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Anna Karamazina

26.11.2022 15:00

Why religion is gaining more and more popularity

Faith is on the upswing, and 84% of people worldwide identify as members of a particular religion. What does this imply going forward?

How many people worldwide identify as believers?

If you believe that religion is obsolete and that we are in an age of reason, you should look at the following: Around the world, 84% of people identify as members of a particular religion. Although there are major geographical variations, people who belong to this group are often younger and have more children than those who do not identify as religious. As a result, the globe is becoming more religious, not less.

According to statistics from 2015, with 2.3 billion members, or 31.2% of the world's 7.3 billion people, Christians are by far the largest religious group. Following these are Buddhists (500 million, or 6.9%), Hindus (1.1 billion, or 15.1%), and Muslims (1.8 billion, or 24.1%).

People who practice traditional or folk religions are the next group; there are 400 million of them worldwide, or 6% of the population. Less popular religions including Sikhism, Baha'ism, and Jainism have 58 million followers worldwide, or less than 1% of the population. Jews make up 14 million people worldwide, or 0.2% of the world's population. They are mostly found in the US and Israel.

The third-largest category, however, is not included in the list above. 16% of the global population, or 1.2 billion individuals, reported having no religious connection at all in 2015. The fact that they don't identify with or practice an organized religion does not imply that they are all ardent atheists; rather, some of them—perhaps even the majority—have a strong feeling of spirituality or a belief in God, gods, or guiding forces.

There are differences in almost every faith. Christians can belong to a variety of sub-denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church (which has approximately 1.3 billion members), Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, and many others. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis, although there are also Shia, Ibadis, Ahmadiyya, and Sufis. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism are the four primary schools of Hinduism. In Buddhism, there are two primary sub-traditions: Theravāda and Mahayana. Jews can be Conservative, Reform, Orthodox (or ultra-Orthodox), or they can be a part of smaller groupings.

Religion places a high value on geography. The world's most populous and most religious area is Asia-Pacific. 90% of people who practice folk or traditional faiths reside there, along with 99% of Hindus, 99% of Buddhists, and 99% of Muslims. 76% of the world's religiously unaffiliated population, 700 million of whom are Chinese, resides in this region.

Three-quarters of believers live in countries where they constitute the majority; the remaining 25% of religious persons live as religious minorities. For instance, 97% of Hindus reside in the three countries with big Hindu populations—India, Mauritius, and Nepal—while 87% of Christians reside in the 157 nations with major Christian populations. Muslims make about 75 percent of the population in countries with a Muslim majority. Seven out of ten religiously unaffiliated people reside in nations where they make up the majority, including North Korea, China, and the Czech Republic.

However, the majority of Buddhists (72%) are a minority in their own countries. Buddhists make up the majority of the population in seven nations: Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Which faiths are expanding and in what direction?

The gist of it is that although religion is rising everywhere else, it is waning in western Europe and North America.

The average age of people worldwide is 28. The median age is lower for two religions: Muslims (23) and Hindus (26). Christians, Buddhists, and Jews all have older median ages of 30; 34; and 36 respectively. The age for religiously unaffiliated is 34.

More than twice as quickly as the world's population, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. The population of the globe is projected to expand by 32% between 2015 and 2060, but the Muslim population is anticipated to increase by 70% over the same period. And although it is predicted that Christians would expand by 34% over that time, primarily as a result of population expansion in sub-Saharan Africa, Islam is anticipated to overtake Christianity as the dominant world religion by the middle of this century.

The high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox is mostly to account for the projected 27% growth of Hindus and 15% growth of Jews. The number of religiously unaffiliated people will rise by 3%. But because their growth is slower than the expansion in the world's population as a whole, these groups will be proportionately smaller than they are now. Additionally, a 7% decrease in the number of Buddhists is anticipated.

Instead of religious conversion, births and deaths account for the majority of changes. The average number of children per Muslim woman is 2.9, which is much more than the 2.2 average for all non-Muslims. 

Additionally, while Christian women generally give birth at a rate of 2.6, this rate is lower in Europe, where between 2010 and 2015, Christian deaths exceeded Christian births by roughly 6 million. Christians have recently made up a disproportionately high percentage (37%) of global mortality.

Furthermore, barely 10% of the world's babies were born to religiously unaffiliated women between 2010 and 2015, despite the fact that the religiously unaffiliated make up 16% of the world's population today.

However, 23% of American Muslims claim to have converted to their religion, and there is increasing empirical information about Muslim immigrants in Europe converting to Christianity in recent years.

The world's largest Christian population is expected to reside in China by 2030, according to some, thanks to the country's recent massive religious resurgence. One estimate has the number of Chinese Protestants at between 93 million and 115 million, rising an average of 10% yearly since 1979. It is estimated that there are additional 10–12 million Catholics.

