قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ اسْتَعِينُوا بِاللَّهِ وَاصْبِرُوا ۖ إِنَّ الْأَرْضَ لِلَّهِ يُورِثُهَا مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ ۖ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
“Musa said to his people, ‘Seek help in Allah and be steadfast. The earth belongs to Allah. He bequeathes it to any of His slaves He wills. The successful outcome is for those who have taqwa.'”
Pew Research study predicts that America’s Muslim population will grow to 2.1% by 2050, and Muslims will exceed Christians worldwide by 2070
Alan Yuhas in New York
Muslims will nearly double their numbers in Europe – to more than 10% – by 2050 and will outnumber Christians worldwide by 2070, according to a new forecast of the growth of religions around the world.
The report, by Pew Research Center, also predicts that Muslims will become the second-largest religious group in the US – at 2.1% – by 2050.
Europe’s Muslim population, boosted by large families and immigration, will nearly double, from less than 6% (43 million people) in 2010 to more than 10% (71 million people) in 2050, the forecast estimates.
The US by 2050 will still have more Christians than any other denomination, according to the report, but they will decline from 77% to 66% of the population.
Although the Muslim population represents a tiny fraction of Americans – about 1% – it is set to grow rapidly over the next four decades. The report predicts Muslim will surpass Jews to become the second-largest religious group in the US by 2050 – while still only representing 2.1% of the whole country.
High fertility coupled with falling infant mortality rates bode well for Christianity and Islam in the developing world, and researchers predict that four of every 10 Christians in the world will live by the middle of the century in sub-Saharan countries, where women on average have twice as many children as in North America and three times as many as in Europe.
The young religious people of the developing world contrast sharply with ageing and increasingly secular westerners content to keep their families small.
The report predicts that Muslims and Christians will each make up roughly 30% of the world’s population by 2050, largely due to high fertility rates in the developing world and the continuing decline of Christianity in the west.
In North America, Christianity’s losses correlate with the unaffiliated’s gain, as atheists, agnostics and those who don’t associate with any religion are set to increase from 17% to 26% of the whole, according to Pew.
Europe, the only region whose total population is projected to shrink, will see its Christian population diminish by 100 million people to about 65%, according to the report.
Although Christians will still be the UK’s largest religious bloc in 2050, the report predicts they will no longer represent the majority of Britons. In France, unaffiliated people will overtake Christians as the new majority.
But the atheists, agnostics and other unaffiliated of the world, despite their larger share of the population in countries like the US, France and Japan, will see their global share diminish because of an older median age and a tendency to have smaller families.
Muslim populations, on the other hand, are predicted to grow far faster than any other religion over the next 45 years, especially in the Middle East, India and sub-Saharan Africa.
By 2050, most Jews will live in Israel, the report predicts, noting that eight in 10 already live there or in the US. The global Jewish population will grow slightly, boosted by the longest average lifespan among major religions – more than 20% of all Jews are 60 or older.
The report’s authors concede there are many variables that could make dramatic differences between their projections and how the world actually turns out. In four decades, there will be natural disasters and wars, mass migrations and political revolutions, each with knock-on effects that change what people believe and where they choose to live.
The 1.3 billion people of China also posed a conundrum to then researchers, who had to rely on sometimes unreliable data about a country with a handful of recognized religions, hundreds of pervasive folk faiths and the active but unquantifiable presence of many Christian missionaries.
On the record, more than 50% of Chinese people are unaffiliated. Off the record, China could already be in the early stages of a large religious shift.
“Adherents of other religions, including Christians who worship in unregistered churches, may be reluctant to reveal their religious identity to officials or strangers,” the authors write, also noting that hundreds of millions of people who have recently moved to cities likely uprooted their religious practices.
Simply, “there are no sources adequate to measure patterns of religious switching across China”, they conclude – meaning the rapid expansion of an already simmering Christian movement could dramatically affect Christianity’s numbers worldwide.
They also concede that the research is limited: of the voluminous data they pored over to make their forecast, the vast majority does not distinguish Shia from Sunni Muslims or Catholic from Protestant or Orthodox Christians, for instance. The researchers excluded Jews who identified as such ethnically or culturally but not religiously.