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Religious Tolerance logo

World Map

Religions of the world

Numbers of adherents of major religions, their
geographical distribution, date founded, and
sacred texts

Number of adherents of world religions:

According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world. "Over half of them are independent churches that are not interested in linking with the big denominations." 1

Most people in the world follow one of the religions listed in the table below. Included is the name of the religion, the approximate date of its origin, its main sacred or ethical texts (if any) and its estimated numerical strength (both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the world's population.)

These data are often based on census or public opinion data.2 A person is considered to be of a particular religion if they say that they are of that faith. Thus, as of 2015, about 70% of the adults in both the U.S. and Canada are Christians. The U.S. number is gradually declining about 1 percentage point per year, even though the total population of the U.S. is increasing.

Many individuals and religious groups have much more strict definitions for membership. For example, many conservative Christians believe that one has to be "born again" in order to be counted as a Christian. Using this definition, only about 35% of Americans would be counted as Christians. This difference in definitions between conservative Christians and the rest of the population causes much confusion.

Some of the approximately 1,000 Christian faith groups in the U.S. and Canada believe themselves to be the only true Christian denomination. Thus, depending on the definition used, the perceived percentage of Christians in the U.S. are between 0.1 and 75% of the total population.


Image from the U.S. Center for World Mission

Geographical distribution of prevailing organized religions throughout the world:

Map showingthe predominant religion for each country    Index 3

This map shows the most popular organized religion in each country of the world. So, for example, The Netherlands is shown as steel blue (mixed Catholic and Protestant) even though the largest group in the country are NOTAs (persons NOT Affiliated with any organized religion). Similarly, the UK is shown as Protestant Christianity even though weekly church attendance is in the single digits.

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Basic information on various religions:

Religion Date Founded Sacred Texts Membership 4 % of World 5
Christianity 30 CE The Bible 2,039 million 32% (dropping)
Islam 622 CE Qur'an & Hadith 1,570 million 22% (growing)
Hinduism 1500 BCE with truly ancient roots Bhagavad-Gita, Upanishads, & Rig Veda 950 million 13% (stable)
No religion
(Note 1)


None 775 million 12% (dropping)
Chinese folk religion 270 BCE None 390 million 6%
Buddhism 523 BCE The Tripitaka (consisting of the Vinaya, the Sutras, and the Abhidharma) 350 - 1,600 million (2) 6% (stable?)
Tribal Religions, Shamanism, Animism Prehistory Oral tradition 232 million 4%
Atheists No date None 150 million 2%
New religions. Various Various 103 million 2%
Sikhism 1500 CE Guru Granth Sahib 23.8 million <1%
Judaism Note 3 Torah, Tanach, & Talmud 14.5 million <1%
Spiritism     12.6 million <1%
Taoism Note 4  550 BCE Tao-te-Ching 12 to 173 million <1%
Baha'i Faith 1863 CE Alkitab Alaqdas 7.4 million <1%
Confucianism 520 BCE Lun Yu 6.3 million <1%
Jainism 570 BCE Siddhanta, Pakrit 4.3 million <1%
Zoroastrianism 600 to 6000 BCE Avesta 2.7 million <1%
Shinto 500 CE Kojiki, Nohon Shoki 2.7 million <1%
Other Various Various 1.1 million <1%
Wicca Note 5 800 BCE, 1940 CE None 0.5 million? <1%


  • Note 1: Persons with no formal, organized religion include Agnostics, Atheists, Deists, freethinkers, humanists,  secularists, etc. Their numbers are growing in Europe, North America, and other places. With the collapse of Communism in the USSR, the total numbers worldwide dropped precipitously and are now increasing.

  • Note 2: There is no consensus on the number of Buddhists in the worlds. More info.

  • Note 3: There is no consensus on the data of founding of Judaism. Some claim that Adam and Eve were the first Jews, and lived circa 4000 BCE; others suggest that they, and all biblical persons prior to King David are mythical; they never existed. Some would place the date at the time of Abraham, circa 1900 BCE. Some date it to the Exodus from Egypt circa 1490 BCE. Others say that no Exodus happened. On the basis of archeological evidence, many believe that the ancient Hebrews were originally a group of Canaanites who gradually separated from the main body and eventually developed a separate culture. That would certainly explain why so many Jewish holy days were derived from the Pagan Canaanite culture.

  • Note 4: Sources differ greatly. A sampling of the Internet on 2015-DEC-02 showed estimates from to 12 to 173 million:
    • According to a statistical overview in 2011 of religions in China:

      "The number of Taoists is difficult to estimate, due to a variety of factors including defining Taoism. According to a survey of religion in China in the year 2010, the number of people practicing some form of Chinese folk religion is near to 950 million (70% of the Chinese). Among these, 173 million (13%) practice some form of Taoist-defined folk faith. Further in detail, 12 million people have passed some formal initiation into Taoism, or adhere exclusively to it." 6

    • notes that: "Taoism and Confucianism (mixed with Buddhism) are major cultural and philosophical influences in many East Asian nations. Religious Taoism in still very significant in Taiwan." 7

    • reports precicely 6,111,056 people as of 2006. 8

    • and report 20 million followers of Taoism. 9,10

  • Note 5: We have included Wicca even though their numbers are small because such a large percentage of our site's visitors are of that faith. There is no reliable measure of their numbers. Some Wiccans believe that their faith can be traced back to the origins of the Celtic people; other suggest it is a recently created religion and is based on ancient symbols, deities, seasonal celebration, and other factors.

Related essays on this web site:

bullet Name of the place of worship and local leader, accuracy of membership data, and rate of change of membership

bulletDescriptions of dozens of religions and ethical systems

bulletThe religious makeup of each country in the world

References used in the above essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. David B. Barrett, et al., "World Christian Encyclopedia : A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World," Oxford University Press, (2001). Read reviews or order this book
  2. J.W. Wright, Editor, "The Universal Almanac, 1996", Andrews & McMeel, Kansas City.
  3. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. See:
  4. Data from the World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004, Page 612. Derived from the "Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, 2003.
  5. Based on the UN projected world population of 6.301 billion  for mid-2003.
  6. Katharina Wenzel-Teuber, David Strait. "People's Republic of China: Religions and Churches Statistical Overview 2011." Download in PDF format at:
  7. "Predominant Religions,"Adherents, at:
  8. "Taoism adherents by country,"ChartsBin, 2011, at:
  9. "Religion library: Taosim," Patheos, at:
  10. “Taoism.” 2015-NOV-10, at:

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Copyright © 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-DEC-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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