Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We're not dead yet! Christianity is still the world's largest religion.

It is not unusual to read or hear about the steady decline of Christianity in the world. And to some degree this is true, at least in places like Europe and North America. But in the two-thirds world, Christianity is growing. The result is that the growth of Christianity has been somewhat consistent over the last 100 years, but the location of the growth has shifted.

The Pew Forum has released a report on Global Christianity. Here is a bit of what they have to say.

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world, representing nearly a third of the estimated 2010 global population of 6.9 billion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.

A century ago, this was not the case. In 1910, about two-thirds of the world’s Christians lived in Europe, where the bulk of Christians had been for a millennium, according to historical estimates by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Today, only about a quarter of all Christians live in Europe (26%). A plurality – more than a third – now are in the Americas (37%). About one in every four Christians lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%), and about one-in-eight is found in Asia and the Pacific (13%).

The number of Christians around the world has nearly quadrupled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).

This apparent stability, however, masks a momentous shift. Although Europe and the Americas still are home to a majority of the world’s Christians (63%), that share is much lower than it was in 1910 (93%). And the proportion of Europeans and Americans who are Christian has dropped from 95% in 1910 to 76% in 2010 in Europe as a whole, and from 96% to 86% in the Americas as a whole.

Christianity is still the largest religion in the world followed by Islam. But the center is moving elsewhere from Europe and North America. As they say in real estate. It's all about location.

You can read the whole report here. There site also provides some interactive maps and a quiz. I got eight out of ten correct.


  1. Well, gee, since Christians are the majority, they should rule, right?
    Of course, rule in the way the Jesus told the guys after James' and John's mom got involved.
    Mat. 20:25-28...
    "Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
    Happy Holidays and Merry "Chi-mas"!

  2. Some interesting writing:
    1) 600 million --> 2 billion is not "nearly quadrupled," it's more like "a little more than tripled" (2B÷600M = ~3.3). Population, meanwhile, *has* nearly quadrupled: 6.9B÷1.8B = ~3.83. Result: as a whole, the percentage of Christians /is/ declining according to this report, however slightly (vs. being basically flat as the report seems to imply). 35% to 32% is a small, but still significant change—a roughly 8.5% decline.

    2) I find the numbers reported for the West (Europe especially) a bit surprising (76% identify as Christians as of 2010?). From what I have heard, churches are virtually empty in Europe, esp in Western Europe (am I misinformed?).

    Likewise, here in America, there is no way that 83% of our population (as of 2010) are even regular church attenders, let alone committed, practicing Christians. Whether it was when I lived in various parts of PA, Akron OH, or now here in SoCal, the streets and highways are hardly more empty than they are on Sunday morning.

    How exactly are they (whoever "they" is) determining who is a Christian? Judging by these numbers, my guess is "they say they are," and the majority of those self-reporting as Christian must be nominal at best. My guess is more than half of those who self report as Christians in this country just consider themselves Christian because they are American, celebrate Christmas, and look to the church in time of crisis or for wedding and funeral needs, but otherwise seldom if ever attend a church or intentionally seek to deepen their relationship with God.

    I wonder whether or not the same is true in the 2/3's world, or to what degree? I wonder if in fact the ratio of "committed" Christians to "reporting" Christians in the 2/3's World is much higher? This would almost certainly be the case in regions where Christianity is not the dominant faith and especially regions where professing Christians are marginalized or persecuted.

  3. Doug,

    I wondered about these numbers as well. I decided not to say anything and to wait and see what others had to say. But they do seem a bit inflated.