the Ancient Greeks is hard to measure. But where, exactly, did the Ancient Greeks come from?

Minoans and Mycenaeans

Various peoples going back to the Stone Age inhabited the geographical area known today as “Greece”. In the first half of the second millennium BCE, a civilization known as the Mycenaean developed in this area. (Mycenae was the name of the most important city during this time period. Its archaeological remains were discovered in the 1800s.)

Minoan Fresco of Three Women
Minoan Fresco of Three Women

The Mycenaeans were highly influenced by the Minoan culture that dominated the large Mediterranean island of Crete. (The archaeological remains of the Minoans were discovered in the early 1900s, and named after Minos, of Greek mythology fame.) The Minoans were an advanced society, with large palaces, beautiful art and pottery, and vast trade networks across the Mediterranean. They exchanged both goods and ideas with the nearby Egyptians, as well as the civilizations of the Near East. They also traded with the Mycenaeans, who adopted much from their culture.

In the middle of the second millennium BCE, the Minoan civilization collapsed (likely due to a severe earthquake and/or volcanic eruption). The Mycenaens stepped up to fill the void, becoming the dominant force in the Mediterranean.

Wars and Collapse

Middle East and Mediterranean c. 1400 BCE
Middle East and Mediterranean c. 1400 BCE (Credit: Alexikoua)

The Mycenaeans did more than just trade in the Mediterranean. They also started to establish colonies along these coasts, particularly along the Aegean Sea. This put them in conflict with the Hittites that inhabited modern-day Turkey. Multiple wars were waged between various Hittite and Mycenaean kings. It is believed that these wars are the basis for the famous Trojan War of Greek myth.

By the end of the second millennium BCE, the Mycenaean civilization had collapsed. Historians are still unclear as to why this occurred. Some say it was because of invasions by the mysterious “Sea People”, who wreaked havoc in the Mediterranean around this time. Others say it was because of natural catastrophes like earthquakes and droughts. Most agree that internal conflicts played a large role. Finally, it is believed that the Mycenaeans were conquered and replaced by a new ethnic group called the Dorians, which hailed form the northwestern regions of Greece.

Whatever the case, at this point Ancient Greece plunged into a time known as the “Greek Dark Ages”.

Greek Dark Ages and the Archaic Period

For about three hundred years (c. 1100-800 BCE), Greece experienced a severe downturn in culture, art, and trade. Cities were falling apart and apparently being abandoned. There was widespread famine, and very little settlement-building. In fact, much of the Mediterranean region experienced a decline during this period. The large Hittite and Egyptian kingdoms were fracturing as well.

Greece during the Archaic Period (Wikimedia Commons)
Greece during the Archaic Period (Credit: Regaliorium)

This period slowly came to an end around the 9th century BCE. City-states such as Athens were rising across Greece, ushering in a new era known as the “Archaic” period.  As cities grew bigger and bigger, they also became overpopulated and politically tense, leading many to seek better lives elsewhere. This led to the formation of new colonies across the Mediterranean, as far as the coasts of Italy, France, and Spain.

Meanwhile, powerful men took control of these city-states (or poleis), amassing large armies and great amounts of wealth. These leaders were known as tyrants (though not necessarily in the modern, evil sense of the word!) and people were soon fed up with them. By the end of the 6th century BCE, the last tyrants were being overthrown, and new forms of government was taking root, democracy most famous among them.

The Classical Period and Hellenism

The next two hundred years saw what many consider the “Golden Age” of Greece. It brought a prosperous time period full of art, philosophy, science, and literature. However, it also came with many conflicts and wars, both among various Greek city-states (in what are known as the Peloponnesian Wars), and the rival Persian Empire.

Empire of Alexander the Great
Empire of Alexander the Great (Wikimedia Commons)

By the end of this period, the northern state of Macedon became the most powerful, particularly during the successful reign of Philip II. His son, Alexander (the Great), went on to conquer the rest of Greece, as well as Egypt, the Middle East, and far beyond, all the way to India. However, Alexander himself died very young, and his massive empire collapsed just as quickly.

Despite this, Alexander brought Greek culture and ideas (known as Hellenism) all across the ancient world. This made Greek language and thought dominant throughout the Mediterranean and Near East for the next several hundred years, even after the Roman Empire absorbed all of the Greek territories, putting Ancient Greece to an end.

