As religiosity (particularly Christianity) continues to decline in the West, there’s something of a religious boom in Asia, with the amount of Christians in China widely believed to now outnumber the total number of Communist Party members. That’s an increase from only one million Christians in China when Communist rule was established in 1949, to an estimated 67 million by 2010. Some trends predict that China will have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030 with over 250 million adherents.
It’s an interesting trend in light of the fact that Christianity is still repressed in China. While there are plenty of obstacles that make the rise of Christianity in China unlikely, the simultaneous rise in the world’s Muslim population is much less surprising.
While Christianity has relied more on conversion to draw in new adherents, Islam has the advantage of childbirth to aid its spread. Look at any part of the world, and Muslim fertility rates are significantly higher than the general population.
Even if birth rates were equal among all religious groups, we’d still expect a larger rise in the Muslim population, as being born a Muslim is like being born in the Hotel California because once you’re in, you’re not getting out (as the penalty for apostasy is death). Islam also has the youngest adherents on average, meaning that they’ll pass their faith down to their children and propagate their religion (unlike in the U.S. for instance, where the largest rise in the nonreligious is among millennials).
As a result of such trends, according to the International Business Times, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and will overtake Christianity as the most popular before the end of this century, according to an analysis of religious surveys published Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
With 1.6 billion, Muslims made up 23 percent of the world’s population, according to a 2010 Pew estimate. That figure was still some way short of the 2.2 billion Christians which comprised 31 percent of the population.
However, by 2050 there could be near parity between the numbers of adherents of the two religions for the first time in history.
The largest percentage of Muslims are currently in the Asia-Pacific region, rather than the Middle East and North Africa. Indonesia currently has the largest number of Muslims of any country, but that title could be taken by India by 2050. By that point, it is also projected that Muslims will also make up 10 percent of Europe’s population.
While parity between adherents of Christianity and Islam is expected by 2050, Islam isn’t expected to overtake Christianity as the world’s largest religion until 2070 according to Pew.
A sobering thought to be sure.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]