WASHINGTON: The number of Muslims in the world will roughly equal the number of Christians by 2050, a study released Thursday indicates.
The project by the Washington-based Pew Research Center, “The Future of the World’s Religions,” called Islam the world’s fastest growing faith and predicted all religions, except Christianity, will have an increase in their percentages; Christians account for 31.4 percent of the world’s population, as of 2010, and that figure is expected to remain the same.
Most major religions including Christianity will see their numbers increase.
But the exceptional growth of Islam, as well as the rise of those unaffiliated with any religion, is poised to alter historic religious balances across Europe, the U.S. and Africa over the next four decades, the study suggests.
By 2050, the study says, there will be more Muslims than Jews in the U.S. though both groups will remain small minorities.
Researchers note that their count only includes those who identify as Jewish by religion, not those who may consider themselves culturally Jewish but decline to claim it as a religion.
The report said Christians will increase in number from 2.17 billion in 2010 to 2.92 billion in 2050; the number of Muslims will rise from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.76 billion in 2050.
“We have spent years analyzing thousands of data sets, censuses and populations registers,” lead researcher Conrad Hackett told the Washington Post.
“It’s been a tremendous amount of work.”
The study also showed atheists and others unaffiliated with any religion will decline, as will the number of Christians in the United States; there will be more Muslims in the United States by 2050 than Jews; 40 percent of the world’s Christians will reside in sub-Saharan Africa and although India will remain a primarily Hindu country, it will have the world’s largest Muslim population.
Although the study is based on census and migration issue, Hackett said, “Fertility is the single most important factor driving outcomes.”
The Muslim birthrate, globally, is 3.1 children per woman, compared to 2.7 children per Christian woman, 2.4 children per Hindu woman, and 2.3 children per Jewish woman.
Other findings in the study:
“India will surpass Indonesia as having more Muslims than any country by 2050. However, because of India’s explosive growth, it will house the world’s largest population by then Muslims will remain outnumbered by Hindus”.
“Muslims will make up 10.2% of Europe’s population by 2050, up from 5.9% in 2010.
Their percentages within the U.S. will more than double to 2.1% and they will for the first time outnumber Jews in America.
While the number of atheists, agnostics and others who do not affiliate with any religion will, as a group, be a smaller share of the world’s population by 2050, they will be the largest, outnumbering Christians, for nations such as France, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
“Christianity is expected to suffer the largest net loss among those switching beliefs by 2050, winning over 40 million new adherents while losing 106 million, mostly to those unaffiliated with religion.
“A potential wild card in the projections is China.
Those unaffiliated with religion make up more than half the population there.
But some scholars believe many of those could be Christians too fearful to make their faith known.
Should they become more open in the decades ahead it could change the calculations regarding worldwide Muslim numerical supremacy, Pew researchers say.