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The World's Fastest Growing Religion (Either Christianity or Islam, Depending on Location)
Real Clear Religion ^ | 11/13/2012 | Philip Jenkins

Posted on 12/20/2012 12:41:12 PM PST by SeekAndFind

I'm often asked, "What is the world's fastest growing religion?"

Questioners are stirred both by hope -- that "our" religion is so evidently the best that it is sweeping the world -- but also by the fear that "they" (usually Muslims) are going to overwhelm us.

Actually, that growth question crosses faith boundaries. Wikipedia's entry on "Claims to be the Fastest-Growing Religion" collects many such boasts, which variously claim the prize for Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Wicca, Deism, the Falun Gong, Scientology, and other competitors. Obviously, even compiling such a list has the tongue-in-cheek implication that most such claims are bogus or misinformed. Accurate quantitative information about any faith is hard to come by, and any plausible comparisons are difficult. Having said this, the growth question does tell us a lot about how and why faiths change over time.

At first sight, the contest should be a shut-out, leaving Christianity the clear winner. During the twentieth century, Christian numbers expanded mightily around the world, but especially in the Global South. According to the respected World Christian Database, since 1900 the number of African Christians has grown by an incredible 4,930 percent, and the growth in Latin America was 877 percent. The increase for particular denominations was even more startling. During the twentieth century, Africa's Catholic population grew from 1.9 million to 130 million -- an increase of 6,700 percent.

The total number of African believers of all shades soared, from just 10 million in 1900 to almost 500 million today, and (if projections are correct) to an astonishing billion by 2050. Put another way, the number of African Christians in 2050 will be almost twice as large as the total figure for all Christians alive anywhere in the globe back in 1900.

But before we open the envelope and hand over the statuette, it's sobering to compare Islamic growth in the same period.

Both religions have acquired vastly more adherents in the past century, but in some ways, Muslims have significantly outpaced Christians. However staggering their growth rate might seem, Christian numbers have actually proved strikingly stable as a share of global population. In 1900, about one-third of the world's people were Christians, and that proportion remains more or less unchanged today. Moreover, if we project our estimate forward to the year 2050, that proportion should still be about one third.

Seen in those terms, Islam's surge has been still more impressive. In 1900, the 200-220 million Muslims then living comprised some twelve or thirteen percent of humanity, compared to 22.5 percent today, and a projected figure of 27 percent by 2050. Christians in 1900 outnumbered Muslims by 2.8 to 1. Today the figure is 1.5 to 1, and by 2050 it should be 1.3 to 1. In historical terms, the gap is closing fast.

If Christians point to Africa as the ultimate success story, then Muslims can boast their growing numbers across their historic heartlands. In 1900, for instance, Egypt had perhaps nine million Muslims, compared to 75 million today. In the same period, the number of Iranian Muslims grew from ten million to perhaps 65 million. In 1900, the lands that would become Indonesia had perhaps 34 million Muslims, compared to 190 million today.

Put another way, four times as many Christians are alive today as there were in 1900; but over the same period, Muslims have grown at least seven-fold.

How can this be? If Christian numbers are exploding, how can they be left so far behind Muslims in the rate of expansion? The answer lies in differential demographics, namely that some parts of the world are growing much faster than others. Islam grew so mightily because Muslims were so heavily concentrated in those regions that maintained very high fertility rates throughout the twentieth century, chiefly in Africa and Asia. A rising tide lifts all faiths.

In contrast, overall Christian numbers lagged because that faith was traditionally concentrated in Europe, and Europe's demographic growth has been very slow in comparison with other parts of the globe. Back in 1900, Europeans made up around a quarter of the world's population, but by 2050, that number will probably be closer to eight percent. In 1900, there were three Europeans for every African. By 2050, there should be three Africans for every European. If we take Europe out of the picture, then, Islam and Christianity have been running a very close race worldwide, but Christians find it hard to overcome that demographic handicap.

When I am asked about the world's fastest growing religion, then, I answer unequivocally: Islam. Or, Christianity outside Europe.

TOPICS: Islam; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: christendom; christianity; fastestgrowing; islam; muslimworld; religion

1 posted on 12/20/2012 12:41:16 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

The five fastest growing religions in terms of absolute numbers (new adherents per year, in millions):

1. Christianity 25,210,195
2. Islam 22,588,676
3. Hinduism 12,533,734
4. Chinese folk-religions 3,715,548
5. Buddhism 3,687,527

The five fastest growing religions by conversions (new adherents per year, in millions):

1. Christianity 2,501,396
2. Islam 865,558
3. Buddhism 156,609
4. Sikhism 28,961
5. Baha'is 26,333

2 posted on 12/20/2012 12:45:26 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

The CIA World Fact Book

The CIA World Factbook is an annual publication of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States with almanac-style information - including demographics & faith statistics - about the 266 U.S. recognized countries of the world and a number of smaller areas. The Factbook only tabulate seven world religions. The numbers only differ slightly from the WCE and The Britannica Encyclopedia.

