Religion statistics

March 28th, 2013 in Belief. Tags: , , , ,

Graph of growth of religions

I am a bit of a statistics nerd, so when I came across some stats on the world’s major religions in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, I couldn’t resist playing around with them.

Note (2023): For updated statistics, see World’s biggest religion?

Growth over the last century

The graph above shows the growth in numbers of the world’s major religions (plus a projection to 2025), and the decline in numbers of people not following one of these. I would guess the main reason for this decline is the missionary work in Africa, where large gains in Christianity and smaller gains in Islam have resulted in large losses from local animistic religions.

The figures show both Christianity and Islam gaining about the same number overall, with smaller growth in Buddhism and Hinduism. A subset of Christianity, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, has been responsible for most of this growth, especially in Africa. As a result, Christianity has overtaken Islam as the majority religion in Africa.

Percentages of world population

The figures show that Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism have all grown at about the same rate as the world population, thus staying approximately the same percentage of the total. Islam and Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians show significant growth as a percentage of the world.

Graph of religions as percentage

In 1900, European and North American Christians comprised more than three quarters of the world’s Christians, but now they are only one third. The number of Christians in Europe and North America is still growing slowly, but the numbers in Africa, Asia and South America are growing rapidly.

Does this tell us anything?

None of this is very surprising. The big questions are, I suppose:

  • How much more will Islam and Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity grow? Will they level off soon? Where will new converts come from (or will growth be via a higher birthrate)?
  • Will Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity become the dominant form of the faith before much longer? (It has already grown from zero to a quarter of all Christians in just over a century.)


  1. I think both Christianity and Islam have reached their climax in terms of followers and teachings. Religion is not going to die at all and there is an inductive reason for it. Irreligious has lived along religious teachings but they have never succeeded getting ride of religion. Religious teachings like all other creatures are evolving and it is the Bahai religion that speaks for our time.

  2. Hi Ahmad, thanks for visiting my blog, and for commenting.

    So are you a Baha’i? Did you grow up Baha’i or are you a convert? Do you think the Baha’i religion will grow to take over from Islam and Christianity? Can you tell me why you think that (if you do)?

    I have had some interaction with Baha’is, they were good people.

  3. Hi unkleE,

    First let me to introduce myself properly. My name is Ahmad Entizami. I have been living in Australia since August 2001, all in Adelaide. I am writing a research proposal for my thesis at the moment on “Is established religion dying out?”. That is how I found your blog and I have to admit its a very rich and resourceful blog. I would like to congratulate you for it. I have been reading your blog in the past week and the references you provided here have been very useful for me.

    I was born in a muslim family. I accepted the Bahai faith as my religion in Australia back in 2005. Now I consider myself as a Bahai.

    To answer your question why I think the Bahai teachings will takeover the old religious teachings, is not honestly an easy task to articulate here. However, like I said before there is a historical justification for my claim and an evolutionary one as well. The principle of the Bahai teachings is the oneness of God and humanity. Bahais believe that religion is one in its essence but differs in their temporal teachings because the norms of society and morals change overtime. for the sake of brevity this should be enough. However, If you like we can carry it on further but has to on a specific topic.

    Would I be able to request you to help me with resources please to write the research proposal for my thesis, if that is okay. Thanks.

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