By Dateline India Syndicate
Christians are expected to experience the largest net losses from switching or religious conversions over the coming decades.
According to a Pew Research Center survey on patterns in religious switching in 70 countries — about 40 million people are projected to convert or switch into Christianity globally, while 106 million are projected to leave.
Most of those who leave are likely to join the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.
Significantly there were about 1.1 billion atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion in 2010 and by 2050, the unaffiliated population is expected to exceed 1.2 billion.
The unaffiliated are expected to continue to increase as a share of the population in much of Europe and North America. In the United States, for instance, the unaffiliated are projected to grow from an estimated 16% of the total population (including children) in 2010 to 26% in 2050.
The Pew Research Center surveys tried to gather information on the number of people who say they no longer belong to the religious group in which they were raised.
In some countries, it is fairly common for adults to leave their childhood religion and switch to another faith. In others, changes in religious identity are rare, legally cumbersome or even illegal.
The survey observed that in the United States, some people who were raised with no religious affiliation have become Christians, while some who grew up as Christians have switched to become unaffiliated. This type of pattern is likely to continue as future generations come of age.
All in all the unaffiliated are expected to add 97 million people and lose 36 million due to switching, for a net gain of 61 million by 2050. Modest net gains through switching also are expected for Muslims (3 million), adherents of folk religions (3 million) and members of other religions (2 million). Jews are expected to experience a net loss of about 300,000 people due to switching, while Buddhists are expected to lose nearly 3 million.
International migration is another factor that will influence the projected size of religious groups in various regions and countries.
In Europe, the Muslim share of the population is expected to increase from 5.9% in 2010 to 10.2% in 2050 when migration is taken into account along with other demographic factors that are driving population change, such as fertility rates and age. Without migration, the Muslim share of Europe’s population in 2050 is projected to be nearly two percentage points lower (8.4%).
In North America, the Hindu share of the population is expected to nearly double in the decades ahead, from 0.7% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2050, when migration is included in the projection models. Without migration, the Hindu share of the region’s population would remain about the same (0.8%).
In the Middle East and North Africa, the continued migration of Christians into the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) is expected to offset the exodus of Christians from other countries in the region. If migration were not factored into the 2050 projections, the estimated Christian share of the region’s population would drop below 3%. With migration factored in, however, the estimated Christian share is expected to be just above 3% (down from nearly 4% in 2010).
Beyond the Year 2050
The report goes on to describes how the global religious landscape would change if current demographic trends continue. With each passing year, unforeseen events – war, famine, disease, technological innovation, political upheaval, etc. – will alter the size of one religious group or another.
The basic question in everyone’s minds is whether Muslims would eventually outnumber Christians? And, if so, when?
Well the answer to this is that is the present trend continues the number of Muslims in the world’s population would equal to the Christian — 32% each– around 2070. After that, but both religious groups would grow roughly in tandem. And by the year 2100 Muslim (35%) would be about 1% more than Christian (34%) in the world population.
Interestingly, much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity, is expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa, while religiously unaffiliated population will be heavily concentrated in low fertility and aging population areas like Europe, North America, China and Japan.