After a series of columns describing minority religions, questions naturally arise: Where are man’s spiritual leanings headed? Which religion is experiencing the most growth? Are we becoming more, or less, religious? Not long ago, popular American thought was that churches were struggling to attract or keep adherents, that secularism was the wave of the future.
Not so, according to Pew Research Center. The world is apparently becoming more religious in number, with those who identify as non-religious shrinking as a percentage of world population, according to Pew’s April 2015 report, “Future of the World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.”
If current trends continue, “unaffiliated” — now ranking third behind Christianity and Islam, and comprised of atheists, agnostics and others who don’t identify with any particular religion — will make up a declining share of the world’s total population, despite currently increasing in the U.S. and parts of Europe.
Christians and Muslims, who currently make up about a third and a quarter of the world’s religious, respectively, will both continue to grow. Their graphed lines cross at an equal point around 2070, after which Islam is projected to replace Christianity as the world’s most popular religion.
Islam is now the world’s fastest growing religion, outpacing global population growth. While world population is expected to rise by 35 percent before 2050 (as is the Christian faith), the expected increase in the number of Muslims is double that, at 73 percent — from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050.
Why? Simple demographics, say Pew researchers. Those who affiliate with Muslim faiths have more children — an average of 3.1 per female. Christians average 2.7 births; the average of other groups is 2.3.
Pew research reports also suggest fewer Muslims are likely to switch religions or become unaffiliated. Comparatively, Christianity, while firmly the world’s No. 1 religion now, is projected to have a net loss of more than 60 million adherents worldwide by 2050.
That decrease is notable in the U.S. While the 2015 report cited a current three-quarters of the U.S. population identifying as Christian, just two-thirds of Americans are expected to identify as Christian by 2050. Judaism, the second largest religion in the U.S., is also expected to decline here; however, the global Jewish population is expected to grow. The expected decreases in Christianity do not apply everywhere; Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be home to 40 percent of the world’s Christians by 2050.
For more information see Pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050.
Sholeh Patrick, J.D. is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.