The Numbers    

Overview

The largest overall religions:

1900 1) Christianity 2) Chinese folk-religions 3) Hinduism
1970 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism
1990 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism
1995 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism
2000 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism
2025 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism
2050 1) Christianity 2) Islam 3) Hinduism

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 in terms of relative growth compared to existing size of religion:

1. Zoroastrianism 2.65%
2. Bahá'í 2.28%
3. Islam 2.13%
4. Mandeans 2.12%
5. Sikhism 1.87%

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

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

1. Christianity 22,708,799
2. Islam 21,723,118
3. Hinduism 13,194,111
4. Ethnoreligionists 4,098,003
5. Animists 3,985,506

Overall size, absolute numbers

World Christian Encyclopaedia

The World Christian Encyclopaedia (see background), lists the size of the 12 classic world religions.

Religion Numbers % Countries
Christianity 1,999,563,838 33.0% 238
Islam 1,188,242,789 19.6% 204
Hinduism 811,336,265 13.4% 114
Buddhism 359,981,757 5.9% 126
Sikhism 23,258,412 0.4% 34
Judaism 14,434,039 0.2% 134
Bahá'í 7,106,420 0.1% 218
Confucianism 6,298,597 0.1% 15
Jainism 4,217,979 0.1% 10
Shinto 2,761,845 0.0% 8
Taoism 2,654,514 0.0% 5
Zoroastrianism 2,543,950 0.0% 24
Other 1,632,648,595 26.9% -
Total 6,055,049,000 100% 238
Table A ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
• At slightly less than 2 billion, Christianity makes up about a third of the world population and approximately the same as the two next largest religions combined; Islam and Hinduism. Christianity is also the only religion represented in all 238 surveyed countries.

• The largest religion (Christianity) is aprox. 68% larger than the second largest religion (Islam) and 246% larger than the third largest religion (Hinduism).

• The nine smallest religions combined have fewer adherents than the third largest (Hinduism).

• And the eight smallest religions combined have fewer adherents than the fourth largest (Buddhism).

• The combined adherents of the three primary Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, makes up approximately 52.8% (3,202,240,666 persons) of the total population - more than half. Some times also Sikhism and the Bahá'í faith are counted as Abrahamic religions, in which case that number will be slightly higher.

• Non-religious people and people belonging to religions not part of the 12 world religions makes up slightly less than 27%. A smaller number than the largest religion, Christianity, but larger than the second largest religion, Islam.

Affiliation detail (Christianity):
Affiliation Numbers % Countries
Roman Catholics 1,057,328,093 17.5% 235
Independents 385,745,407 6.4% 221
Protestants 342,001,605 5.6% 233
Orthodox 215,128,717 3.6% 135
Anglicans 79,649,642 1.3% 166
Marginal Christians 26,060,230 0.4% 215
Table B ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 1 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 2 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
 

Britannica Encyclopedia

The Britannica Encyclopedia has some slightly different estimates. And for the year 2005.

Religion %
Christianity 33.06%
Islam 20.28%
Hinduism 13.33%
Buddhism 5.87%
Sikhism 0.39%
Judaism 0.23%
Bahá'í 0.12%
Confucianism 0.10%
Jainism 0.07%
Shinto 0.04%
Taoism 0.04%
Zoroastrianism 0.04%
Other 26.43%
Total 100%
Table G ––– source: Britannica Encyclopedia

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%
Table H ––– source: The CIA World Fact Book, 2008 ed.
 

Adherents.com

Adherents.com is a website that aims to collect and present information about religion, including statistics on size. Adherents.com collects the information from a large number of census reports, surveys &etc.

Religion size %
Christianity 2,100,000,000 33%
Islam 1,500,000,000 21%
Hinduism 900,000,000 14%
Buddhism 376,000,000 6%
Sikhism 23,000,000 0.36%
Judaism 14,000,000 0.22%
Table I ––– source: adherents.com

Growth

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%
Table J ––– source: Britannica Encyclopedia

• 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.

