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The Global Religious Census-2010

Updated on March 29, 2017

What is your religion? What is the position of your religion among the other ones in the world? Which has the most number of followers? Is Christianity still the No. 1 religion or is it Islam? What is the position of Hinduism? We have many doubts and questions to ask on religions. Asking question is easy but finding answer is not so.

It is, but not as tough as you think thanks to the hard work invested by an International agency called 'Pew Research Center'. They have made an extensive research which brought forward some vital information regarding the size and distribution of world's major religious groups as of 2010. They give us data on the number of followers of each major religion in the world.

As you are aware, the major religions can be classified as Christianity, Islam Hinduism and Buddhism. Those coming in the minor groups are Judaism or Jews, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism etc. There may be a few more to add into the list but it is small fraction.

In the global religious scenario, more than eight in ten people (or 80%) belong to a religious group, They identify with a religion like Christianity, Muslim, etc.

A comprehensive demographic study of more than 230 countries was conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life. The study was based on analysis of more than 2500 Census, Surveys and Population Registers.

Here I attempt to give you some vital facts extracted from their Research Report.

  • It is estimated than there are 5.8 billion people attached or affiliated to religion (any one).
  • It represents 84% of the world population of 6.9 billion as on 2010
  • 2.2 billion are Christians, which is 32% of world population
  • The number of Muslims will come to 1.6 billion, which is 23% of world population.
  • Hindus are 15% of the total world population with a figure of 1 billion.
  • Nearly 500 million are Buddhists, it is 7% of the total global population.
  • 14 million are Jews (0.2%).
  • 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions.
  • 58 million, that is less than 1% of the global population belongs to other religions including Bahai faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca & Zoroastrianism, etc.
  • Jainism & Sikhism are mainly in India.
  • Shintoism & Taoism are in Asia continent in countries like China and Japan.
  • Roughly one- in -six people around the globe (1.1 billion) have no religious affiliation. It is 16% of the global population. This also makes 'the unaffiliated' the third-largest religious group worldwide.
  • The Asia-Pacific region holds vast majority of Hindus (99%). Buddhists (99%) and members of other world religions (89%).
  • Three-quarters of the religious unaffiliated (76%) also live in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The religiously unaffiliated people in China alone comes to nearly 700 million.
  • 65% of the world's Muslims live in the region
  • Only Christians are the most evenly dispersed. Europe (26%), Latin America and Caribbean (24%) and sub-Saharan Africa (24%).
  • 44% Jews live in North America.
  • 41% Jews live in the Middle East and North Africa, almost all of them in Israel.
  • 87% of Hindus live in 3 Hindu-majority countries. They are India, Mauritius and Nepal.
  • 87% of Christians live in world's 157 Christian-majority countries.
  • Muslims are the majority in 49 countries.
  • The religiously unaffiliated mostly live in 6 countries such as China, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hong Kong, Japan and North Korea.
  • 28% of Buddhists live in 7 countries, where Buddhists are the majority. The countries are Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
  • 72% of the Buddhists live in countries, where they are minorities. For example, India, Nepal, China, Japan, etc.
  • Israel is the only country where Jews are the majority.
  • Bahais, Jains, Shintoists, Sikhs, Taoists and followers of Tenrikyo, Wiccans and Zoroastrians do not make up a majority of the population in any country. They are minority wherever they are present.

Please note that this research is based on the population of 2010. The study was based on country-to-country analysis of data from more than 2,500 national censuses. Many countries including India have conducted census after 2010 or now in that process. Hence there may be variation as on the time of publishing this Hub on the 1st week of March, 2013. This report by the Pew Forum was released on December, 2012.

Let me conclude this hub by summarizing the data on world's 4 largest religions out of the 5.8 billion people attached to any religion. You must note that out of the 6.9 billion people (the total world population), 1.1 billion have not affiliated to any religion and their percentage is 16%.

No. of Followers
% of Strength
2.2 Billion
1.6 Billion
1 Billion
500 Million

The above table also indicates that 77% of the world population are distributed among 4 major religions.

© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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