Author: Spiros Kakos
Religion-Science Philosophy articles series
The purpose of this article is not to say something in favour or against religion. The purpose of this article is to simply present hard data on the number of religion-affiliated people based on the most valid (and publicly available) sources, so that the readers can extract their own conclusions on spirituality in the world. I have made an attempt to use sources that can be found by everyone on the Internet, so that the validation of things written here is easy. Any comments and corrections are more than welcomed!
Difficulties in counting religious people
There is an inherent difficulty in counting the number of religion-affiliated people. The main difficulty has to do with the fact that there are no religion-related questions in census questionnaires. And if there are, in most cases they are not obligatory to answer. So one can understand that there is a difficult area to explore. Without official hard data, we must rely in most cases upon the surveys conducted by various individuals and private organizations, often with not the best intentions and certainly not with “truth” as their goal…The difficulty becomes more obvious if one thinks of the sensitiveness of the topic of religion. Most of the abovementioned organizations and individuals undertaking a statistical survey to record religiosity, are inclined in favour or against religion. That means that most surveys are biased towards one way or the other. Seeing the truth requires being alert for bias and ability to read between the lines. But we can do that…
I have made an effort to find free and reliable sources for religion statistics. The task was not easy. I was surprised to see that Wikipedia had one of the most astounding collections of data for religiosity around the world – it seems that the collective effort of many people is unmatched these days. On the other hand, the official CIA Worldbook seems to be the most “official” data source one can find referring mainly to census data, even though I guess the data contained there are somewhat biased (although I admit I do not know in which direction). The main sources I have found during my investigation in the Internet are the following:
I. Wikipedia Main Articles
II. CIA Factbook
III. Adherents articles
IV. Britanicca articles
V. The future of religion
Study for the future of Religion: http://www.wnrf.org/cms/next200.shtml
Growth of religions: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastest-growing_religion
Most of the above sources are free and constrantly updated and that is why they seem to be the best we have at this moment. The Global Christian Encyclopedia also is a good source of religion statistics, but it is not offered for free and that is why it is not included in the list. Any comments for new sources are welcomed.
It would take hundrends of pages to just present all data from the abovementioned sources. That is why I will try to present the main data only for Christianity and Islam here. These are the two main religions in the world and their analysis offers a very good perspective of religiosity all over Earth.
Christianity in the World
Here I will just show the numbers related to Christianity for some major developed countries of Europe. The source I use for these numbers is the respective page of Wikipedia for religion demographics. It seems that Christianity continues to hold a high and stable over the years percentage in western countries.
|Czech Republic||10,228,744||28.9%(2001 census)|
|Denmark||5,468,120||98% – 60%|
|Finland||5,238,460||84.7% (2006 census)|
|France||63,718,187||51% – 67%(2006 report)|
|the Netherlands||16,570,613||51% (2002)|
|Portugal||10,642,836||86.7% (2001 census)|
|Serbia||10,835,001||91.6% (2002 census)|
|Ukraine||46,299,862||96.1% (2006 est.) 35%- 51.7%|
|the United Kingdom||60,776,238||71.6%(2001 Census)|
|the United States||301,139,947||78.5%(2007 est.)|
Source: Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country] 
[Retrieved at 24/12/2009]
From the above table one can easily understand that Christianity is still strong in all European countries, despite the hard materialism that some try to impose on the modern era. It seems that religiosity is not dying – quite the contrary. Countries where technology, fashion and consumer goods have a great footprint, still have a vast and stable majority of Christians in their populations.
Islam in the World
The statistics of countries is Middle East, Africa or Asia are more or less the same, but with Islam in the place of Christianism. The following table is again revaling of a very religious reality…
|Country/Region||% of total population|
|United Arab Emirates||76.2|
Source: Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_by_country] 
[Retrieved at 24/12/2009]
From the abovementioned data it seems that people still believe that a First Cause must exist, as Aristotle once postulated… Religion is still alive despite the wishes of many…The atheism mystery…If one looks at the atheism numbers at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism he/she will be able to see one more interesting thing: the remaining percentages that are not Christians, are not atheists! Many people tend to claim they are “not religious” but on the same time they do not claim they are atheists. That leaves a lot of room for interpretations and theories. For me this is an indication that many people, although they tend to believe that there is something of “higher power” in the cosmos, they do not feel affiliated with any church because of the wrong-doings of those churches. Because if they were convinced that nothing like a God exists, then they would have no problem claiming “atheists”. As simple as that.
Religion future trends
It is not an easy task to find the trends of religion. The reason is that many factors seem to affect the final result. The trends of religions depend upon the birth rates of already-religious people and it is not always possible to exclude that rate and calculate the “real” growth. From Wikipedia again we have the following numbers for the growth of the main religions:The World Christian Database (WCD) and its predecessor the World Christian Encyclopedia contains large amounts of data on numbers and growths of religions. The following is a tabulation of their results: (Note: The annual growth in the world population over the same period is 1.41%)
|3.65% – Bahá’í Faith||2.65% – Zoroastrianism||1.84% – Islam|
|2.74% – Islam||2.28% – Bahá’í Faith||1.70% – Bahá’í Faith|
|2.34% – Hinduism||2.13% – Islam||1.62% – Sikhism|
|1.67% – Buddhism||1.87% – Sikhism||1.57% – Hinduism|
|1.64% – Christianity||1.69% – Hinduism||1.32% – Christianity|
|1.09% – Judaism||1.36% – Christianity|
|1.09% – Buddhism|
Source: Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fastest-growing_religion] 
[Retrieved at 24/12/2009]
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace using the 2000-2005 edition of the World Christian Database, concluded that high birth rates were the reason for the growth in all six; however, the growth of Christianity was also attributed to conversions. Although the World Christian Database does not cite sources, a review examining the reliability and bias of the WCD found it “highly correlated with other sources of data” but “consistently gave a higher estimate for percent Christian.” The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion said that “on the whole we find that the WCD is reliable. Data from Encyclopedia Britanicca(which can be found at the same page) show more or less the same results, but with slightly more increased growth rates for Christianity, reaching to about 6% for the years 1995-2002.As for Islam, it seems to be getting stronger and stronger. The main reason for that seems to be the higher birth rates of Islam believers. Europe has already been witnessing such a growth withing its countries.
Many people argue that religion grows. Others argue that religion is declining. I say that number of religious people stay the same. From ancient times to now, the vast majority of people feel and logically understand the existence of a First Cause for the Universe. From ancient times to now, the vast majority of people feel and understand the intelligence the world has embedded in its mechanisms. And from ancient times to now, the vast majority of people feel and understand the existence of a higher purpose in life, other than just having sex, eating and going to the toilette. In Greece at the old days we worshiped the Moon. Then the 12-Gods religion came into place at the times of Plato and Aristotle. That was then replaced by Christianity. In the future another religion may take that place. No matter how it is called, people find it very hard to believe that they just happened to exist in the world where consuming chips and buying nice shoes is all there is…