Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Growth of religion

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Growth of religion

Growth of religion is the spread of religions and the increase of religious adherents around the world. The statistics are commonly measured by the absolute number of adherents, the percentage of the absolute growth per year, and the growth of the number of converts in the world. Studies show that, in terms of percentage and world wide spread, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. A religious forecast for 2050 by Pew Research Center concludes that global Muslim population is expected to grow at a faster rate than the non-Muslim population due primarily to the young age and high fertility rate of Muslims. Religious switching will not hinder Muslim population relative to some other religious group, since the number of people who embrace Islam and those who leave Islam are roughly equal.


Bahá'í Faith

World religions statistics place the Bahá'í Faith around 0.1% of the world population in recent years. The World Christian Encyclopedia estimated only 7.1 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries, and its evolution to the World Christian Database (WCD) estimated 7.3 million in 2010 while accredited through the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA). However the WCD stated: "The Baha'i Faith is the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population; Baha'i(sic) was thus the fastest-growing religion between 1910 and 2010, growing at least twice as fast as the population of almost every UN region." This source's only documented flaw was to consistently have a higher estimate of Christians than in other cross-national data sets. 2015's estimate is of 7.8 million Bahá'ís in the world.

From its origins in the Persian and Ottoman empires of the 19th century the Bahá'í Faith was able to gain converts elsewhere in Asia, Europe, and North America by the early 20th century. John Esslemont performed the first review of the worldwide progress of the religion in 1919. `Abdu'l-Bahá, son of the founder of the religion, then set goals for the community through his Tablets of the Divine Plan shortly before his death. Shoghi Effendi then initiated systematic pioneering efforts that brought the religion to almost every country and territory of the world and converts from more than 2000 tribes and peoples. There were serious setbacks in the Soviet Union where Bahá'í communities in 38 cities across Soviet territories ceased to exist. However plans continued building to 1953 when the Bahá'ís initiated a Ten Year Crusade after plans had focused on Latin America and Europe after WWII. That last stage was largely towards parts of Africa. Wide-scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa particularly was observed to begin in the 1950s and extend in the 1960s. There was diplomatic pressure from northern arab countries against this development that was eventually overcome. Starting in the 1980s with Perestroyka the Bahá'ís began to re-organize across the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. While sometimes failing to meet official minimums for recognitions as a religion, communities of Bahá'ís do exist from Poland to Mongolia. The worldwide progress was such that the Encyclopedia Britannica (2002) identified the religion as the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity. It has established Bahá'í Houses of Worship by continental region and been the object of interest and support of diverse non-Bahá'í notable people from Leo Tolstoy to Khalil Gibran to Mohandas K. Gandhi to Desmond Tutu. See List of Bahá'ís for a list of notable Bahá'ís.

ARDA/WCD statistics place the Bahá'í Faith as currently the largest religious minority in Iran (despite significant persecution and the overall Iranian diaspora), Panama, and Belize; the second largest international religion in Bolivia, Zambia, and Papua New Guinea; and the third largest international religion in Chad and Kenya. In 2014 the religion was officially recognized in Indonesia and in addition to various countries it is the second largest religion in state of South Carolina - a fact that, despite its small size, got some attention in 2014. The countries with the fastest annual growth from 2000-2015 per annum, where a country has over 100,000 people, were, (starting with the fastest): Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Western Sahara, South Sudan, and Niger, ranging from 3.90% growth per year up to 9.56%.

A Bahá'í published survey reported 4.74 million Bahá'ís in 1987. Bahá'í sources since 1991 usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population at "above 5 million".


Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, who lived and taught in northeastern India in the 5th century BC. The majority of Buddhists live in Asia; Europe and North America also have populations exceeding 1 million. According to scholars of religious demographics, there are between 488 million, 495 million, and 535 million Buddhists in the world.

According to Johnson and Grim, Buddhism has grown from a total of 138 million adherents in 1910, of which 137 million were in Asia, to 495 million in 2010, of which 487 million are in Asia. According to them, there was a fast annual growth of Buddhism in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and several Western European countries (1910-2010). More recently (2000-2010), the countries with highest growth rates are Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and some African countries. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, through statistical analysis, held Buddhism to be the fastest-growing spiritual tradition in Australia in terms of percentage gain, with a growth of 79.1% for the period 1996 to 2001 (200,000→358,000).

