Same Religion, but Very Different Countries

Most of the time, countries that practice the same religion are similar. However, there are some exceptions. A few pairs of countries are part of the same religious denomination, but have little else in common. A list of these countries was developed by analyzing the data from theĀ Country Similarity Index, that weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. For the purposes of this article, both two-thirds of the religious people in both countries must be part of the same denomination.

DENMARK-PAPUA NEW GUINEA

(34.8 similarity)

Most people in Denmark and Papua New Guinea are Protestant Christians, although Danish people tend to be less religious, while Papuans tend to practice animism and ancestor worship alongside their Christian beliefs. Papua New Guinea was colonized by both Germany and the United Kingdom, two predominately Protestant countries. Over the past 100 years, Western missionaries worked hard to convert Papuans to Christianity.

However, these countries are vastly different. Papua New Guinea is on a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean, while Denmark is located in Europe and has a colder climate. Moreover, Denmark is mostly agricultural land and has few forests, in contrast to Papua New Guinea. While Papua New Guinea is quite mountainous, Denmark’s terrain is extremely flat. Furthermore, the majority of people in Papua New Guinea have Melanesian ancestry. Papua New Guinea’s infrastructure is also far less advanced than Denmark’s. Furthermore, the technology standards are far different, Papua New Guinea drives on the left and uses Type I electrical outlets, unlike Denmark.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA-IRELAND

(39.0 similarity)

Most people in Equatorial Guinea and Ireland are Roman Catholics. Since Spain colonized Equatorial Guinea, it converted most of its people to Christianity. Still, the Irish do tend to be less religious than people in Equatorial Guinea.

Despite both countries being mostly Catholic, they have little else in common. Equatorial Guinea is a heavily forested tropical country in Africa. In contrast, Ireland has a much cooler climate and much of its land is used as pastures. Furthermore, Ireland’s infrastructure is also significantly more advanced than Equatorial Guinea’s. They also have different technology standards, since Ireland drives on the left and uses Type G electrical outlets. While Ireland is a multi-party democracy, Equatorial Guinea is an authoritarian state ruled by one party.

CYPRUS-RUSSIA

(57.4 similarity)

Most people in Cyprus and Russia are Eastern Orthodox Christians. However, in part due to the practice of state atheism in the Soviet Union, Russians tend to be less religious than Cypriots. Both countries also have a significant percentage of Muslims as well.

However, the climate in these countries is vastly different. While Russia is one of the coldest countries on average, Cyprus has a Mediterranean climate. Russia is also more densely forested but less densely populated. These countries also use different alphabets. Their technology standards are significantly different as well since Cyprus was occupied by the United Kingdom, so the country drives on the left and uses Type G electrical outlets. Furthermore, Cyprus is more democratic and its government does less censorship than Russia.

SAUDI ARABIA-SIERRA LEONE

(39.1 similarity)

Most people in Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone are Sunni Muslims. Islam slowly spread from the Arabian peninsula to West Africa through missionaries and merchants. In fact, in 1950, less than 50% of people in Sierra Leone were Muslim, but the religion as grown since then, despite British colonialism.

However, Sierra Leone has a tropical climate and is a densely forested, unlike Saudi Arabia, which has a much drier climate. Most Saudi Arabians have Caucasian ancestry, while most people in Sierra Leone have Sub-Saharan African ancestry. They also speak completely unrelated languages and use different writing systems. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries, while Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest, due to significant oil reserves. Sierra Leone is also more democratic. Its laws are less conservative, since it allows alcohol and gambling.

BHUTAN-MONGOLIA

(52.7 similarity)

Most people in Bhutan and Mongolia practice forms of Tibetan Buddhism. The emperors of the Yuan dynasty converted to Buddhism, following the conquest of China. Still, at present Mongolians tend to be less religious than Bhutanese due to decades of state atheism in the recent past.

Despite the fact that most people in both countries are Buddhist, these nations also have significant differences. Their native languages are unrelated and they also uses different writing systems. Furthermore, Mongolians tend to be more educated. A much higher percentage of their people are literate and have completed college. Their technology standards are quite different. Bhutan drives on the left. Furthermore, Bhutan relies on hydropower, whereas most of Mongolia’s electricity comes from coal power. While Bhutan is heavily forested, Mongolia is mostly grassland.

LAOS-SRI LANKA

(54.4 similarity)

Most people in Laos and Sri Lanka practice Theravada Buddhism. The religion spread from Sri Lanka to Southeast Asia via trade and missionaries more than two millennia ago. Still, Sri Lanka also has many Hindus and Muslims as well.

Although these countries are both predominately Buddhist, they have some significant differences as well. Most people in Laos have East Asian ancestry, while most people in Sri Lanka have South Asian ancestry. In addition, Sri Lanka is an island, while Laos is landlocked. Their technology standards are different as well. Sri Lanka drives on the left and uses Type G electrical outlets, unlike Laos. Another difference is that the government of Laos is less democratic and is lead by a single party.

Do you agree with this list? Any other pairs of countries that you would add?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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