Figure 3 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 4 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 5 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 6 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 7 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 8 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 9 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 10 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia

Future estimations based on current size and growth numbers:

2000 (estimated) 2025 (projected) 2050 (projected) Delta (Δ) 2000-2050
Religion Adherents % Adherents % Adherents % Adherents Growth Wrld
Christianity 1,999,563,838 33.0% 2,616,670,052 33.4% 3,051,564,342 34.3% 1,052,000,504 52.61% 1.3%
Islam 1,188,242,789 19.6% 1,784,875,653 22.8% 2,229,281,610 25.0% 1,041,038,821 87.61% 5.4%
Hinduism 811,336,265 13.4% 1,049,230,740 13.4% 1,175,297,850 13.2% 363,961,585 44.86% -0.2%
Buddhism 359,981,757 5.9% 418,344,730 5.3% 424,607,060 4.8% 64,625,303 17.95% -1.1%
Sikhism 23,258,412 0.4% 31,377,860 0.4% 37,058,960 0.4% 13,800,548 59.34% 0.0%
Judaism 14,434,039 0.2% 16,053,350 0.2% 16,694,500 0.2% 2,260,461 15.66% 0.0%
Bahá'í 7,106,420 0.1% 12,062,150 0.2% 18,000,900 0.2% 10,894,480 153.30% 0.1%
Confucianism 6,298,597 0.1 6,817,950 0.1 6,952,900 0.1 654,303 10.39% 0.0%
Jainism 4,217,979 0.1 6,115,650 0.1 6,732,770 0.1 2,514,791 59.62% 0.0%
Shinto 2,761,845 0.0% 2,122,950 0.0% 1,655,400 0.0% -1,106,445 -40.06% 0.0%
Taoism 2,654,514 0.0% 3,066,300 0.0% 3,272,200 0.0% 617,686 23.27% 0.0%
Zoroastrianism 2,543,950 0.0% 4,439,930 0.1% 6,964,700 0.1% 4,420,750 173.78% 0.1%
Others 1,632,648,595 27.0% 1,872,525,685 24.0% 1,931,011,808 22.0% 298,363,213 18.27% -5.6%
Total 6,055,049,000 100% 7,823,703,000 100% 8,909,095,000 1000% 2,854,046,000 47.13% -
Table K ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
• The "Δ adherents" is the sum of new adherents from the year 2000 to the year 2050.

• The "Δ growth" is the size of the religion in 2050 compared to the year 2000.

• The "Δ wrld" is the growth from 2000 to 2050 in the size of the religion of the world population.

• In the period 2000-2050, in terms of absolute numbers, Christianity is predicted to be the fastest growing religion (1,052 billion more adherents). Closely followed by Islam (+1.041 billion) – though the difference between the two numbers is so small that any difference easily lies within the statistical uncertainty.

• Since Islam from the base point in 2000 is a smaller overall religion than Christianity (about 60% the size of Christianity) the same (roughly) growth in absolute number of adherents translate into a larger relative growth. Respectively 87.61% versus 52.61% in relation to the initial size of the religion & 5.4% versus 1.3% as a proportion of the religions size compared to the global human population.

• In terms of growth in percentage, Zoroastrianism (+173.78%) & Bahá'í (+153.30%) are the two fastest growing religions. But since their base size is comparatively small (respectively 0.12% & 0.36% the size of Christianity), this strong growth has only a small influence on the relative size of tabulated religions (both gain 0.1% "market share").

Figure 11 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia
Figure 12 ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia

Analyses, Growth pattern:

Conversion

Only religions with a positive number of converts (i.e. more converts into, than converts out from) are included.

Religion Conversions Rate to total growth Rate to size Number of adherents to each new convert
Christianity 2,501,396 9.92% 0.13% 799
Islam 865,558 3.83% 0.07% 1,373
Buddhism 156,609 4.25% 0.04% 2,298
Sikhism 28,961 7.38% 0.12% 803
Bahá'í 26,333 18.35% 0.37% 270
Zoroastrianism 13,080 22.37% 0.51% 194
Table L ––– source: World Christian Encyclopaedia

• Rate to total growth is the size of the total growth of the religion which comes from converts. A high number can signify many converts or a low natural growth, conversely a low rate can signify few converts or high natural growth.

• Rate to size is the relative size of the number of converts to the size of the whole religion.

• Number of adherents to each new convert is the number of adherents of a religion to the number of new converts. This and the previous column ("Rate to size") illustrate the same information.

• Christianity is by far the fastest growing religion in regard to new converts. 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).

• Zoroastrianism followed by Bahá'í are the two religions which springs the largest part of their total growth from new converts (22.37%, 18.35%).

