Using the current size and geographic distribution of the world's major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion, researchers at the Global Religious Futures project modeled population changes to 2050. Their results show that, based on current demographic trends, by 2050:
- The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
- Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
- The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
- In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
- India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
- In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
- Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers attribute much of the worldwide growth of Islam to a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates, particularly in developing countries where infant mortality rates have been falling.
Readers interested in religious topics and questions should explore the Global Religious Futures Project website (http://globalreligiousfutures.org/), which covers a wide range of questions related to the topic of global religious trends, provides customizable interactives, and allows users to download data and share visualizations in various ways. The data currently in the Global Religious Futures database includes:
- Data on characteristics of the populations of 234 countries and territories in 2010 and projected through 2050
- Data on research questions related to government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion in 198 countries and territories
- Select questions from two extensive public opinion surveys that cover more than 40 countries
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