Christianity is world's most popular religion with 2.2bn adherents to Islam's 1.6bn


Christians are by far the most numerous of people in the world who claim a religious identity, according to a new international study.

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion Public Life study, conducted in 250 countries during 2010, found that there were 2.2 billion Christians in the world, or 32 per cent of its population.

Based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers in 230 countries, it found that the next largest grouping were 1.6 billion Muslims (23 per cent). They are followed by the 1.1 billion worldwide who have no religious affiliation, or 16 per cent, which is also about equal to the world’s Catholic population.

Next to these are the one billion Hindus (15 per cent), almost 500 million Buddhists (7 per cent) and 14 million Jews (0.2 per cent).

A further 400 million people (6 per cent) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religion.

An estimated 58 million people, slightly less than 1 per cent of the world’s population, belong to other religions. These include those of the Baha’i faith, and adherents of Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism.

In general more than 80 per cent of people worldwide identify with a religious group, saysthis new study. It estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the world, representing 84 per cent of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

Geographically, Christians are the most evenly dispersed.

Roughly equal numbers of Christians live in Europe (26 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa (all 24 per cent).

The largest concentration of other religions, and those not religiously affiliated, is in the Asia-Pacific region. These include the vast majority of Hindus (99 per cent), Buddhists (99 per cent), adherents of folk or traditional religions (90 per cent) and members of other world religions (89 per cent).