 

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How the World’s Continents Got Their Names

In our daily discussions and conversations we often mention the names of many countries and continents, yet seldom do we think about where these terms came from. In truth, each of these names carries with it a rich, ancient – and sometimes surprising – history.

Africa

Africa
Source: CIA World Factbook

It is fitting to begin with Africa, which comes first both alphabetically and historically. As with most ancient names, there are multiple hypotheses for the origins of “Africa”. The vast majority of the possibilities come from either a Biblical origin, or a Latin one. Nearly two millennia ago, the historian Josephus suggested that Africa comes from the Biblical figure named Epher, the grandson of Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 25:4. Josephus wrote that Epher’s family and descendants settled in Africa, hence the name.

More recently, scholars have proposed that it comes from the Hebrew (and/or Phoenician) afar, which means “dust”, referring to the deserts and sands of Northern Africa, while others say it stems from Ophir, mentioned in the Bible (I Kings 9 and 10) as the land beyond the Red Sea from which King Solomon brought gold, ivory, and exotic animals. Interestingly, in 1946 a pottery shard was discovered near Tel-Aviv with an inscription mentioning the “gold of Ophir”. The shard was dated back to what would have roughly been the time of King Solomon. The Portuguese scholar Thomé Lopes, who travelled alongside the great explorer Vasco da Gama, connected Ophir with Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, several Latin origins have been proposed as well. The Romans referred to an indigenous Libyan tribe as Afri, with the suffix “-ca” often used in Latin to refer to a certain landmass. Alternatively, aprica means “sunny” in Latin, while africus is a “southern wind”. It may also come from the Greek aphrike, “without cold”.

America

Although most people believe that Columbus was the first European to reach America, the reality is quite different. Nearly five centuries earlier, the Viking explorer Leif Erikson landed in modern-day Newfoundland (in Canada), and established a colony called “Vinland”. Archaeologists have discovered this settlement, and it is now a Canadian National Historic Site.

Waldseemuller's 1507 Map
Waldseemuller’s 1507 Map

Meanwhile, the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci explored the coasts of South America and is credited with determining that America is a separate continent, and not part of Asia (whereas Columbus insisted to the last days of his life that the new lands must be part of Asia). In 1507 (after Columbus’ death) the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller made a series of maps that, for the first time, named the new continent “America”, after the Latinized name of the explorer, Americus Vespucius.

Interestingly, Amerigo is the Italian form of the name Emeric, which itself comes from the German Heinrich (or Henry, in English). Heinrich literally means “rich house” – a fitting title for the wealthy and resource-rich lands of America.

Credit: allthesky.com
Credit: allthesky.com

Antarctica

This cold continent gets its name from the Greek anti and arktikos, literally meaning “opposite of the Arctic”. Arktikos comes from arktos, meaning “bear”. Some suggest that this is because the Arctic region has polar bears, while Antarctica is devoid of polar bears. Others say that Arktos is the Greek name for the “Great Bear” constellation, Ursa Major, which is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

The term “Antarctica” appears as far back as the writings of Aristotle, and is also seen in Roman maps, referring to southern regions (and not present-day Antarctica, which was only discovered in the 1770s). In fact, the French once had a small colony in Brazil called Antarctique.

Asia

There is no clear consensus on the origin of “Asia”. The term was used as far back as the 5th century BCE by Greek historians, usually to refer to the lands of Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and the Persian Empire. Some suggest this Greek term stems from the older Phoenician word asa, which means “east”, and/or the Akkadian asu, “to ascend”, referring to the direction of the rising sun. There are several other proposed etymologies, including the Hittite term Assuwa, referring to the Western coast of Anatolia.

Interestingly, the Greek historian Herodotus writes that many Greeks believed Asia is named after Hesione, referring to either the Trojan princess of that name, or the wife of Prometheus (the Titan who stole fire from Mt. Olympus and brought it to mankind). Amazingly, scholars believe the Prometheus legend comes from a more ancient Vedic (Indian) myth; the term pra math in Vedic Sanskrit means “to steal”, while pramantha was the tool to spark a fire.

Australia/Oceania

Australia gets its name from the Latin australis, meaning “south”. The first place to be called Australia was actually an island of Vanuatu, first discovered by the Spanish. In the early 1800’s, it became more common among the British settlers of what is today Australia. In 1817, one of the land’s governors, Lachlan Macquarie, suggested the name to the British government, who formally adopted it in 1824. The entire continent was known as Australia, and in 1901, the six colonies on the mainland formed a new country, the Commonwealth of Australia.

