The Future of Religion

By Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi

Pew Research Center recently released a report on the future of world religion. Using population growth projections, researchers have predicted which traditions will increase in membership and which traditions will decline in the next 35 years. The report summarizes what global religion will look like by 2050:

  • 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 – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

When looking at projections for the U.S. alone, the report predicts that “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. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.” In addition, those who identify as “unaffiliated” will increase from 16% to 26% of the total population, even though the percentage of unaffiliateds will decrease globally.

Projections are incredibly important for our time, especially since global religious affiliations are changing so rapidly at this point in history.

Re-interpreting faith for the “now” is the task of every generation.

Kristina Lizardy-Hajibi is the Director, UCC Center for Analytics, Research and Data