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Projecting religious futures

posted by Wei Zhu

Projected Cumulative Change Due to Religious Switching, 2010-2050Earlier this month, Pew Research Center published its projections on what religious affiliations might look like in 2050, in what it describes as the “first formal demographic projections using data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching for multiple religious groups around the world.” Demographers from Pew and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria gathered data from more than 2,500 sources, and covers eight groups: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, adherents of folk religions, adherents of other religions and the unaffiliated.

Among its most notable conclusions are that the number of Muslims will eventually match and then exceed the number of Christians in the world, and that Muslim and Christian adherents will double in sub-Saharan Africa by that time. China looms large in the report, as any religious shifts there would have massive implications given the sheer size of its population. But the country remains, to a large degree, terra incognita: up-to-date data on the religiously affiliated (or not) is simply unavailable. The forecasts provide a vague outline of trends that will surely have major sociopolitical ramifications globally.

Read the full report here.

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