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Religious populations growing faster than atheists worldwide; 2 Christian denominations stand out: report

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Despite an increase in the overall number of atheists worldwide, new research reveals that the population of religious people is growing at a faster pace than that of their secular counterparts. 

Lifeway Research has identified “7 Encouraging Trends of Global Christianity in 2022” based on data collected by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Massachusetts-based Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Specifically, the data titled the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report, demonstrates that “religious faith is growing faster than the irreligious.” 

The 2022 Status of Global Christianity report includes statistics about Christianity from 1900, 1970, 2000 and mid-2022 and features projections for 2025 and 2050. The data found that the population of “religionists,” those who subscribe to a particular religion, grew at a rate of 1.27% between 2000 and 2022. By contrast, the number of atheists only grew at a rate of 0.18% in the same time period. 

While the number of atheists in the world has increased from approximately 141.5 million in 2000 to about 147 million now, the number of atheists remains below the record high of 165,156,000 measured in 1970. The number of atheists is predicted to decrease to approximately 143 million by 2050. The number of religionists increased from about 5.3 billion in 2000 to roughly 7 billion now and is projected to approach 9 billion by 2050. 

Another encouraging trend touched upon by Lifeway is the growth of Christianity in particular. The number of Christians worldwide increased 1.17% from 2000 to 2022.

Christian denominations that experienced the fastest growth rates are Evangelicals (1.8%) and Pentecostals/charismatics (1.88%). The increase in the number of Pentecostals worldwide is expected to continue at a rapid pace. While fewer than 1 million people across the globe identified as Pentecostal in 1900, that number is expected to top 1 billion in 2050.

By 2050, Pentecostals could account for roughly one-third of the 3.33 billion Christians. Pentecostals were measured as the second-largest group of Christians in 2022, with Catholics taking the top spot. There were about 1.25 billion Catholics in 2022, and that number is expected to rise to around 1.5 billion by 2050. 

Additionally, Lifeway noted that Christianity is growing the fastest in the global south, consisting of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania. The share of Christians in Africa soared by a rate of 2.27% in the past 22 years. Asia, Latin America and Oceania also saw rapid growth rates in the number of Christians measured at 1.50%, 1.09% and 0.73%, respectively.

Currently, Africa is home to about 700 million Christians, while Asia has about 400 million, Latin America has roughly 600 million and approximately 29 million reside in Oceania. The growth in Christianity in the global south is expected to continue into 2050. By then, about 1.3 billion Christians are projected to live in Africa, along with more than half a million residing in Asia, nearly 700 million in Latin America, and about 35 million in Oceania.

Another finding from the 2022 Status of Global Christianity report reveals that Christianity has become less concentrated in Christian-majority countries. In other words, while there are more Christians worldwide, these Christians are spread out among more countries. The percentage of Christians who live in a country where Christianity is the majority religion decreased from 59% in 2000 to 53.7% in 2022. By 2050, the study estimates that most Christians (50.4%) will live in a country where Christianity is not the dominant religion.

Non-Christians’ exposure to Christians has also increased over the years. In 2022, 18.3% of non-Christians surveyed said they knew a Christian. That figure has gradually increased over the years, with 5.4% saying the same in 1900. The percentage of non-Christians who know a Christian is expected to increase to 20% in 2050. 

The number of Bibles printed in 2022 is expected to increase substantially compared to 2000. The 2022 Status of Global Christianity report predicts that 93 million Bibles will be printed worldwide this year, compared to the 54 million printed in 2000. The number of Bibles printed is projected to reach 120 million in 2050. 

The decrease in the number of Christians who died for their faith constituted the final encouraging trend of Global Christianity in 2022. While the number of Christian martyrs over a 10-year period reached a high of 1.6 million in 2000, that number has dropped by nearly half to around 900,000 in 2022. By 2050, the number of Christian martyrs is forecast to rise to 1 million. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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