Source: CIA World Factbook
Source: CIA World Factbook

To avoid confusion between the country and the entire continent, which also includes New Zealand and many other islands in the Pacific, other names have been proposed and used for the continent. Some of these are Sahul (probably a Malay term, first appearing in 17th-century Dutch maps), Australasia, and Meganesia. The most all-inclusive term, however, is Oceania, coined by the Danish-French geographer Conrad Malte-Brun in 1812. This is quite appropriate, since most of the nations of this continent are scattered across the Pacific Ocean among thousands of islands. Australia itself is the world’s largest island, and has an additional 8,222 smaller islands within its borders!

Europe

The etymology of Europe is still up for debate. Some suggest that it is derived from the Semitic root erev, meaning “evening” or “west” (ie. the direction in which the sun sets in the evening). This would be a fitting companion to Asia’s etymology of “rising” and “east”.

More famous is the origin myth of Europa and Zeus. In this ancient story, Zeus seduces the Phoenician princess Europa (whose name may also come from erev, since Phoenicia was the western coast of the Semitic lands). He does this by turning into a white bull, which Europa mounts, and then swimming away to the island of Crete. There, Zeus and Europa live together and have three sons. One of these sons is the legendary Minos (of minotaur fame), the first king of Crete. According to historians, the Greeks are descendants of people who originally came from Crete and settled along the Greek coasts. The Greeks would later call the lands upon which they live “Europe” (including the modern-day Balkan states and western Turkey).

In the Medieval period, it was likely that the continent was more commonly referred to as “Christendom”. However, as Greco-Roman knowledge and art made a big come back during the Renaissance, and as Christianity played less and less of a role following the Enlightenment, “Europe” became the standard term for the entire continent.

Of course, these continents are all based on cultural, historical, and political boundaries. Geographically-speaking, there are actually a dozen or so major continental plates, with Europe and Asia as one Eurasian plate and, among others, separate Arabian, Indian, and Philippine continents.

Source: Learner.org
Source: Learner.org
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LSD and the Quantum Brain: Where Science and Spirituality Come Together

Today, the debate between the secular and the religious, as well as the scientific and the spiritual, is alive and well. It is common to hear one side attempt to discredit the other. However, as with most cases, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Many wonder if there is enough scientific research to support various religious or spiritual concepts. It appears that as science continues to progress, more and more evidence is revealed suggesting that, indeed, there is far more beyond the physical world that we know. One “quantum brain” theory (supported by famous physicist Sir Roger Penrose) gives a scientifically plausible explanation for some kind of life after death. The video below (narrated by Morgan Freeman) explains:

One book that offers a plethora of solid scientific evidence supporting spiritual phenomena is Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe. In chapter 3, after discussing Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’, research showing how one person’s thoughts and impact another’s dreams, and the possibility of parallel universes, Talbot goes into detailing various experiments with the psychedelic drug LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide. The following is an eye-opening excerpt from the book:

Hitching a Ride on the Infinite Subway

The idea that we are able to access images from the collective unconscious, or even visit parallel dream universes, pales beside the conclusions of another prominent researcher who has been influenced by the holographic model. He is Stanislav Grof, chief of psychiatric research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. After more than thirty years of studying nonordinary states of consciousness, Grof has concluded that the avenues of exploration available to our psyches via holographic interconnectedness are more than vast. They are virtually endless.

Grof first became interested in nonordinary states of consciousness in the 1950s while investigating the clinical uses of the hallucinogen LSD at the Psychiatric Research Institute in his native Prague, Czechoslovakia. The purpose of his research was to determine whether LSD had any therapeutic applications. When Grof began his research, most scientists viewed the LSD experience as little more than a stress reaction, the brain’s way of responding to a noxious chemical. But when Grof studied the records of his patient’s experiences he did not find evidence of any recurring stress reaction. Instead, there was a definite continuity running through each of the patient’s sessions. “Rather than being unrelated and random, the experiential content seemed to represent a successive unfolding of deeper and deeper levels of the unconscious,” says Grof. This suggested that repeated LSD sessions had important ramifications for the practice and theory of psychotherapy, and provided Grof and his colleagues with the impetus they needed to continue the research. The results were striking. It quickly became clear that serial LSD sessions were able to expedite the psychotherapeutic process and shorten the time necessary for the treatment of many disorders. Traumatic memories that had haunted individuals for years were unearthed and dealt with, and sometimes even serious conditions, such as schizophrenia, were cured. But what was even more startling was that many of the patients rapidly moved beyond issues involving their illnesses and into areas that were uncharted by Western psychology.

