We receive many Emails from visitors to this web site about the above data;
some are quite irate.
Many Emails come from Christians who have the impression that
Christianity is rapidly growing around the world and that the number of
Christian adherents is steadily growing as a percentage of the world's total
population. Christianity certainly is growing. Noted Christian author George
Weigel notes that:
"There were only 558 million Christians in the world in 1900 and there will be approximately 2 billion Christians by the middle of this year , a huge increase."
However, Christianity has been in a very slow decline for years as a percentage of world population. Weigel states: "...Christians were 34.5 percent of world population in 1900,
and will be 33.1 percent in 2002." 1
Various information sources are in general agreement that the three largest
religions in the world are currently, in order, Christianity, Islam, and
Numbers of adherent, in billions, are listed as:
British Broadcasting Corp. 3
Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year (1966) 4
Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year (2003) 5
International Bulletin of Missionary Research 6
Wikipedia Encyclopedia 7
There is reasonable agreement among information sources about the total
number of adherents of the world's largest religions. However, the data should
not be considered precise.
Rate of change of Christians and Muslims:
Of the two largest religions, the "market share" of Christianity appears to
be fairly constant:
U.S. Center for World Mission
estimated in 1997 that the percentage of humans who regard
themselves as Christians rose from 33.7% in 1970 to 33.9% in 1996. 8 Its total
number of adherents is growing at about 2.3% annually. This is approximately equal to the growth
rate of the world's population. Islam is growing faster: about 2.9% and is thus increasing its
"World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative
survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," estimates that as
of 2000, Christians make up 33% of the world's population, with close to
two billion followers.
Author Samuel Huntington disagrees: "The percentage of Christians in the world peaked at about 30 % in the 1980s,
leveled off, is now declining, and will probably approximate to about 25% of the world's
population by 2025. As a result of their extremely high rates of population growth, the
proportion of Muslims in the world will continue to increase dramatically, amounting to 20
percent of the world's population about the turn of the century, surpassing the number of
Christians some years later, and probably accounting for about 30 percent of the world's
population by 2025."
The UK Christian Handbook has lower figures. They estimate that
28.3% of the world's population identified themselves as Christians in 1990.
They expect this to drop to 27.7% by the year 2000, and to 27.1 in 2010. 10They attribute the drop to the lower birth rate among Christians compared to followers of other religions.
Within Christianity, not all denominations have the same growth rate. Some annual
growth rates are:
All Protestants: 3.3%
Roman Catholics and Others: 1.3%
Since the overall growth rate of humanity is above 1.4%, the "market
share" of Roman Catholicism and others appears to be slowly dropping.
Missiologist Ralph Winter estimated in early 2001 that there are 680
million "born again" Christians in the world, and that
they are growing at about 7% a year. This represents about 11% of the
world's population and 33% of the total number of Christians. 1
Reference books on world religion:
The ultimate reference book is the two volume monumental
set, World Christian Encyclopedia, released in mid-2001, by Oxford University
Press. It contains 1699 pages with information about religion in the 238
countries of the world: