More than Half of World’s Population is Christian or Muslim

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stop any 10 people on the globe and it’s likely that five or more of them are either a Christian or a Muslim.


After conducting a comprehensive study of more than 230 countries and territories, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life reports that Christians and Muslims account for 55% of the world’s population. There are about 2.2 billion Christians, representing 32%, and another 1.6 billion who worship Islam, accounting for an additional 23%.


Overall, about 80% of all people identify with a religious group, according to the Pew study.


In addition to Christians and Muslims, there are about one billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%). Another 400 million people (6%) practice folk or traditional religions. Approximately 58 million people (less than 1%) belong to other religions, including Sikhism, Taoism, the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Shintoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, among others.


Notably, one in every six people has no religious affiliation. Accounting for 16% of the population (1.1 billion people), the unaffiliated thereby constitute the third-largest religious group in the world, behind Christians and Muslims. According to surveys, many of these individuals hold some spiritual belief, in spite of not identifying with a specific faith.


In the United States, 78.3% of the population are Christians, 16.4% are unaffiliated, 1.8% are Jewish and 1.2% are Buddhist.


Followers of most of the major religions tend to live in nations in which they are the majority: Hindus 97%, Christians 87% and Muslims 73%.  Buddhists and Jews, on the other hand, are more likely to be in the minority, with 72% and 59% respectively.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

The Global Religious Landscape (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)

Religious Composition by Country (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)

Our Christian Earth: The Astounding Reach of the World’s Largest Religion, in Charts and Maps (by Max Fisher, Washington Post)


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