One common experience was the reliving of what it was like to be in the womb. At first Grof thought these were just imagined experiences, but as the evidence continued to amass he realized that the knowledge of embryology inherent in the descriptions was often far superior to the patients’ previous education in the area. Patients accurately described certain characteristics of the heart sounds of their mother, the nature of acoustic phenomena in the peritoneal cavity, specific details concerning blood circulation in the placenta, and even details about the various cellular and biochemical processes taking place. They also described important thoughts and feelings their mother had had during pregnancy and events such as physical traumas she had experienced.

Whenever possible Grof investigated these assertions, and on several occasions was able to verify them by questioning the mother and other individuals involved. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and biologists who experienced prebirth memories during their training for the program (all the therapists who participated in the study also had to undergo several sessions of LSD psychotherapy) expressed similar astonishment at the apparent authenticity of the experiences.

Most disconcerting of all were those experiences in which the patient’s consciousness appeared to expand beyond the usual boundaries of the ego and explore what it was like to be other living things and even other objects. For example, Grof had one female patient who suddenly became convinced she had assumed the identity of a female prehistoric reptile. She not only gave a richly detailed description of what it felt like to be encapsuled in such a form, but noted that the portion of the male of the species’ anatomy she found most sexually arousing was a patch of colored scales on the side of its head. Although the woman had no prior knowledge of such things, a conversation Grof had with a zoologist later confirmed that in certain species of reptiles, colored areas on the head do indeed play an important role as triggers of sexual arousal.

Patients were also able to tap into the consciousness of their relatives and ancestors. One woman experienced what it was like to be her mother at the age of three and accurately described a frightening event that had befallen her mother at the time. The woman also gave a precise description of the house her mother had lived in as well as the white pinafore she had been wearing—all details her mother later confirmed and admitted she had never talked about before. Other patients gave equally accurate descriptions of events that had befallen ancestors who had lived decades and even centuries before.

Other experiences included the accessing of racial and collective memories. Individuals of Slavic origin experienced what it was like to participate in the conquests of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian hordes, to dance in trance with the Kalahari bushmen, to undergo the initiation rites of the Australian aborigines, and to die as sacrificial victims of the Aztecs. And again the descriptions frequently contained obscure historical facts and a degree of knowledge that was often completely at odds with the patient’s education, race, and previous exposure to the subject. For instance, one uneducated patient gave a richly detailed account of the techniques involved in the Egyptian practice of embalming and mummification, including the form and meaning of various amulets and sepulchral boxes, a list of the materials used in the fixing of the mummy cloth, the size and shape of the mummy bandages, and other esoteric facets of Egyptian funeral services. Other individuals tuned into the cultures of the Far East and not only gave impressive descriptions of what it was like to have a Japanese, Chinese, or Tibetan psyche, but also related various Taoist or Buddhist teachings.

In fact, there did not seem to be any limit to what Grof’s LSD subjects could tap into. They seemed capable of knowing what it was like to be every animal, and even plant, on the tree of evolution. They could experience what it was like to be a blood cell, an atom, a thermonuclear process inside the sun, the consciousness of the entire planet, and even the consciousness of the entire cosmos. More than that, they displayed the ability to transcend space and time, and occasionally they related uncannily accurate precognitive information. In an even stranger vein they sometimes encountered nonhuman intelligences during their cerebral travels, discarnate beings, spirit guides from “higher planes of consciousness,” and other suprahuman entities.

On occasion subjects also traveled to what appeared to be other universes and other levels of reality. In one particularly unnerving session a young man suffering from depression found himself in what seemed to be another dimension. It had an eerie luminescence, and although he could not see anyone he sensed that it was crowded with discarnate beings. Suddenly he sensed a presence very close to him, and to his surprise it began to communicate with him telepathically. It asked him to please contact a couple who lived in the Moravian city of Kromeriz and let them know that their son Ladislav was well taken care of and doing all right. It then gave him the couple’s name, street address, and telephone number.