And according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, over the next four decades the number of Buddhists around the world is expected to decrease from 487 million in 2010 to 486 million in 2050. The decline is due to several factors such as the low fertility level among Buddhists (1.6 children per woman), and the old age (median age of 34), compare to the overall population.

Chinese traditional religion

According to a survey of religion in China in the year 2010, the number of people practicing some form of Chinese folk religion is near to 950 million (70% of the Chinese), of which 173 million (13%) practice some form of Taoist-defined folk faith. Further in detail, 12 million people have passed some formal initiation into Taoism, or adhere to the official Chinese Taoist Association. Comparing this with other surveys, evidence suggests that nowadays three fifths to four fifths of the Chinese believe in folk religion. This shows a significant growth from the 300-400 million people practicing Chinese traditional religion that were estimated in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This growth reverses the rapid decline that Chinese traditional religion faced in the 20th century. Moreover, Chinese religion has also spread throughout the world following the emigration of Chinese populations, with 672,000 adherents in Canada as of 2010.

According to scholars, the rebirth of Chinese traditional religion in China is faster and larger than the spread of other religions in the country, such as Buddhism and Christianity:

Since the 1980s, with the gradual opening of society, folk religion has begun to recover. Especially in the rural areas, the speed and scale of its development are much faster and larger than is the case with Buddhism and Christianity [...] in Zhejiang province, where Christianity is better established than elsewhere, temples of folk religion are usually twenty or even a hundred times as numerous as Christian church buildings.

The number of adherents of the Chinese traditional religion is difficult to count, because:

Chinese rarely use the term "religion" for their popular religious practices, and they also do not utilize vocabulary that they "believe in" gods or truths. Instead they engage in religious acts that assume a vast array of gods and spirits and that also assume the efficacy of these beings in intervening in this world.

The Chinese folk religion is a "diffused religion" rather than "institutional". It is a meaning system of social solidarity and identity, ranging from the kinship systems to the community, the state, and the economy, that serves to integrate Chinese culture.


According to 2011 Pew Research Center survey, there are 2.2 billion Christians around the world in 2010, up from about 600 million in 1910. And according to 2012 Pew Research Center survey, within the next four decades, Christians will remain the world's largest religion; if current trends continue, by 2050 the number of Christians will reach 2.9 billion (or 31.4%).

By 2050, the Christian population is expected to exceed 3 billion. Christians have 2.7 children per woman, which is above replacement level (2.1). According to Pew Research Center study, by 2050 the number of Christians in absolute number is expected to grow to more than double in the next few decades, from 517 million to 1.1 billion in Sub Saharan Africa, from 531 million to 665 million in Latin America and Caribbean, from 287 million to 381 million in Asia, and from 266 million to 287 million in North America.

By 2050, Christianity is expected to remain the majority of population and the largest religious group in Latin America and Caribbean (89%), North America (66%), Europe (65.2%) and Sub Saharan Africa (59%).

According to Mark Jürgensmeyer of the University of California, popular Protestantism is one of the most dynamic religious movements in the contemporary world. Changes in worldwide Protestantism over the last century have been significant. Since 1900, due primarily to conversion, Protestantism has spread rapidly in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. That caused Protestantism to be called a primarily non-Western religion. Much of the growth has occurred after World War II, when decolonization of Africa and abolition of various restrictions against Protestants in Latin American countries occurred. According to one source, Protestants constituted respectively 2.5%, 2%, 0.5% of Latin Americans, Africans and Asians. In 2000, percentage of Protestants on mentioned continents was 17%, more than 27% and 5.5%, respectively.

The significant growth of Christianity's in non-Western countries, led to regional distribution changes of Christians. In 1900, Europe and the Americas were home to the vast majority of the world’s Christians (93%). Besides, Christianity has grown enormously in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Pacific. In 2010, 26% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, followed by 24.4% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 23.8% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 13.2% in Asia and the Pacific, 12.3% in North America, and 1% in the Middle East and North Africa. The study also suggested that by 2050, the global Christian population will change considerably. By 2050, 38% of the world’s Christians will live in the Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by 23% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 16% in Europe, 13% in Asia and the Pacific and 10% of the world’s Christians will live in North America .

According to Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam, there is a increasing number of Americans who are leaving their faith and becoming unaffiliated. By 2050, Christianity is expected to remain the majority in the United states (66.4%, down from 78.3% in 2010), and the number of Christians in absolute number is expected to grow from 243 million to 262 million.