Religion size %
Christianity 2,234,770,118 33.32%
Islam 1,409,139,261 21.01%
Hinduism 889,347,292 13.26%
Buddhism 391,688,400 5.84%
Sikhism 23,474,476 0.35%
Judaism 15,426,084 0.23%
Bahá'í 8,048,392 0.12%
Other (incl. non-religious & atheists) 1,735,099,128 25.87%
Total 6,706,993,152 100%

3 posted on 12/20/2012 12:46:27 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I thought it was “Jedi”

4 posted on 12/20/2012 12:46:27 PM PST by Edgar3 (Don't THREAD on me!)
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To: Edgar3

RE: I thought it was “Jedi”

Nope, that is the largest ALTERNATIVE (non-traditional) religion in the UK.


According to Telegraph, Jedi first appeared on the census in 2001 after a campaign to include it. And 390,127 considered themselves part of the Jedi “faith” that year.

“Although the number of Jedis has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the past 10 years, they are still the most selected ‘alternative’ faith on the Census, and constitute 0.31% of all people’s stated religious affiliation in England and Wales,” writes Telegraph.

In case you were wondering, “Heavy Metal” is also a religion some subscribe to in England.

Telegraph writes, “Norwich was revealed as the area with the highest proportion of non-religious people, with 41.5% of residents refusing to identify with a faith. The city also possesses the highest proportion of Heavy Metal followers and the 3rd highest proportion of Jedi Knights.”

5 posted on 12/20/2012 12:49:21 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

6 posted on 12/20/2012 12:51:26 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Truth is many christians are not christians nor are many muslims... “muslims”..
They were just born into some family of some religion..
They are wearing “masks”... disguises.. some with costumes.. maybe even provocateurs..

To be a Jew does not require you believe in anything..

Must be careful with statistics about who is what...
It can make your delusional.. even crazy..

7 posted on 12/20/2012 1:04:53 PM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to include some fully orbed hyperbole..)
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To: hosepipe
RE: They were just born into some family of some religion..

What about the CONVERSION figures? That would be a better feel for who are "true" or "false" whatever, I would think.

In which case, the table from this site gives us a picture of what's happening.

The World Christian Encyclopaedia has estimated the growth of the 12 classic world religions in the decade 1990-2000 (anual change in new adherents and percentage):

Religion Total Natural (births) Conversions Growth
Christianity 25,210,195 22,708,799 2,501,396 1.36%
Islam 22,588,676 21,723,118 865,558 2.13%
Hinduism 12,533,734 13,194,111 -660,377 1.69%
Buddhism 3,687,527 3,530,918 156,609 1.09%
Sikhism 392,638 363,677 28,961 1.87%
Judaism 124,515 194,962 -70,447 0.91%
Bahá'í 143,491 117,158 26,333 2.28%
Confucianism 44,305 55,739 -11,434 0.73%
Jainism 34,951 74,539 -39,588 0.87%
Shinto -31,993 8,534 -40,527 -1.09%
Taoism 25,242 25,397 -155 1.00%
Zoroastrianism 58,471 45,391 13,080 2.65%
Global population 78,860,791 78,860,791 - 1.41%

• Christianity is the fastest growing religion both in the number of new adherents due to natural growth (births minus deaths) as well as in number of new converts (converts in minus converts out).

• The total growth of Christianity (25,210,195) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Australia (21,555,500) or the U.S. State of Texas (23,904,380) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.

• The number of new converts to Christianity is more than twice the combined number of new converts to all the other tabulated religions, even if we take out those with negative numbers (2,501,396 vers. 1,090,541).

• The new converts to Christianity (2,501,396) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Latvia (2,268,000) or almost the U.S. State of Nevada (2,565,382) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.

8 posted on 12/20/2012 1:12:38 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

The World’s Fastest Growing Religion (Either Christianity or Islam, Depending on Location)

What are the location choices besides earth?

9 posted on 12/20/2012 1:21:03 PM PST by csmusaret (I will give Obama credit for one thing- he is living proof that familiarity breeds contempt.)
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To: hosepipe
To be a Jew does not require you believe in anything..

Ah, good. In that case I'll be a Jew, because Jews can go to Israel, and if I'm an Israeli when Armageddon comes at least I'll be fighting on the right side. But, I'll be a Messianic Jew, and I'll follow the advice of Odin in dealing death to the demonic nithings of the evil one, and meditate like Buddha so I can mow off their heads with my mind in total Zen tranquility. I'll die with my hand a deathgrip on my weapon, and beautiful blonde Valkyries will carry me to my rest, and St. Peter at the gate will say "Oh, never mind...go on in, you crazy a*****e." /s

10 posted on 12/20/2012 1:35:35 PM PST by fattigermaster
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To: csmusaret

RE: What are the location choices besides earth?

Read the last 3 paragraphs of the article.

11 posted on 12/20/2012 1:39:17 PM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

It should also be noted that Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is horrified at the hemorrhaging loss of black Muslims in Africa who are converting in great numbers to Christianity, the bulk of which is (conservative) Anglicanism.

And this explosive growth came at a time when there was the schism in the Episcopalian Anglican church in the US, with churches leaving their Episcopalian dioceses and becoming African missionary churches attached to African Anglican dioceses. This meant a flood of donations to African dioceses and archdioceses to build hundreds of new churches.

In any event, the African bishops and archbishops are getting so many congregants that they are almost like the leaders of nations. And on the large scale, Africa is now subdividing into Muslim and Christian regions, the vast majority being Christian.

12 posted on 12/20/2012 3:45:26 PM PST by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Pennies and Nickels will NO LONGER be Minted as of 1/1/13 - Tim Geithner, US Treasury Sect)
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