Christianity's growth will be in global South, Pew study shows

Judith QuinnApr 07, 2017

That's according to a new Pew Research study showing that deaths among Christians outnumbered births in Europe by nearly six million between 2010 and 2015.

In 2015, it said that Muslims are projected to be the world's fastest-growing major religious group in the decades ahead. Thirty-three percent of the world's babies were born to Christian mothers between 2010 and 2015, while Christians comprise only 31 percent of the world population.

Pew predicts that except for Islam and Christianity, all major world religions are projected to make up a smaller percentage of the global population in 2060 than they did in 2015. Places with older populations and low fertility such as China, Japan, Europe, and North America have larger religiously unaffiliated populations - while Islam and Christianity are growing in developing regions with higher birth rates and falling infant mortality rates such as countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And between 2055 and 2060, the gap between the two is predicted to reach six million, with 232 million births for Muslims and 226 million to Christians.

"Between 2015 and 2020, Christians are projected to experience the largest losses due to switching", the report adds.

The number of babies born to people who do not identify with any particular religion is also expected to decline.

Muslims gave birth to 213 million children and lost 61 million people to death - a net increase of 152 million.

Earlier, in its other report the research body had said that by 2050, India will have the highest number of Muslim population in the world even outnumbering Indonesia, which now has the largest Muslim population. The global Christian population has continued to grow, but at a slower rate.

Among the religiously unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, no particular religion) deaths outnumbered births by at least 10,000 in Austria, Ukraine and Russian Federation but this group saw either a natural increase in 19 countries or little change in 20 countries between 2010 or 2015.

The report clarifies that just because it tallies babies born to mothers of certain religions, that doesn't mean that those babies will remain in the religion their mother is affiliated with.

Hindus (27) are also younger than the median age of the world's overall population (30), while the median age of Christians (30) matches the global median. By 2060, 9% of the global unaffiliated population will live in the United States alone, according to the projections. By 2035, estimates suggest there will be 225 million babies born to Muslims while only 224 million born to Christians. Pew researchers took into account expected conversion rates, but said birth and death rates would have a far greater impact on religious populations.

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