THE WORLD is more religious than many of us assume. Reports of rampant secularization, which have been popular for decades now (including stark warnings from the Vatican), seem to be much ado about nothing. Just in time for our new year, the Pew Forum has released a long-awaited map of the world’s religious populations. The remarkable opening lines of this report are:
Worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries and territories conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
Click the map above or right here to visit the homepage for the Pew report.
THE NEW POPULATION ESTIMATES FOR GLOBAL RELIGOUS GROUPS
Visit the Pew website, where you’ll find a link to download the entire report in a PDF format, but here are the new population estimates that are likely to show up in news media reports in 2013.
CHRISTIANS: 32 percent of the world’s population; 2.2 billion people.
MUSLIMS: 23 percent of the world; 1.6 billion.
HINDUS: 15 percent of the world; 1 billion.
BUDDHISTS: 7 percent; 500 million.
JEWS: 0.2 percent; 14 million.
COLLECTIVE CATEGORIES IN THE PEW REPORT:
FOLK or TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS: 6 percent; 400 million. Category includes African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions.
OTHER RELIGIONS: 1 percent; 58 million. Category includes the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.
NO RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: 16 percent; 1.1 billion. Category includes people who say they have no faith—as well as people who hold non-affiliated spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit.
BREAKING OUT THE ‘OTHER RELIGIONS’ CATEGORY
In the middle of Pew’s 81-page report is a fascinating section offering “estimates of population” for “Other Religions” that the Pew researchers drew from a wide variety of data. These religions “are not specifically measured in most censuses or surveys” around the world, so studying their populations is a greater challenge, Pew reports. Here is where the Pew report sets those numbers for us at the moment:
SIKHISM: 25 million (“more than 9 in 10 Sikhs are in India”)
TAOISM (or DAOISM): 8 million (“predominantly in China and Taiwan”)
BAHA’I FAITH: 5 million (“with significant populations in India, the U.S., Kenya and elsewhere”).
JAINISM: 4,250,000 million but Jains say the number likely is higher (“the vast majority of Jains live in India” with significant minority communities “in Kenya, the U.S., Canada and the UK.”)
SHINTO: almost 3 million (“vast majority concentrated in Japan”)
ZOROASTRIANISM: 200,000 (“mainly in India and Iran”)
TENRIKYO: unknown (“founded in the 19th century by Nakayama Miki” as “one of many new Japanese religions”) Wikipedia claims 2 million adherents, but Pew says too little reliable data is available.
WICCA (or PAGAN or NEO-PAGAN): unknown (“gained popularity in the 20th century” and “practiced mostly in the UK and the US”) Wikipedia cites wildly divergent estimates from more than 100,000 to 800,000; Pew regards the available data as unreliable for making an estimate.
OTHER—“OTHER RELIGIONS”: The Pew study’s total for Other Religions includes groups that, like Tenrikyo and Wicca, do not have reliable worldwide population estimates. Those groups, nevertheless, are listed by Pew as groups they wish to follow in their studies: from Japan, the new religions known as Shinreikyo, Mahikari, Oomoto and PL Kyodan; and from other parts of the world, the religions known as Cao Dai, I-Kuan Tao, Mandaeism, the Rastafari movement, the Ratana movement, Scientology and Yazidism.