The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths.
Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion, the Pew Research Center says.
According to a new Pew Research Center study, by 2050 the number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world If current trends continue. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
As of 2010, Christianity was by far the world’s largest religion, with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth. Islam was second, with 1.6 billion adherents, or 23% of the global population.
If current demographic trends continue, however, Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73%. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate (35%) as the global population overall.
As a result, according to the Pew Research projections, 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.
Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman – well above replacement level (2.1), the minimum typically needed to maintain a stable population. Christians are second, at 2.7 children per woman.
Another important determinant of growth is the current age distribution of each religious group – whether its adherents are predominantly young, with their prime childbearing years still ahead, or older and largely past their childbearing years.
In 2010, more than a quarter of the world’s total population (27%) was under the age of 15. But an even higher percentage of Muslims (34%) and Hindus (30%) were younger than 15, while the share of Christians under 15 matched the global average (27%). These bulging youth populations are among the reasons that Muslims are projected to grow faster than the world’s overall population and that Hindus and Christians are projected to roughly keep pace with worldwide population growth.
Owing to the difficulty of peering more than a few decades into the future, the projections stop at 2050, the Center says. However, it stresses that by the year 2100, about 1% more of the world’s population might be Muslim (35%) than Christian (34%) providing that certain trends continue.
www.belsat.eu/en/, via Pew Research Center