According to a 2005 paper submitted to a meeting of the American Political Science Association, most of Christianity's growth has occurred in non-Western countries. The paper concludes that the Pentecostalism movement is the fastest-growing religion worldwide. Protestantism is growing as a result of historic missionary activity and indigenous Christian movements by Africans in Africa, and due primarily to conversion in Asia, Latin America, Muslim world, and Oceania. According to Pew Research Center, Christianity is declining in the United states while non-Christian faiths are growing.

The US Department of State estimated in 2005 that Protestants in Vietnam may have grown by 600% over the previous 10 years. In South Korea, Christianity has grown from 2.0% in 1945 to 20.7% in 1985 and to 29.3% in 2010, And the Catholic Church has increased its membership by 70% in the last ten years. In Singapore, the percentage of Christians among Singaporeans increased from 12.7%, in 1990, to 17.5%, in 2010. In recent years, the number of Chinese Christians has increased significantly; Christians were 4 million before 1949 (3 million Catholics and 1 million Protestants), and are reaching 67 million today, Christianity is reportedly the fastest growing religion in China with average annual rate of 7%. Some reports also show that many of the Chinese Indonesians minority convert to Christianity, Demographer Aris Ananta reported in 2008 that "anecdotal evidence suggests that more Buddhist Chinese have become Christians as they increased their standards of education". According to a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization in 2006, Christianity has increased significantly in Japan, particularly among youth, and a high number of teens are becoming Christians. In Iran, Christianity is reportedly the fastest growing religion with an average annual rate of 5.2%.

In 1900, there were only 8.7 million adherents of Christianity in Africa, while in 2010 there were 390 million. It is expected that by 2025 there will be 600 million Christians in Africa. In Nigeria, the percentage of Christians has grown from 21.4%, in 1953, to 50.8%, in 2010. In South Africa , Pentecostalism has grown from 0.2%, in 1951, to 7.6%, in 2001.

Catholic Church membership in 2013 was 1.254 billion, which is 17.7% of the world population, an increase from 437 million, in 1950 and 654 million, in 1970. The main growth areas have been Asia and Africa, 39% and 32%, respectively, since 2000.

Since 2010, the rate of increase was of 0.3% in the Americas and Europe. On the other hand, Eric Kaufman, of University of London, argued that the main reason for expansion of Catholicism and conservative Protestantism along with other religions is because their religions tend to be “pro-natal” and they have more children, and not due to religious conversion.

Protestantism is one of the most dynamic religious movements in the contemporary world. From 1960 to 2000, the global growth of the number of reported Evangelicals grew three times the world's population rate, and twice that of Islam. Evangelical Christian denominations also are among the fastest-growing denominations in some Catholic Christian countries, such as Brazil and France. In Brazil, the total number of Protestants jumped from 16.2% in 2000 to 22.2% in 2010 (for the first time, the percentage of Catholics in Brazil is less than 70%). These cases don't contribute to a growth of Christianity overall, but rather to a substitution of a brand of Christianity with another one.

According to the records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its membership has grown every decade since its beginning in the 1830s, that it is among the top ten largest Christian denominations in the U.S., and that it was the fastest growing church in the U.S. in 2012.

Studies and reports estimate significantly more people have converted from Islam to Christianity in the 21st century than at any other point in Islamic history. According to 2015 Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census study estimates 10.2 million Muslim convert to Christianity around the world. Conversion into Christianity have also been well documented, and reports estimate that hundreds of thousands of Muslims convert to Christianity annually. Significant number of Muslims converted to Christianity can be found in Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Kosovo, The United States and Central Asia . Many of the Muslims who converts to Christianity face social rejection or imprisonment and sometimes even murder or other punishments for becoming Christians in countries with Muslim majority.

The 19th century saw at least 250,000 Jews convert to Christianity according to existing records of various societies. Data from the Pew Research Center has it that, as of 2013, about 1.6 million adult American Jews identify themselves as Christians, most as Protestants. According to the same data, most of the Jews who identify themselves as some sort of Christian (1.6 million) were raised as Jew] or are Jews by ancestry. According to a 2012 study, 17% of Jews in Russia identify themselves as Christians.

