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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. Louisa Ferre

    please change your name to librarians love Ayn Rand because republicans now belong to Christendom in America, also before you criticize study psychology because those that love themselves treat others with great respect and dignity everything starts and the individual not the collective

    December 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Louisa Ferre

      then again I am a self-absorbed capitalist, so I’m completely unbiased

      December 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  2. jernau

    Last time I checked Christianity was a group of different religions. Catholicism, Protestant, Baptist, etc are religions.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Brett

      Christianity isn't a religion. It's a relationship with Jesus Christ.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • sybaris

      "A relationship with Jesus Christ" might be the buzz phrase in christian circles but that doesn't make it any less a religion.

      You call it a dog, I call it a poodle.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Larry

    Physics and Faith? Check out: http://www.PhysicsOfReality.com

    December 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  4. D

    IT TAKES JUST AS MUCH FAITH to say there is no God as it does to say there is one..

    That's a fact not an opinion.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • sybaris

      Another fallacy from christian apologetics.

      Sorry, given the evidence for any god the rational conclusion is that there is none.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • D

      given the fact that you produced no such evidence further solidifies my point.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  5. pstome

    To HellBent
    To my knowledge, jews and muslims – at least the vast majority of them, do not sacrifice animals....to your knowledge,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,lol...............once u live in Iraq, Iran and Syria which are the 3 countries that i have f wasted my life there............ i will dare u to come back again and write to my knowledge....again lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  6. Ramdem

    When I see a church, I want to burn it to the ground. That's how much I love everyone.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Rob

    Religion: The root of all evil. nuff said.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • nae nae

      I completely agree!!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Daniel

      Isn't money the root of all evil?

      December 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • john

      hey, you and Jesus have something in common. cool huh?

      December 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  8. Jesus is dead and never rose again

    His bones are well hidden. You will never know where they were hidden. That was the whole point of hiding them.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • healive

      How can you be so sure?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Jesus is dead for sure you dumbfvck

      You stupid fuuck, Jesus is dead for sure. You need to be burned alive. Let me have your address and I'll show you in person how I feel about you.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Stan

      Forgot your anger meds today, or what? =)

      December 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  9. healive

    Ultimately, I know He's alive because He wants me to (John 6:44).

    December 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jesus hates you for being a liar

      And for being gay. He hates you. Go ahead and ask him. If he isn't speaking to you that means he hates you.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • Belieber

      So the question remains then, why and how do you think you "know", what you tell yourself you "know" ? The fact is the only way you "know" anything, is because of chemical reactions in your brain. Jeebus didn't cause any of those. They occur for the many reasons they do. And obviously, in this case, it is because you have decided to delude yourself, and ignore the science of neuro chemistry.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  10. Scott

    Those who can't do–preach. Religion is always sticking its ugly tentacles into everything. I'll take two working hands over 100 praying ones any day.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  11. REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76km8vtYKUA&w=640&h=360]

    December 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  12. Terry

    I am a man of the cloth!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
  13. GOD

    You idiots are due for another extinction in the very near future. Just give me a day or so to get it all set up...

    December 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • healive

      There will be a new heaven and new earth, populated by those of us who love King Jesus during this life. Read the book of Revelation. Better still, repent and believe in God's risen Son while you can.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • GOD

      I would love to shove a burning spear down your patheticly stupid throat, flay you alive, and roll you in salt.
      But for some reason that's illegal. But NOT ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE! PREPARE TO DIE!!!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Belieber

      What's wrong with the old heaven ? Didn't he make it right the first time. Some screw off god ya got there.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  14. REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-tIY99QFFk&w=640&h=360]

    December 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  15. silliness

    The day is drawing nigh when all will be forced to acknowledge the true Creator of the universe – the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Woe to the nonbelievers! You will believe when He reveals Himself in His pastalicious glory – but alas, it will be too late!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  16. Religion is EVIL

    See why the world is so f***ed up? Religion. It sucks. It's everywhere. And it refuses to leave people alone.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • john

      Jesus thought so too..

      December 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  17. HelloWorld

    This is what Hindus have it.

    God has four types of customers. His first customer is Aethist. Second customer is someone who drools about God all the time and truely loves God. Third type is believing in God but whinning and blaming God for everything (most of us fit this category). The forth type is "Sanyaasi" who liberates himself by giving up everything in life "including GOD".

    I like the first and the last type, unless God takes care of Aethist, He is not qualified to be God.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  18. scientificpoetry

    Ignorance loves company...

    December 19, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  19. Jesus was GAY!!!

    AND HE WANTS YOU TO KNEEL AND USE YOUR TONGUE TO CONFESS!!!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  20. alice58

    christians always have been and always will be the MINORITY! there is no god and even if there was...so what - the beliefs made up by mid-eastern men thousands of years ago are some of the stupidest things ever to be created by humans... grow a freakin' brain people and think for yourself oh and get over yourselves too - there is no heaven waiting for you for being a slave to an imaginary spirit in the sky...your life has no meaning, you're an accident and a fluke just like everything else on this planet!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Michael

      I'd rather live believing there's a God and die and find out He doesn't exist, than to live believing there is no God and die only to find out He's real. If the first scenario is true, then I would've neither lost nor gained anything because there was nothing to lose or gain in the first place, but...if the second scenario is true, then I (you) would've lost EVERYTHING. Sorry, but my life has meaning and I feel sorry for you that you feel that life is meaningless. You may call us a moron, but Psalms 14;1 says YOU"RE A FOOLl for denying the existence of God.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Dan

      God Bless You! I respect your beliefs and I am proud to be a Christian! Why such hate? Believe what you want and let it be....I believe in God and believe in something greater than all of us. Merry Christmas!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Belieber

      hey Mike the genius
      When you die, your consciousness ends. You won't "find out" anything, because you will be dead. And don't quote babble verses to prove the babble. It's called "circular reasoning". You choose to live a deluded life. That's your problem.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:18 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.