Saturday, December 31, 2011

Facts and figures

Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, with nearly 2.2 billion followers, making up about a third of the world's population.

So says a study of global Christianity, based on data from 232 countries and territories, by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (The study does not mention practice or belief; it simply counts as Christian anyone who says they are.)

The percentage of the world's population claiming to be Christian is about the same as a century ago.

While approximately two-thirds of Christians lived in Europe a hundred years ago, Europe has only 26 per cent of the world's Christians today. More than a third of all Christians today are in the Americas.

The United States has the world's largest Christian population, with more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico. China is among the top 10, with an estimated 67 million.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the biggest growth in Christian population, from about nine million in 1910 to about 516 million today. That's nearly a quarter of the world's Christians. Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia are among the top 10.

According to the study, half the world's Christians are Catholic, 37 per cent Protestant and 12 per cent Orthodox.

Islam is the world's second largest religion, with about 1.6 billion followers - just under a quarter of an estimated world population of 6.9 billion.

The number of people in England and Wales calling themselves Christian dropped from 77 per cent to 70 per cent between 2005 and 2010, according to the Government's latest Citizenship Survey. It showed Christians were less than half as likely to attend a place of worship as followers of other religions.

The number of people saying they have no religion went up from 15 per cent to 21 per cent between 2005 and 2010.

The Citizenship Survey was introduced by the Labour Government in 2001. This one will be the last. The current Government considered the £4 million cost of each survey could not be justified.