While according to Pew Research Center survey it is expected that from 2010 to 2050 significant number of Christians will leave their faith. Most of the switching are expected into the unaffiliated and Irreligion. The Pew Research study also found that Christianity has the highest number of defectors between 2010 to 2050 compared to any other religions. On the other hand, conversion into Christianity have also been well documented. large increases in the developing world (around 23,000 per day) have been accompanied by substantial declines in the developed world, mainly in Europe and North America. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, approximately 2.7 million converting to Christianity annually from another religion, World Christian Encyclopedia also cited that Christianity rank at first place in net gains through religious conversion. On the other hand, demographer Conrad Hackett of Pew Research Center stated that the World Christian Encyclopedia gives a higher estimate for percent Christian when compared to other cross-national data sets".

It’s been reported also that increasing numbers of young people are becoming Christians in several countries. It's been also reported that conversion into Christianity is significantly increasing among Korean, Chinese, and Japanese in the United States. By 2012 percentage of Christians on mentioned communities was 71%, more than 30% and 37%, respectively. In 2010 there were approximately 180,000 Arab Americans and about 130,000 Iranian Americans who converted from Islam to Christianity, Studies estimated approximately that 20,000 Muslims convert to Christianity annually in the United States. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, between 1965-1985 about 2.5 million Indonesian converted from Islam to Christianity. Many people who convert to Christianity face persecution.


The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) survey, which involved 50,000 participants, reported that the number of participants in the survey identifying themselves as deists grew at the rate of 717% between 1990 and 2001. If this were generalized to the US population as a whole, it would make deism the fastest-growing religious classification in the US for that period, with the reported total of 49,000 self-identified adherents representing about 0.02% of the US population at the time.


Hinduism is a growing religion in countries such as Ghana, the United States, and others. According to 2011 census, Hinduism has become fastest-growing religion in Australia since 2006 due to migration from India. Over 80% of the Republic of India population is Hindu, accounting for about 90% of Hindus worldwide. Their 10-year growth rate is estimated at 20% (based on the period 1991 to 2001), corresponding to a yearly growth close to 2%.


In 1990, 1.1 billion people were Muslims, while in 2010, 1.6 billion people were Muslims. According to the BBC, a comprehensive American study concluded in 2009 the number stood at approximately 23% of the world population with 60% of Muslims living in Asia. From 1990 to 2010, the global Muslim population increased at an average annual rate of 2.2%. By 2030 Muslims are projected to represent about 26.4% of the global population (out of a total of 7.9 billion people). "Although the religion began in Arabia, by 2002 80% of all believers in Islam lived outside the Arab world". On the other hand, in 2010, Pew Forum finds "that statistical data for Muslim conversions are scarce and as per their available information, there is no substantial net gain or loss of Muslims due to religious conversion. It stated that the number of people who embrace Islam and those who leave Islam are roughly equal. Thus, this report excludes the religious conversion as a direct factor from the projection of Muslim population growth." The growth of Islam from 2010 to 2020 has been estimated at 1.70% due to high birthrates in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The report also shows that the fall in birth rate of the Muslims slowed down the growth rate during 1990 to 2010. It is due to the fall of fertility rate in many Muslim majority countries (Despite the decline Muslims still have the highest birth rate among the world’s major religious groups). According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the World Christian Database as of 2007 has Islam as the fastest-growing religion in the world. A 2007 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report argued that some Muslim population projections are overestimated, as they assume that all descendants of Muslims will become Muslims even in cases of mixed parenthood.

Resurgent Islam is one of the most dynamic religious movements in the contemporary world. The Vatican's newly-released 2008 yearbook of statistics revealed that for the first time, Islam has outnumbered the Roman Catholics globally. It stated that, "Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the biggest single religious denomination in the world", and stated that, "It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer". According to the Foreign Policy, High birth rates were cited as the reason for the Muslim population growth. With 3.1 children per woman, Muslims have higher fertility levels than the world’s overall population between 2010 and 2015. High fertility is a major driver of projected Muslim population growth around the world and in particular regions. Between 2010-2015, with exception of the Middle East and North Africa, Muslim fertility of any other region in the world was higher than the rate for the region as a whole. While Muslim birth rates is expected to experience a decline, it will remain above replacement level and higher fertility than the world’s overall by 2050. As per U.N.’s global population forecasts, as well as the Pew Research projections, over time fertility rates generally converge toward the replacement level. Globally, Muslims were younger (median age of 23) than the overall population (median age of 28) as of 2010. While decline of Muslim birth rates in coming years have also been well documented. According to David Ignatius, there is major decline in Muslim fertility rates as pointed out by Nicholas Eberstadt. Based on the data from 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he founds that Muslims birth rate has significantly dropped for 41% between 1975-80 to 2005-10 while the global population decline was 33% during that period. It also stated that over 50% declined was found in 22 Muslim countries and over 60% decline in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait."