The information meant nothing to either Grof or the young man and seemed totally unrelated to the young man’s problems and treatment. Still, Grof could not put it out of his mind. “After some hesitation and with mixed feelings, I finally decided to do what certainly would have made me the target of my colleagues’ jokes, had they found out,” says Grof. “I went to the telephone, dialed the number in Kromeriz, and asked if I could speak with Ladislav. To my astonishment, the woman on the other side of the line started to cry. When she calmed down, she told me with a broken voice: ‘Our son is not with us anymore; he passed away, we lost him three weeks ago. ‘”

In the 1960s Grof was offered a position at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and moved to the United States. The center was also doing controlled studies of the psychotherapeutic applications of LSD, and this allowed Grof to continue his research. In addition to examining the effects of repeated LSD sessions on individuals with various mental disorders, the center also studied its effects on “normal” volunteers—doctors, nurses, painters, musicians, philosophers, scientists, priests, and theologians. Again Grof found the same kind of phenomena occurring again and again. It was almost as if LSD provided the human consciousness with access to a kind of infinite subway system, a labyrinth of tunnels and byways that existed in the subterranean reaches of the unconscious, and one that literally connected everything in the universe with everything else.

After personally guiding over three thousand LSD sessions (each lasting at least five hours) and studying the records of more than two thousand sessions conducted by colleagues, Grof became unalterably convinced that something extraordinary was going on. “After years of conceptual struggle and confusion, I have concluded that the data from LSD research indicate an urgent need for a drastic revision of the existing paradigms for psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and possibly science in general,” he states. “There is at present little doubt in my mind that our current understanding of the universe, of the nature of reality, and particularly of human beings, is superficial, incorrect, and incomplete.”

Grof coined the term transpersonal to describe such phenomena, experiences in which the consciousness transcends the customary boundaries of the personality, and in the late 1960s he joined with several other like-minded professionals, including the psychologist and educator Abraham Maslow, to found a new branch of psychology called transpersonal psychology

(The Holographic Universe, pgs. 66-70)

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Major World Issues That No One Is Talking About

With all the attention on the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the Golden State Warriors, ISIS and an endless stream of shootings and terror attacks, it appears the world has forgotten about all of the other pressing issues around the globe. Presented below is a small sample of some of the major events going on that the world has pretty much turned a blind eye to.

Indonesia: Forest Fires, Orangutans, and a Quiet War

Since July, Indonesia has been on fire. Its biodiverse forests are aflame, from coast to coast. It has caused some half million respiratory infections and roughly 20 deaths, with another 100,000 premature deaths estimated to come. In just three weeks, these fires released more CO2 than an entire year’s worth of emissions from Germany. It has already caused nearly $50 billion in damage, and some have called it the worst environmental catastrophe of the 21st century.

The fires have exacerbated the plight of Indonesia’s precious orangutans. Each hour, an area of forest the size of three hundred football fields is cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. As many as a dozen orangutans are killed in the process each day. Over the past two decades, more than 90% of orangutan habitats have been destroyed, along with some 50,000 of the apes, who share approximately 97% of our genes and whose Malay name literally means “forest person”. Their extinction is imminent.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is fighting a quiet war against the indigenous people of West Papua. Since the 1960s, it has taken around 100,000 lives, and the Indonesia army has been accused of brutal oppression. The UN is silent on this issue (while over the same time period adopting more than 80 resolutions with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict, which in comparison has caused 75% less casualties).

Dubai: Glamour, Riches, and Slavery

Transformation of Dubai (Credit: Techeblog.com)
Transformation of Dubai (Credit: Techeblog.com)

Dubai is known for its oil wealth, soaring skyscrapers, and artificial fun-shaped islands. In just three decades, it has transformed itself from a barren desert into a sprawling metropolis. However, all of this unbounded growth comes at a price. It has been accomplished through the labour of migrant workers, primarily from India.

These workers are recruited from their homelands with an “American Dream”-style promise of opportunity. In reality, they are brought into dilapidated workers camps on the outskirts of the city, living with eight or more others in a tiny room. Just one such camp, called Sonapur, has over 150,000 workers. Many of them have their passports confiscated at the airport, preventing them from leaving. Not that they could afford to leave anyway, with a typical salary of under $200 a month, from which they have to pay for their own rent and food. The labourers are forced to work twelve to fourteen hours a day, sometimes longer, under blistering heat. Human rights violations abound. Yet, Dubai is consistently praised on the global stage.

