Thursday, January 17, 2013

Unbelief is now world's third largest religion

New stats from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study on The Global Religious Landscape.

84% of the world's 7 billion people adhere to some form of religion.

Christians are the largest group, 2.2 billion (32%).

Muslims are the second largest, 1.6 billion (23%).

"Nones" (no religious affiliation or don't believe in God) are 1.1 billion (16%).

This makes "nones" about the same size as the Catholic church worldwide.


One out of six people worldwide does not have a religious identity.


Next largest group is Hindus, 1 billion (15%).

Then Buddhists, 500 million (7%).

Then Jews, 14 million (.2 percent).

Note that after Buddhists, all other religious traditions are miniscule as a percentage of the global population.

400 million people (6%) practice folk traditions.

An additional 58 million people (~1%) belong to other religions, such as Baha'i, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism.


The nation with the most Christians is the United States (243 million), although Christians are widely distributed around the globe.

The majority of the world's religiously unnafiliated live in the Asia-Pacific region, especially China (700 million).

There are 51 million religiously unaffiliated Americans.

The religiously unafiliated are in the majority in six nations: China, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan, and North Korea.

The unaffiliated, Buddhists, and Jews have the highest median age, while Muslims, Hindus and Christians have the lowest. Median age is a predictor of how religious groups will grow.

One warning from the researchers is that such surveys sometimes over-estimate certain population groups, especially Christians.


  1. I think this kind of reference is interesting but not an accurate reflection of the faith life of many "nones." It shows an insider perspective and assumes religion is the basis for the measure of a stance. Therefore, there is a tendency to want to believe that nones don't believe in God. Penn Jilette (of Penn and Teller fame) wrote an excellent essay for "This I Believe" on NPR. It was one of the finest and clearest essays in the series. He said as an atheist it isn't that he doesn't believe in God - that misrepresents his stance. It sounds like his identity is grounded in his lack of faith. Penn says he is very clear what he does believe - he believes there is NO God, period. It is not a lack of faith from his perspective but beliefs with a content that clearly believes that there is no God. So "nones" may have no religious affiliation but we cannot with any fairness to them say they do not believe in something. They simply believe things other than most people with religion as the core content of their faith.

  2. There are so-called 'nones' in the Catholic Church; and that does not make them not Catholic. There are Catholic souls that are in other religions, and other Christianity; and that does not make them not to be Catholic. The Catholic numbers are vast; and come in first place in Europe, with Orthodox in second. This is due to these 'nones'.
    If these 'nones' were formerly Protestant --although doubted, or never had faith-- then they should reconsider. The condition of Protestantism, and these 'nones'; are correlated, in that the former Protestant societies have lost faith.
    As of right now there is a spiritual struggle of religious and civilizational proportion in Africa; and with encouraged stewardship and prayer; Protestantism might prevail. Asia is where Protestant churches should be working as well. The potential for an increase in Christ, and his Church is evident.
    The spiritual reality that may lead you to criticize the necessity, of Protestant versus Catholic concerns; you may not be able to come to terms with, and such indifference has lead to the 'nones'. Or to conversion to Roman Catholicism and Oriental/Eastern Orthodoxy. I ask you are you a none?

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