Africa will host global religious boom

2015-04-05 15:00

2.2bn: The estimated number of Christians in the world in 2010, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9bn people on earth.

1.6bn: The number of Muslims in 2010, or 23% of the global population, the second-highest after Christianity.

69%: Christians and Muslims will make up more than two-thirds of the global population’s religion by 2100, up from 61% in 2050 and 55% in 2010.

The number of Muslims will equal the number of Christians in the world in 60 years before outstripping the number of Christians by the turn of the century as the religious profile of the world changes rapidly.

And much of the growth of both religions is expected to take place in Africa, states a study of global religious trends by the Pew Research Center.

The research is based on demographic projections that take into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion.

Christianity was the world’s largest religion in 2010, with an estimated 2.2?billion adherents, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9?billion people on earth.

Islam was second, with 1.6?billion adherents, or 23% of the global population.

But the research found that:

.?While all religions will grow, Islam will outstrip its competitors so that by the year 2100, about 1% more of the world’s population will be Muslim (35%) than Christian (34%).

.?Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050.

.?In the US, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion.

.?Muslims will be more numerous in the US than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.

.?Christianity and Islam will make up more than two-thirds of the global population in 2100 (69%), up from 61% in 2050 and 55% in 2010.

Between 2010 and 2050, the study estimated that the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3?billion, a 35% increase.

Over that period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73% compared with Christians at 35%.

As a result, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8?billion or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9?billion or 31%).

By 2070, their share of the population will be equal.

After that, the number of Muslims will exceed the number of Christians, with Muslims making up 35% of the world’s population against 34% of Christians.

India will retain a Hindu majority, but will also have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world by 2050, surpassing Indonesia.

The projected growth of Muslims and Christians will be driven largely by the continued expansion of Africa’s population.

The global Buddhist population is expected to remain fairly stable – the same size as it was in 2010 – because of low fertility rates and aging populations in countries such as China, Thailand and Japan. But Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.

Worldwide, the Hindu population is projected to rise by 34%, from a little more than 1?billion to nearly 1.4?billion. Jews are expected to grow from a little less than 14?million in 2010 to 16.1?million in 2050.

Adherents of various folk religions – including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Aboriginal religions – are projected to increase from 405?million to nearly 450?million in 2050.

And all other religions combined – including Bahá’ís, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists and many smaller faiths – are projected to increase from about 58?million to more than 61?million by 2050.

The religiously unaffiliated population is projected to grow from an estimated 1.1?billion to 1.2?billion by 2050.

The study also found that Christians are expected to experience the largest net losses from switching religions over the coming decades.

Globally, about 40?million people are projected to switch to Christianity, while 106?million are projected to leave, with most joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.

Several countries are projected to have a different religious majority in 2050 than they did in 2010.

The number of countries with Christian majorities is expected to decline from 159 to 151 as Christians drop below 50% of the population in Australia, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Macedonia and the UK.

Muslims in 2050 are expected to make up more than 50% of the population in 51 countries, two more than in 2010, as Macedonia and Nigeria are projected to gain Muslim majorities. But Nigeria also will continue to have a very large Christian population.

Nigeria is projected to have the third-largest Christian population in the world by 2050, after the US and Brazil.

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