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December 19th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Christianity goes global as world's largest religion

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Christians are by far the largest religious group on the planet, and the religion has gone truly global over the past century, according to a new report out Monday, which finds some of the world's biggest Christian communities in surprising places.

Europe was the clear center of world Christianity one hundred years ago, but today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. In fact, the United States has the world's largest Christian population, of more than 247 million, followed by Brazil and Mexico.

China also appears on the list of top 10 largest Christian populations - with an estimated 67 million Christians, it has more followers of the faith than any western European country.

There are nearly 2.2 billion Christians around the world, making up about one-third of the world's population - the same percentage as a century ago, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Islam is the world's second largest religion, with about 1.6 billion followers worldwide, the Washington-based organization calculates. That's just under one-quarter of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the biggest explosion in its Christian population in the past century, going from about 9 million Christians in 1910 to about 516 million today - nearly a quarter of all the world's Christians. Three of the world's ten largest Christian populations are in Africa: Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

The study, "Global Christianity," is based on demographic and opinion data from 232 countries and territories. It's part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, which has also included reports on the current and projected number of Muslims in the world.

It does not measure practice or belief, merely counting as Christian anyone who says they are.

The report calculates that half the world's Christians are Catholic, 37% are Protestants, and 12% are Orthodox. The remaining 1 percent belong to other traditions such as Mormonism.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (2,648 Responses)
  1. REG in AZ

    One thing that really needs to be recognized and remembered is that while Christians account for approximately one third of the worlds population, that they still are a minority with two thirds not believing in Christianity. That doesn't take anything away from Christians but rather only gives attention and credit to the diversity, and to recognizing the value in accepting all religions as representing people and in equally seeking to know and relate to God without any one being absolute or any one being inferior / superior (other than privately to the individual).

    December 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Are you saying all is OK as long as you believe in some god?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  2. RayJacksonMS

    Does it really matter which arm of the blood god has the most cult members? As long as there are christians, muslims and jews there will be war and mass death.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • ari

      agreed. if only we could go back to the days before christians, muslims, or jews, which were peaceful, tolerant, and loving.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Greg s

      Man created religion, Man Created Religion to control people to use God for there own power, Religion Was not created by God, Salvation is what Our Lord Offers free to any man or women, You dont need organized religion to find it.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • What???

      When did that happen? When was there ever no religions or belief in a god in the history of the world?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  3. Muneef

    You do agree that there is no Smoke with out Fire?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11380628

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-11-26/vatican-money-laundering/51409102/1

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/21/vatican-bank-facing-money_n_732947.html

    http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/colombia/2002/newsarticle_1599.html

    December 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  4. GO CHRISTIANS

    GOD BLESS ALL CHRISTIANS.......... JESUS LOVES YOU!

    December 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      I just wish more Christians would live their lives like Christ did instead of just saying they are Christians.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Muneef

      Did he live long?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • eWise

      Why is this a big surprise.?. With the largest marketing team for conversion and millions of dollars, Christians will buy anybody. I guess Jesus was the biggest marketing genius of all religious gurus out there. God bless us all.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Greg s

      Man is not capable Of living a life as pure as Christ, Thats why he came in the first place to save us. We are all sinners, No matter what we do no matter how hard we try we will sin. You need to understand that. You can not live a life like Christ you will fail. But that's ok Because we are forgiven. Christians are no better or no worse then any one else. We lie as much, we lust as much we sin as much as any non believer. The only difference is we are forgiven. Some Christians loose site of this and think there better because they try to live a life free of sin, But that smacks of Pride!! Pride is a sin. One sin or 10 sins its all the same. Sin is sin.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  5. Combz

    Want to live forever? http://www.claybe.com
    Jesus Christ desires a relationship with you, not another religion.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Nursehope

      I have a personal relationship with reality and have no need for any relationship with imaginary friends.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Greg s

      Good for you Nursehope you are your own God. You dont need anyone else, Your smart enough to have made a brilliant educated guess on how this world and the Universe works. Based on your Guess You have chosen to not believe in God Your belief is based on your best Guess mine is based on Faith. If your right you and all I will cease to exist at death. If Im right only your life will end at death. Im sticking with Faith, Your best Guess is not convincing to me., and by the way Good luck with it!

      December 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  6. John

    lot's of angry people here ..... it's actually kinda funny...... so what...... lot's of people say that there christians what's even more interesting is how it seems to ruining most of your days.....would you feel better if they said christians were the smallest religious group ?? I bet you this Blog would be damn near empty if they did

    December 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Atheist 1#

      Nope! Because Islam is number two and Hinduism number Three.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Greg s

      If there really is a fiery hell, Ill bet there is a section for folks who spend there days looking for a misspelled word just so they can sit up a crow like a rabid Roster.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  7. darkstar

    2.2 billion unrational, delusional individuals. Quite lovely.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • ari

      i don't know why this comment is so funny to me–probably because you were trying to sound smug and superior but ended up misspelling "irrational".

      December 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Real

      I laughed at this comment, too.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Ken

    The invisible beings worshiped by Christians are better than the invisible beings worshiped by other religions.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • john

      air molecules? sound waves? love?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Greg s

      Its called a spirit. Yea that thing inside you that makes you different then everyone else. That if taken away leaves a huge pile of meat, Life, Spirit, its in every living thing and its undeniable. It can be explained away. But its the Key to proving Gods existence or the nonsense of a God. Prove the spirit inside a man is nothing but a electrical charge and you prove there is no God. But that's a tall order.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  9. jack

    Does this mean we can stop hearing the Christians complain about how they're becoming the minority?

