Pew Study: 1 in 6 Worldwide Lack Affiliation to Religion

Tuesday, 18 Dec 2012 04:16 PM

By Michael Mullins

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About one in every six people worldwide has no religious affiliation, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, making the “unaffiliated” the third-largest group in the world after Christians and Muslims.

People who don’t affiliate themselves with any religion make up 16 percent of the population. The label includes atheists and agnostics, as well as some who have religious beliefs but don't identify with a particular faith.

"For example, belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7 percent of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30 percent of French unaffiliated adults and 68 percent of unaffiliated U.S. adults," the study says.

Editor's Note : Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

Most of them — more than three-quarters — live in Asia, especially in China.

The study, “The Gliobal Religious Landscape,” is based on 2.500 different data sources, including censuses and demographic surveys of children and adults in 232 countries, and relies on self-identification.

“There may have been some guesses floating out there before, but this is the first time there are numbers based on survey data analyzed in a rigorous and scientific way,” Conrad Hackett, who worked on the report, told the New York Times.

Christians, including Catholics, are the largest religious group, with 2.2 billion people — about one-third of the world’s population, followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion, then Hindus with 1 billion, and Buddhists with a half billion.

One-fourth of the world’s population lives in countries where they are the religious minority, the study says; however, 97 percent of Hindus and 87 percent of Christians live in countries where they’re the majority faith, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

Editor's Note : Health Benefits of Prayer Revealed!

“Christians are the most evenly dispersed — except in one place, and that’s the Middle East and North Africa, which happens to be the place where Christianity originated,” Cooperman told the Times.

The study also found a disparity in the median age of religious populations. Muslims are the youngest, with a median age of 23, while Jews are the oldest at 36.

Religious groups with the youngest median ages have the highest levels of fertility and lowest levels of female education, Jack Goldstone, director of the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University in Virginia, told the Times.

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