According to the religious forecast for 2050 by Pew Research Center, between 2010-2050 modest net gains through religious conversion are expected for Muslims (3 million) and most of the net gains through religious conversion for Muslims found in the Sub Saharan Africa (2.9 million). The study also reveals that, due to young age & relatively high fertility rate among Muslims by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history. According to Pew Research Center the projected Muslims population will equal the Christian population by 2070. While both religions will grow but Muslim population will exceed the Christian population and by 2100, Muslim population (35%) will be 1% more than the Christian population (34%). By the end of 2100 the Muslims are expected to outnumber the Christians. According to the same study, Muslims population growth is twice of world's overall population growth due to young age & relatively high fertility rate and as a result Muslims are projected to rise to 30% (2050) of the world’s population from 23% (2010).

While the total Fertility Rate of Muslims in North America is 2.7 children per woman in the 2010 to 2015 period, well above the regional average (2.0) and the replacement level (2.1). Europe’s Muslim population also has higher fertility (2.1) than other religious groups in the region, well above the regional average (1.6). A new study of Population Reference Bureau by demographers Charles Westoff and Tomas Frejka suggests that the fertility gap between Muslims and non-Muslims is shrinking and although the Muslim immigrants do have more children than other Europeans but their fertility tends to decline over time, often faster than among non-Muslims.

Generally, there are few reports about how many people disaffiliating from Islam in Muslim majority countries. The main reason for this is the social and legal repercussions associated with leaving Islam in many Muslim majority countries, up to and including the death penalty for apostasy. However, the report also suggest that in future, it is also possible that these societies could allow for greater freedom to religiously disaffiliate. On the other hand the increasingly large ex-Muslim communities in the Western world that adhere to no religion have been well documented. A 2007 Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report argued that some Muslim population projections are overestimated, as they assume that all descendants of Muslims will become Muslims even in cases of mixed parenthood. Equally, Darren E. Sherkat questioned in Foreign Affairs whether some of the Muslim growth projections are accurate as they do not take into account the increasing number of non-religious Muslims. Quantitative research is lacking, but he believes the European trend mirrors the American: data from the General Social Survey in the United States show that 32 percent of those raised Muslim no longer embrace Islam in adulthood, and 18 percent hold no religious identification. Studies show that about half of the 4.2 million persons from Muslim background in Germany are no longer embrace Islam in adulthood. Many of the Muslims who leaves Islam faces social rejection or imprisonment and sometimes murder or penalty. According to Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam, there is increasing numbers of Americans who are leaving their faith and becoming unaffiliated and the average Iranian is slightly less religious than the average American. According to Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, the number of Iranian Americans Muslims decreased from 42% in 2008 to 31% in 2012. On the other hand, conversion into Islam have also been well documented. It is reported that around 5,000 British people convert to Islam every year (most of them are women). According to a report by CNN, Islam has drawn converts from all walks of life, most notably African-Americans. Studies estimated approximately 30,000 converting to Islam annually in the United States.

By 2010 an estimated 44 million Muslims were living in Europe (6%), up from 4.1% in 1990. By 2030, Muslims are expected to make up 8% of Europe’s population including an estimated 19 million in the EU (3.8%), including 13 million foreign-born Muslim immigrants. Islam is widely considered as the fastest growing religion in Europe due primarily to immigration and above average birth rates. Between 2010-2015 the Muslim fertility rate in Europe was (2.1), On the other hand, the fertility rate in Europe as a whole was (1.6). Pew study also reveals that Muslims are younger than other Europeans. In 2010, the median age of Muslims throughout Europe was (32), eight years younger than the median for all Europeans (40). According to A religious forecast for 2050 by Pew Research Center show that conversion do not playing importance to the growth of the Muslim population in Europe. according to the same study the net loss is (-60,000) due to the religious switching.