    December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • ari

      who is complaining about christians becoming the minority? in europe, you mean?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • BUT REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

      Jesus wants all the converts or none at all i.e Nuclear Bombs

      December 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Oh really

      Get your facts straight Jack.. they don't complain about being the minority.. They complain about how unfair it is for the "Faithful to be persecuted – while the sin be rewarded"

      Their definition of Sin = atheism, worship in other religion, etc.. cool, hey?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Greg s

      its coming its just not here yet. I think your going to dislike what replaces us a little more.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  10. unbeliever

    religion is opium to the people. on the other side, someone else said
    opium is religion to the people. who were they?

    December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  11. Jon

    -1% due to Mormons not being Christian...

    December 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jon

      ...or a religion, but rather a cult.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • ari

      they are not traditional christians, but they fulfill the criteria for being christian (ie believe jesus is divine) so yes, they are. the word "cult" is overused.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Jon

      that DEFINITELY is not part of the so-called "criteria" of being part of Christianity. Christianity is centered around Jesus living and dying for the sins of all people on earth, and definitely not in the Mormon handbook

      December 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Greg s

      They believe Christ had a brother....Satan. Yea that pretty much makes um a cult to me.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  12. BiblicalChristianityIsNOTreligion

    Biblical Christianity is NOT a "religion" but intimate relationship between God the Creator and His Creatures/Creation. Adam and Eve didn't have "religion" in the garden of Eden before their fall,...hence Jesus Christ God Incarnate came to restore that relationship through His sacrifice,...all who SINCERELY believe on Him and His works and SINCERELY repent shall be saved and live with Him forever .

    December 19, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • BUT REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

      Tell that to the solider who killed and fought in Iraq!

      December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Ken

      Man, you need a hobby. Or therapy.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • streetsmt

      But if I don't believe, how do I suddenly start? I can say to myself "I believe", but I know that I still don't. No matter how much I try, it just doesn't work.
      On the other hand, if there were some evidence, that might help.
      Why doesn't god just come down here and show us all? We would all helplessly believe and everything would be great!

      December 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      I've got news for you. There was no Adam & Eve, at least not what you think they looked like. They were either four foot tall hairy hominids living in trees or were a DNA experiment by extraterrestrials.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Greg s

      Religions have killed millions in the name of God, But that was done by man. Not God. Not a single man has ever been saved by the Church.
      A true Church is a place for like minded people to have fellowship and to learn more about the Scripture's

      Thats it.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  13. Nish

    I do not believe in these numbers.These numbers reflect people who are born Christian, but not people who believe in Christianity.
    This is especially true for my generation, the millennials, who I consider more as secular spiritualists.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • ari

      you consider yourself a "secular spiritualist". that does not mean that every person in your generation around the world is the same. the article says that they were "counting as Christian anyone who says they are". seems fair enough to me. why would someone lie in an anonymous phone survey? why do you all care so much?

      December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  14. DA TRUTH

    TO DOUBTING THOMAS...HOW CAN SOMEONES LEVEL OF INTELLIGENCE BE JUDGED SOLEY BECAUSE THEY CHOSE TO WRITE IN ALL CAPS??? THAT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE MORON!!

    December 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Random comment there.....

      December 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  15. Peace

    Why is there always news about Christianity and not Buddhism? Buddhism has been around for more than 3000 years. People should look into Buddhism you might find some interesting stuff.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • ari

      well, we live in america, buddhism is not very common here. but yes it is interesting.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Buddhism is as des.picable as christianity in my opinion, sort of a grotesque nihlism that seems to go overlooked by the west. I think there should be more dicussion on the topic.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • john

      chuckles. shows your intelligence to make a statement like that on something you only know about 5 percent about.. or should i say intolerance. such a shame

      December 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @john

      Indeed..... and yet you didn't refute any of my statements. Please explain to me why the want to completely remove oneself from Samsara by not collecting and karma whatsover and being one with the universe, or to put in a different way, nothingness is not a grotesque twist of nihlism made into medidative religion?

      Oh wait, you're right I'm way off base. Buddhists are all nice, happy quiet monks right?

      December 19, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Reason & Logic

      Paganism has been around a lot longer.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  16. Byrd

    With umpteen sects, none of which agree on anything except for their hatred of liberals. Looks like hatred – a supposed tool of this Satan they fear – is the only thing that binds them.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  17. BUT REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

    But The Republicans just want us to love war hate abortions and fight other faiths for dominance. They would never send us to go on another crusade.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  18. wow

    and the liberal haters keep coming lol...my are they cute with there angry rants and posts...well Jesus loves you too

    December 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • streetsmt

      Somehow wow thinks liberal = atheist.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Eric G

      Actually, I am quite conservative. But, you still have not provided any evidence that your god exists.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • Ben Thare

      So does Allah and Yahweh. What's your point other than to judge others by some self-serving standard?

      December 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  19. SPLAT!~

    There's a difference between Christians and Christianity!~

    December 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  20. Marcia

    As Seneca stated...
    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
    When a group of people wearing crosses asks you if you are Christian and you are poor you say of course you are. Different group different symbol and you will get a different answer.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • ari

      ...this was a phone survey. they didn't go door to door wearing crosses.

      December 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • FlyGuyinSJ

      Christianity is regarded by the wise as true, by the foolish as false, and by the rulers as a thorn in their side.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.