• Zoroastrianism and Bahá'í have the highest number of converts in relation to the size of the religions (0.51%, 0.37%). Buddhism and Islam manage the least new converts in relation to this size (0.04%, 0.07%).

Natural growth

Religion Natural growth total Rate to total growth Rate to size
Christianity 22,708,799 90.08% 1.14%
Islam 21,723,118 96.17% 1.83%
Hinduism 13,194,111 100% 1.63%
Buddhism 3,530,918 95.75% 0.98%
Sikhism 363,677 92.62% 1.56%
Judaism 194,962 100% 1.35%
Bahá'í 117,158 81.65% 1.65%
Confucianism 55,739 100% 0.88%
Jainism 74,539 100% 1.77%
Shinto 8,534 100% 0.31%
Taoism 25,397 100% 0.96%
Zoroastrianism 45,391 77.63% 1.78%
Table M ––– source: Christian Encyclopaedia

• Rate to total growth is the part of the total growth which comes from natural growth. I.e. subtracted the part coming from growth due to new converts.

• Rate to size is the natural growth compared to the size of the religion. Says something of the overall fertility of the people in the religion.

• Christianity is the fastest growing religion in terms of the growing number of new Christians due to a positive population growth (22,708,799 new Christians / year).

• Islam followed by Zoroastrianism are the religions with the highest natural growth in relation to their overall size. i.e. have the highest population growth rate (1.83%, 1.78%).

Demographic transition and declining fertility

Total fertility rate (TFR)(Term 14) is measured as the average number of children women from a particular country will bear if she lives to the end of her childbearing years and bear children according to a given fertility rate at each age. TFR is the best predictor of future population growth. In Western and industrialised countries a TFR of approx. 2.1 – i.e. each women in generally giving birth to 2.1 children (or rather a random sample of 100 women giving birth to 210 children) - is considered the replacement level(Term 16). The birth level where the population over time is stable, neither growing nor shrinking, but exactly replacing itself. In less developed countries with higher mortality rate, the replacement level can be higher, someplaces as high as 3.5. A growing population can be achieved by raising the fertility rate (quantity) or lowering the replacement level (quality). Countries with a sub-replacement fertility – a TFR below the replacement level - can still grow their population over a relative short period due to a population momentum, caused by a previous above replacement fertility resulting in a high number of young people in the child bearing age. But over a sustained period a sub-replacement fertility will always result in a shrinking population.

Over the last 22 years (1989 – 2010) the average fertility rate of the whole word declined from 3.50 to 2.56. A fall of 0.94 children per. women or 27% less children per women over the 22 years. The weighted average fertility rate for Christian nations(Term 12) declined from 3.26 to 2.56. A fall of 0.7 children per. women, or 21% less children per women over the 22 years. The weighted average fertility rate for the Muslim nations(Term 13) declined from 5.17 to 3.00. A fall of 2.17 children per. women or 42% less children per women over the 22 years. The fertility gap of 0.24 children per women, which existed between the world average and the average for Christian countries disappeared. The fertility gap between the Muslim countries and the Christian average declined from 59% in 1989 to 17% in 2010, a narrowing of the gap of 71%. If the trends of the last 22 years continue – which they are likely to do, since population trends tend to be fairly predictable in the near future – the Muslim and world/Christian fertility will converge in around 2015. Revised down from 2022/3 from last projection, made with numbers available until 2008.

1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Avg. world fertility 3.50 3.40 3.30 3.30 3.20 3.10 3.10 2.90 2.90 2.90 2.80
Avg. Christian fertility 3.26 3.14 3.08 2.95 2.87 2.84 2.84 2.66 2.62 2.63 2.61
Avg. Muslim fertility 5.17 5.25 5.05 4.92 4.78 4.75 4.60 4.28 4.18 4.05 3.81
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Avg. world fertility 2.80 2.73 2.70 2.65 2.62 2.60 2.59 2.59 2.61 2.58 2.56
Avg. Christian fertility 2.62 2.55 2.54 2.51 2.49 2.46 2.50 2.52 2.60 2.58 2.56
Avg. Muslim fertility 3.69 3.62 3.56 3.56 3.52 3.47 3.44 3.37 3.30 3.23 3.00
Table N ––– source: CIA World Fact Book ed. 1998-2010
Figure 13 ––– source: CIA World Fact Book ed. 1998-2010
Figure 14 ––– source: CIA World Fact Book ed. 1998-2009
 
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