The Pew Research Center notes that "the data that we have isn't pointing in the direction of 'Eurabia' at all", and predicts that the percentage of Muslims is estimated to rise to 8% in 2030, due to immigration and above average birth rates. And only two western European countries - France and Belgium - will become around 10 percent Muslim, by 2030. According to Justin Vaïsse the fertility rate of Muslim immigrants declines with integration. He further points out that Muslims are not a monolithic or cohesive group, Most academics who have analysed the demographics dismiss the predictions that the EU will have Muslim majorities. It is completely reasonable to assume that the overall Muslim population in Europe will increase, and Muslim citizens have and will have a significant imprint on European life. The prospect of a homogenous Muslim community per se, or a Muslim majority in Europe is however out of the question. Eric Kaufman of University of London denied the claims of Eurabia. According to him, Muslims will be a significant minority rather than majority in Europe and as per their projections for 2050 in the Western Europe, there will be 10-15 per cent Muslim population in high immigration countries such as Germany, France and the UK. Eric Kaufman also argue that the main reason why Islam is expanding along with other religions, is not because of conversion to Islam, but primarily to the nature of the religion as he call it “pro-natal”, where Muslims tend to have more children. However, Doug Saunders states that by 2030 Muslims and Non-Muslims birth rates will be equal in Germany, Greece, Spain and Denmark without taking account of the Muslims immigration to these countries. He also states that Muslims & Non-Muslims fertility rate difference will decrease from 0.7 to 0.4 and this different will continue to shrink as a result of which Muslims and non-Muslims fertility rate will be identical by 2050.

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the fastest-growing denomination in Islam is Ahmadiyya with a growth rate of 3.25%. However, most of the Muslim population do not regard Ahmadis to be Muslims. Most other sects have a growth rate of less than 3%.

In 2010 Asia was home for (62%) of the world’s Muslims, and about (20%) of the world’s Muslims lived in the Middle East and North Africa, (16%) in Sub Saharan Africa, and 2% in Europe. By 2050 Asia will home for (52.8%) of the world’s Muslims, and about (24.3%) of the world’s Muslims will live in Sub Saharan Africa, (20%) the Middle East and North Africa, and 2% in Europe. As per the Pew Research study, Muslim populations will grow in absolute number in all regions of the world between 2010 and 2050. The Muslim population in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to reach nearly 1.5 billion by 2050, up from roughly 1 billion in 2010. The growth of Muslims is also expected in the Middle East-North Africa region, It is projected to increase from about 300 million in 2010 to more than 550 million in 2050. Besides, the Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to grow from about 250 million in 2010 to nearly 670 million in 2050 which is more than double. The absolute number of Muslims is also expected to increase in regions with smaller Muslim populations such as Europe and North America. Due to young age & relatively high fertility rate, Muslim population will rise nearly 30% in 2050. In Europe Muslim population will be nearly double (from 6% to 10%). In North America, it will grow 1% to 2%. In Asia Pasific region, Muslims will surpass the Hindus by the time. In 2010 Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria was home for (48%) of the world’s Muslims. By 2050 India is projected to have the world’s largest Muslim population followed by Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh, and expected to be home for (45%) of the world’s Muslims.

There exist different views among scholars about the spread of Islam. Islam began in Arabia and from 633 AD until the late 10th century it was spread through conquests, far-reaching trade and missionary activity.

According to Rodney Stark, Islam was spread after military conquests after Arab armies began overtaking Christian regions from Syria to North Africa and Spain, as well as Buddhist and Hindu regions in Central Asia, parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia via military invasions, traders and Sufi missionaries. According to some scholars, the Jizya (poll tax) was the most important factor in the mass conversion to Islam, the tax paid by all non-Muslims (Dhimmis - which translated means "protected persons") in Islamic empires (such as Christians under Ottoman Empire's authority, Hindus and Buddhists under regime of Muslim invaders, Coptic Christians under administration of the Muslim Arabs, Zoroastrians living under Islamic rule in ancient Persia, and also with Jewish communities in the medieval Arab world) while some scholars acknowledges that Most Muslim rulers in India never consistently collected the jizya (poll tax) from Dhimmis. Under Islamic law, Muslims are required to pay "Zakat" which helps pay for government services including protection from enemies, similar to income tax and other taxes in modern societies; since non-Muslims are not required to pay Zakat, they instead had to pay Jizya if they wanted the same protections the Muslims received.

