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Report: Islam Fastest-growing Major Faith in Coming Decades

Report: Islam Fastest-growing Major Faith in Coming Decades

By    |   Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:27 AM

Over the next 40 years, Christians will remain the world's largest religious group, but Islam is growing faster than any other major religion and will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world, a new Pew Research Center study reveals.

New demographic projections released by the Pew Research Center on Thursday show that the world's religious profile is changing, mainly because of differences in fertility rates and the number of young people among the world's religions.

This means that if current trends continue by 2050 the United States' Christian population will decline from representing more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds of it in 2050. Further, Islam will replace Judaism as the largest non-Christian religion in the United States.

The report concluded that by 2050 more Jews will be living in Israel than anywhere else, noting that now, 8 in 10 live either there or in the United States. Worldwide, the Jewish population will grow, as the Jewish population has the longest average lifespan.

The poll found that worldwide: 
  • Atheists and others who do not affiliate with any other religion will increase in some countries, like the United States and France, but will decline worldwide.
  • The numbers of Buddhists will remain about the same, but Hindu and Jewish populations will grow.
  • Muslims will make up 10 percent of the overall population in Europe.
  • India will have the largest Muslim population of any other country, but will remain a Hindu majority.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians worldwide will be living in sub-Saharan Africa.
The projections also take age differences, fertility and mortality rates, migration patterns, and conversion patterns into consideration, the study said.

Part of the reason for the growth of Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa is because women there have, on average, twice as many children than women do in North America and three times more than they do in Europe, reports The Guardian.

Muslims and Christians are to make up about 30 percent each of the population of the world by 2050, as Christianity continues to decline in the West and fertility rates keep rising in the rest of the developing world.

However, when those numbers are pushed out even further to 2070, the number of Muslims is expected to outgrow the number of Christians slightly, according to The Atlantic. Muslims and Christians are expected to each represent about 32 percent of the world's population around 2070, but by the year 2100, the growth shifts show that 34 percent of the world will be Muslim and 34 percent Christian.

In North America alone, atheists and agnostics are expected to climb from 17 percent to 26 percent. But in Europe, where the total population is expected to shrink, Christians will also diminish by 100 million people to become 65 percent of the population.

But there are many variables that could come into play over the next 40 years, the report says, including natural disasters and wars, political revolutions, mass migrations, and more that could change people's beliefs.

In addition, there remains a great deal of confusion over what the true numbers are for China's 1.3 billion people, the report shows.

More than 50 percent of Chinese people are on the record as being unaffiliated with a religion, but off the record, the country could be seeing a religious shift.

"Adherents of other religions, including Christians who worship in unregistered churches, may be reluctant to reveal their religious identity to officials or strangers," said the study's authors. "There are no sources adequate to measure patterns of religious switching across China."

Christianity is expected to lose some 66 million people around the world by 2050 due to conversions. Many of them will simply become unaffiliated with religion altogether, rather than converting to another faith, the study shows.

And most of those who leave Christianity will be men, who will account for 60 percent who convert.

Conrad Hackett, the lead demographer for the lengthy study, says this is because women tend to have higher levels of religious commitment than men.

But this won't hold true in Islam, Hackett said, because in many Muslim countries, people face severe legal and social consequences for changing their minds when it comes to religious beliefs.

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Over the next 40 years, Christians will remain the world's largest religious group, but Islam is growing faster than any other major religion and will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world, a new Pew Research Center study reveals.
islam, fastest, growing, religion
Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:27 AM
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