Christians a Plurality Worldwide, about One Third of All People
January 10, 2013
Christianity is the largest religion in the world (by a significant margin), comprising almost a third of the world’s population (about 2.2 billion).
The Pew Research Center has a new report out (December 2012) on The Global Religious Landscape (as of 2010).
As Pew explains, “This study is based on self-identification.” It is “based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers”.
According to Pew, there are currently “2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010.”
Some people make much of the fact that Christians have had some schisms over the years. People may even argue that some denominational traditions are so different from each other that they can’t be considered one religion.
It seems pretty clear to me that we’re all one church—from Catholics to non-denominational congregations, we’re all united by the things that are most central to Christianity, belief
- in the Trinity (God is one being in three persons; God is love; God is good; etc.);
- that we’re all sinners;
- and that in Jesus, the second person of the Trinity became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God;
and practice, including
- baptism and
—but I can understand if some people find the schisms distracting. So I want to point out that the splintering into thousands of denominations is basically an American phenomenon. The three largest denominations worldwide account for about two thirds of all Christians. Those three are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans; all three have very similar theology and religious practices.
(My source is the Pew report from the previous year, December 2011, on Global Christianity: It found that Catholics represent 50.1% of Christendom, Eastern Orthodox 11.9%, and Anglicans 10.6% of the 36.7% of Christians who are Protestant—i.e., 3.9% of Christians worldwide are Anglicans. The three together add up to 65.9% of all Christians.)
That’s more than 1.4 billion people; even if you threw away the other third of Christendom, the remaining Christians would still represent the second-largest religion in the world, almost as numerous as Muslims (1.6 billion)—and we didn’t get there the way they did, and we don’t keep our numbers the way they do.
I’m not saying that being the biggest proves that Christianity is true, but if you’re trying to decide what to believe, it’s something to think about.