The Balance of Power in the Middle East

A proxy war continues to be waged in Yemen. Earlier this year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched a successful insurrection that forced the Yemenite president to flee. In response, Saudi Arabia organized a coalition to defeat the Houthis, with the support of the United States, who is providing intelligence and weapons. In addition to air strikes, the coalition has imposed an aerial and naval blockade on Yemen. Nearly 80% of the Yemenite population is now in need of food and medical aid. Over 300,000 have been displaced. The Saudis are also preventing entry to journalists, helping to keep the world ignorant of the humanitarian crisis.

This is just one of several conflicts being fought indirectly between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are vying for supremacy in the Middle East. In Syria, too, Iran is supporting Assad’s regime while Saudi Arabia is arming the rebels. Over 200 of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops have already been killed, together with nearly a thousand more Hezbollah fighters whom they are funding.

Despite all the positive talk around the nuclear deal with Iran, it has only spurred the Saudis to develop their own nuclear weapons. On the 10th of October and the 21st of November, Iran tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, in breach of UN Security Council resolutions. This has only made Saudi Arabia more nervous, while the “deeply concerned” US government has said that this “would not derail the nuclear deal.” Meanwhile, the ever-desperate North Korea has announced the development of a hydrogen bomb.

Of course, the above is just a small sample of the many critical issues taking place around the world. Having said that, it is important not to lose sight of all the positive things happening, too. While today’s media is constantly inundating us with a barrage of primarily negative images, the world is nonetheless rapidly progressing and improving. It is this thought that inspired the following video:

 

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The World Today, by Continent, Beliefs, and Language

After some 6000 years of civilized human history, the world today is divided into roughly 200 states. The United Nations officially recognizes 193 member states (with 2 more “observer states” and 6 which are “partially recognized”).

By continent, Europe has 47 states, Africa has 52, and Asia has 48. In the Americas, North and Central America have 26 states, while South America has 13. Oceania (which includes Australia and the Pacific Ocean nations) has 14.

Approximately 70 states have a Christian majority today, of which 14 nations have Christianity as a state religion. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion, with some 2.4 billion followers. However, this number is likely not very accurate, since many in the Western world may have been born Christian, but no longer practice any form of the religion, and may identify as atheists. For example, a 2014 Pew study found that nearly 23% of people in the United States report being religiously unaffiliated, even though the US is still considered the nation with the largest Christian population in the world.Muslim Populations Pew Research

Meanwhile, 49 states are currently Muslim-majority nations, with 1.2 billion Muslims living in these countries, and another half a billion living in other non-Muslim majority states. The Pew Research Center predicts that by 2050, Islam may be the world’s most populous religion, and by then, Nigeria will become the 50th Muslim-majority state.

Non-religious population of the world, by percentage, based on 2006 Dentsu Institute data and 2005 Zuckerman data
Non-religious population of the world, by percentage, based on 2006 Dentsu Institute data and 2005 Zuckerman data

Three countries have Hindu majorities (Nepal, India, and Mauritius), seven have Buddhist majorities (led by Cambodia), and only one has a Jewish majority (Israel). Approximately 10 states have an atheist or agnostic majority, led by Estonia, Japan, and Denmark.

By far, the most-commonly spoken language in the world is Mandarin, with nearly a billion speakers. Spanish is a distant second with roughly 400 million speakers, followed by English, with 360 million speakers. Filling the top ten, by millions of speakers, are: Hindi (310), Arabic (295), Portuguese (205), Bengali (200), Russian (160), Japanese (125), and Punjabi (100).

Despite all of this phenomenal diversity, pretty much everyone agrees that all of us came from the same source: whether it is Adam and Eve, as in the Abrahamic religions, or “Y-chromosomal Adam” and “mitochondrial Eve”, the genetic ancestors of all human beings, estimated by scientists to have lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

Ultimately, all of the Earth’s inhabitants are part of one, massive, dysfunctional family.

by garofanomarcio
by garofanomarcio

Sources:

2011 Pew Study on Christianity

2014 Pew Study on America’s Changing Religious Landscape

2015 Pew Study on Islam

List of religions by country (Wikipedia)

List of countries by continent (Wikipedia)

Language statistics from the 2010 Nationalencyklopedin

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