The numbers of Christians and Muslims around the world will stand at a near tie by 2050 if current trends continue, a new study from Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life section found.
Currently, Christians make up the larger head count of the two religions.
Fertility rates and the size of youth populations are the driving factors behind a huge shift in the populations of the world’s religions, Pew said. And over the next few decades, Christianity will lose its spot as the dominant religion.
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Among the survey’s findings: “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 … will make up a declining share of the world’s total population. … 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.”
And one more item of note: “Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion,” Pew found.
According to 2010 statistics, Christianity is “by far” the largest religion in the world, with 2.2 billion who claim adherence to the faith, or about 31 percent of the world’s population of 6.9 billion, Pew found. Islam comes in second, with about 1.6 billion who follow the faith, about 23 percent of the world’s population.
But in the coming four decades, Islam is projected to catch up to Christianity.
“Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase,” Pew said. “Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate, 35 percent, as the global population overall.”
This will lead to a 2.8 billion Muslim population by 2050, compared to a 2.9 billion Christian population – and the parity’s being described as a historical first. It’s due largely to fertility rates.
“Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman,” Pew said. “Christians are second, at 2.7 children per woman.”
But in the United States fertility rates have held at between 1.9 and 2.1 over the past decade, and western European fertility rates are consistently below 2.0 children per woman. Any fertility rate under 2.1 is below replacement level.