According to other scholars many converted for a whole host of reasons, the main statement of which was evangelisation by Muslims, though there were some instances where some were pressured to convert owing to internal violence and friction between the Christian and Muslim communities, according to historian Philip Jenkins. However John L. Esposito, a scholar on the subject of Islam in "The Oxford History of Islam" states that the spread of Islam "was often peaceful and sometimes even received favourably by Christians". This statement does not mirror historic activity and documents although. In a 2008 conference on religion at Yale University's The MacMillan Center Initiative on Religion, Politics, and Society which hosted a speech from Hugh Kennedy, he stated forced conversions played little part in the history of the spread of the faith. However, the poll tax known Jizyah may have played a part in converting people over to Islam but as Britannica notes "The rate of taxation and methods of collection varied greatly from province to province and were greatly influenced by local pre-Islamic customs" and there were even cases when Muslims had the tax levied against them, on top of Zakat. Hugh Kennedy has also discussed the Jizyah issue and stated that Muslim governments discouraged conversion but were unable to prevent it.


The American Religious Identification Survey gives Wicca an average annual growth of 143% for the period 1990 to 2001 (from 8,000 to 134,000 – U.S. data / similar for Canada & Australia). According to The Statesman Anne Elizabeth Wynn claims "The two most recent American Religious Identification Surveys declare Wicca, one form of paganism, as the fastest growing spiritual identification in America". Mary Jones claims Wicca is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States as well. Wicca, which is largely a "Pagan" religion primarily attracts followers of nature-based religions in, as an example, the Southeast Valley region of the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area.


In terms of absolute numbers, irreligion appears to be increasing (along with secularization generally). (See the geographic distribution of atheism.)

According to Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (include agnostic and atheist) make up about 18.2% of Europeans population.

The American Religious Identification Survey gave nonreligious groups the largest gain in terms of absolute numbers: 14.3 million (8.4% of the population) to 29.4 million (14.1% of the population) for the period 1990–2001 in the U.S. A 2012 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reports, "The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling."

A similar pattern has been found in other countries such as Australia, Canada, and Mexico. According to statistics in Canada, the number of "Nones" increased by about 60% between 1985 and 2004. In Australia, census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics give "no religion" the largest gains in absolute numbers over the 15 years from 1991 to 2006, from 2,948,888 (18.2% of the population that answered the question) to 3,706,555 (21.0% of the population that answered the question). According to INEGI, in Mexico, the number of atheists grows annually by 5.2%, while the number of Catholics grows by 1.7%. In New Zealand, 39% of the population are irreligious making it largest percentage of total population in Oceania region.

According to a religious forecast for 2050 by Pew Research Center the percentage of the world’s population that unaffiliated or Nonreligious is expected to drop, from 16% of the world’s total population in 2010 to 13% in 2050. The decline is largely due to the advanced age (median age of 34) and low fertility among unaffiliated or Nonreligious 1.7 children per woman in the 2010-2015 period. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman's global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.

By 2050 unaffiliated or Nonreligious was expected to account 27% of North America total population (up from 17.1% as in 2010), and 23% of Europe total population (up from 18% as in 2010) according to Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The religiously unaffiliated are stationed largely in the Asia-Pacific region, where 76% resided in 2010, and is expected to be 68% by 2050. The share of the global unaffiliated population living in Europe is projected to grow from 12% in 2010 to 13% in 2050. The proportion of the global religiously unaffiliated living in North America, will rise from 5% in 2010, to 9% in 2050.

Data collection

Statistics on religious adherence are difficult to gather and often contradictory; statistics for the change of religious adherence are even more so, requiring multiple surveys separated by many years using the same data gathering rules. This has only been achieved in rare cases, and then only for particular countries, such as the American Religious Identification Survey in the United States, or census data from Australia (which has included a voluntary religious question since 1911).

Historical growth

The World Religion Database (WRD) is a peer-reviewed database of international religious statistics based on research conducted at the Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs at Boston University. It is published by Brill and is the most comprehensive database of religious demographics available to scholars, providing data for all of the world's countries. Adherence data is largely compiled from census and surveys. The database groups adherents into 18 broadly-defined categories: Agnostics, Atheists, Baha'is, Buddhists, Chinese folk-religionists, Christians, Confucianists, Daoists, Ethnoreligionists, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, New Religionists, Shintoists, Sikhs, Spiritists, and Zoroastrians. The WRD is edited by demographers Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim.

Future growth

Projections of future religious adherence are based on assumptions that trends, total fertility rates, life expectancy, political climate, conversion rates, secularization, etc will continue. Such forecasts cannot be validated empirically and are contentious, but are useful for comparison.


Growth of religion Wikipedia