In contrast, Western Europe is experiencing a fall in Christianity. In Ireland, a traditionally fervently Catholic country, the percentage of persons identifying as Catholic decreased from 84.2% to 78.3% during the 2011 and 2016 censuses, and among those between the ages of 16 and 29 it dropped to 54%. Those who do not identify with any religion rose to 9.8%, a 71.8% rise in five years.

In Scotland, a country with a long history of organized religion, 59% of the population currently identifies as non-religious, with women rejecting organized religion by a margin of 66% to 55%. The only age category in which the majority of respondents identify as religiously attached is those over 65, whereas seven out of ten people under the age of 44 stated they were not religious.

How about theocratic governments?

Most likely, the Islamic Republic of Iran is the first to come to mind. The Shah, or king, ruled the country until the 1979 revolution. The head of the new state, however, was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who established an Islamic-based political system and chose the judiciary, military, and media authorities. In 1989, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took his place. Hassan Rouhani, the current president, is regarded as a moderate and reformist leader. Only two countries in the world reserve seats in their legislature for clerics, Iran and the UK. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Mauritania are other Islamic theocracies. 27 countries have declared Islam their official religion.

The Pope is the highest authority and leads the administrative, legislative, and judicial institutions of the Vatican government, making Vatican City the sole Christian theocracy. Vatican City is a small but significant center of Roman Catholicism.

Thirteen countries (nine of which are in Europe) have declared Christianity or a certain Christian denomination to be their official religion. The Church of England, an Anglican church, is acknowledged as the official "established" church of England and plays significant roles in public occasions. By law, there are twenty-one bishops seated in the House of Lords. With an 80% Jewish majority, Israel calls itself the "Jewish state." The government is secular, nevertheless. More than 100 nations and territories do not have a state religion as of 2015.

Are there any new faiths, and which ones are the oldest?

According to some estimates, Hinduism, which goes back to around 7,000 BCE, is the world's oldest religion. The second-oldest religion is Judaism, which dates to around 2,000 BCE, followed by Zoroastrianism, which was formally established in Persia in the sixth century BCE but whose origins are believed to have existed as early as 1,500 BCE. Around 500–700 BCE, Shinto, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and Taoism came together. Then came Christianity, which was followed by Islam around 600 years later.

Even while atheists have existed for as long as mankind, some would assert that the newest religion is in fact none at all. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism (officially recognized by the New Zealand government but not the Dutch), and Terasem, a trans religious movement that holds that death is optional and that God is technological, are examples of new religious movements.

Members of the Temple of the Jedi Order, who adhere to the beliefs portrayed in the Star Wars films, lost in their 2016 attempt to get their organization recognized as a place of worship under UK charity legislation. With more than 390,000 persons (or 0.7% of the population) identifying as Jedi Knights on the 2001 census, the Jedi have been the most well-liked alternative religion in the previous two censuses. By 2011, the number of persons who declared themselves to be Jedi Knights to the government had dramatically decreased, although there were still 176,632 of them.

Does religion affect the world in any way?

There are significant repercussions of religious belief and practice, of course. First of all, from ancient times till the present, there have been many wars and conflicts that have an overt or subliminal religious component. We have witnessed violent clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic over the past few years, as well as Islamic extremists waging war in the Middle East, a Sunni-Shia power struggle across the region, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, and the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. In the guise of religion, "blasphemists" are tortured and killed, women are oppressed, and LGBT individuals face discrimination.

Next comes the political consequences. White evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election to his victory.

Recent legislative action in Argentina was opposed by lawmakers due to pressure from Catholic bishops and the pope. Viktor Orbán, the far-right prime minister of Hungary, has used the need to defend his nation's "Christian culture" to support his anti-immigration stances.

It's not all terrible news, either. Millions of believers participate in social action initiatives to aid the underprivileged and marginalized all around the world. The sanctuary church movement in the US, the incredible sums donated by Islamic organizations for humanitarian work in some of the most impoverished regions of the globe, and the engagement of churches, mosques, and synagogues in food banks and initiatives to help refugees are just a few examples.

What follows?

More persecution and bigotry. Most major faiths' adherents describe escalating antagonism and, frequently, violence. Some have referred to the widespread expulsion of Christians from the Middle East as a new genocide. Meanwhile, Europe is seeing an increase in antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Pope Francis, who is 86 and has a variety of health difficulties, is likely to pass away (or, potentially, retire), which would cause one of the major changes in the religious landscape in the upcoming years. His attempts to reform the Vatican and the church has provoked a huge response and led conservative forces to organize against him as pope and get ready for the day when the position falls empty.

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