Fifty years ago it was predicted that religion was on its way out, that with increasing literacy and a growing educated middle class in the third world, belief would no longer be necessary.
Statistics from 2014 have proven this prediction wrong and if the research recently completed by the Pew Research Center is correct, the main religions of the world are set to grow. Decades from now, Christians and Muslims may account for two-thirds of the global population—suggesting that not all societies are becoming more secular.
Demographers at Pew research Center (US statistical research organization in Washington DC) have just issued a major report offering a wealth of data on the current numbers involved in the main world religions and their projected growth over the next 50 years.
Demographers reviewed census data, surveys, and population registers for 234 countries to estimate the future sizes of the world’s religious groups. According to this report the world’s Muslims will outnumber the world’s Christians by 2070. The disproportionate rise in the Muslim population is partly down to the Muslim demographic, which is younger than other world religions.
Muslims have the youngest median age (23 in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims (30). They also have more children than members of the seven other major religious groups analyzed in the study. Each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, significantly above the next-highest group (Christians at 2.7) and the average of all non-Muslims (2.3).
According to Pew, Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2010 and 2050 and, in the second half of this century, Islam will probably surpass Christianity as the world’s largest religion.
Europe is the only region where the number of Christians is expected to decline in the coming years. In 2010, 75 percent of Europe’s population was Christian; by 2050, that percentage is expected to be closer to 65.
Another surprising fact that has emerged from Pew’s research is that the second largest religious group is one that they refer to as “unaffliliated”.
While either Christians or Muslims make up the largest religious group in most nations around the world, the unaffiliated rank second in size in most of the Americas and Europe, as well as in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. This group includes atheists and agnostics, as well as those who have a mix of religious beliefs and practices but do not identify with a particular faith.
Despite all of this, Christians are still the second-largest religious group in 43 countries – including in much of predominantly Muslim North Africa and the Middle East.