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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. Really

    My inbox is empty......evidence and intelligence please...

    December 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      evidence that you're a pompass ass 🙂

      December 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  2. FlopFlipper

    sounds like you used a pretty loose definition of Christian. The vast majority of US citizens I know do not identify themselves as Christian, practicing or otherwise. Yet in your poll its close to 80%.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Rick

      Yes, in the US, it's pretty close to 80%. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country

      December 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Truth

      You must be in California or Newyork.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  3. Really

    @T Email meatcnn @ gmail com

    Please explain to me the delusion. Here is your specific question: Explain to me, what happened in the 1st century that moved so many people to die for something they knew was a lie? (read the question carefully).

    You provide me the evidence that Christianity is delusional-more delusional than saying 'matter created itself' or 'the universes created themselves" (the great atheist, Stephen Hawking), and I will listen to your comment. As it stands right now, neither you, Bob, or Rick have provided anything of intelligence to support the idea that it's delusional or not even possible.

    Simple challenge: meatcnn @ gmail com.............

    December 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Rick

      So if it can't be explained then it must be "god" right? A thousand years ago when lightening or weather could not be explained "god" was an easy way. Now your last and final fight is the creation of the universe and life. Once science answers these questions religion should die.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Dude-we are not professing to know the answer of your question-we are simply asking "WHO KNOWS?" Far be it from us to say what the truth is. I certainly know what it is NOT. The NOT truth is why waste your whole life trying to belive in a Deity that you have no idea whether or not exists? And by waste your life, I mean, go to Church, judge people that don't belive in it, start wars, think your better then non believers. Sacrifice the pleasures of life so that you go to an imaginary place called heaven, etc. Your question, sir, is flawed. Wake up and smell the roses – Life is a gift – whoever granted it to us, we will never know, until we die(and even then we may not know because who knows-you pompass ass)

      December 19, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • TR6

      I am an atheist, which means I don’t believe your god exists. What 1st century people did or didn’t do is irrelevant to that. How the universe got started is also irrelevant to that. What would be relevant is any shred of testable, repeatable, verifiable evidence that your god exists. Your just another typical snake oil salesman of a Christian trying to sell the sizzle because you have no steak

      December 19, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  4. keith

    To SYBARUS – If there is no God, please explain the origins of the universe. Asking me to believe that the entire universe just "appeared" out of nowhere sounds more unbelievable than God creating it. If you disagree, please explain the scientific logic behind YOUR version of the creation of the universe.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Keith

      Lawrence Krauss explains how something can come from nothing better, than anyone I have ever heard or read.

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo&w=640&h=360]

      Cheers!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • keith

      Interesting....since it violates one of the primary laws of physics – that you can not create or destroy matter. Sounds like "science" is doing some loose talking here. Those who support the big bang want to start their argument with how the universe (matter) exploded and expanded in the universe we knew today. This explanation still does not answer where the original matter came from.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  5. HeIsGod

    Praise the Lord ALMIGHTY....now, if only the denominational Christians would really start living by the word of God and stop misleading many as many false Pastors are doing as well. We need to be lead more by the Spirit of God than the rules of men.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  6. Windy City Red

    All religions share the same delusion – that there's life after death. Once everyone accepts that there isn't, we'll all start to get along with each other, because we'll realize that we're all in the same boat.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • keith

      To Windy City Red – You speak with such certainty that there is no life after death. Exactly where did you get your information? Yours is an opinion (that's what it is because you have no evidence to back it up) so I wouldnt be so quick to mock those whose opinion differs from yours.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Windy City Red

      Keith – I'm not mocking anybody.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Windy, if you are right and there is no God, we still lose nothing. But if you are wrong and there is a God, guess what? You lose the best valuable thing in your life.....your soul.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Windy City Red

      Helsgod – I'm not saying anything about God – I'm just saying that there's no life after death. The idea that there's life after death has caused a lot of problems – think of the 9/11 hijackers or the suicide bombers. If they realized death was the end, they probably wouldn't have done what they did.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • keith

      Not mocking....understood. But why are you SO sure you are right? How do you KNOW there is no life after death. If you look at it logically you cant say for certain one way or the other. It's amazing to me how many people are arguing this one simple fact. Many people who have had near-death experiences claim there is life after death. I'm not saying its proof there is....it's just one side of the argument. Unfortunately, there is no one to debate the other side of the argument (no life after death)

      December 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Windy City Red

      Keith – the idea that there's life after death is clearly a human invention. It's a delusion that exists in all religions – even the pagan religions of centuries ago. It's man's way of coping with – and denying – the idea of death.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  7. StevieBoy

    As long as religion has a grip on any one person, group, population, or civilization there will be struggle, ignorance and retarded growth. Science and common sense are the true Savior!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  8. rinsac

    Says who? Guess it depends on whose poll you listen to or even if you care.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Rick

      Ummm...says, reality. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_by_country

      December 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Truth

    There should be another poll to see if these Christians really follow the teachings of Jesus that will tell the real numbers.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  10. canadian dude

    Organized religion is a crutch for people who need to follow. Time to think for ourselves rather than depending on a book written 2000 years ago, and revised by whomever left out parts they didn't like.(see the King James version) Version being the operative word.The same applies to all religions, modern people believing medievil dark ages trash and even teaching it in schools. Southern Baptists, Catholics, born again Christians, Muslims, etc etc Are all just as bad. Ignorant people spouting ignorant teachings that have no place in this modern world except to sow discord.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Rick

      Anger much?

      December 19, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  11. Really

    @LEUCADIA Newsflash: Science has not answered the major questions that need to be answered YET, 'Simply explaining it away with wanna-be scientific fact in textbooks across the nation in hopes of making primitive people follow society's agenda will only lead to continued greed-struggle-starvation-and deprivation of the most GRAND thing of all...LIFE. I find it rather ironic, that it says, 'LIVE now you fools..'

    YET, atheist-secularism-evolutionary thought EXPECTS, yes, EXPECTS, SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST- expects and encourages GREED, STRUGGLE, STARVATION, and DEPRIVATION! One of the fundamental teachings of your grand scientific thought encourages what you are opposing above? THAT is irony.

    I can only hope that one can take a sincere step back-leave religion out of the statement, and see how ignorant that is. We don't want greed, struggle, or starvation-yet we are animals, products of evolution with survival of the fittest built into us. Yet, now we speak out against that which is supposedly our nature? I'm confused with that, as well as this-based on that-what is wrong with greed? struggle? starvation? On what moral basis are you saying greed is wrong if evolution is true? It violates what they teach in science classes.

    Here is what I want, I want an INTELLIGENT, logical, scientifically driven, with empirical evidence, response.

    Here is the question: Does evolutionary thought NOT dictate and encourage greed, starvation, and struggle? If it DOES NOT, then you may want to go into the courts and have them remove 'survival of the fittest' from all textbooks, because that IS survival of the fittest. Then, I want the evidence that NT Christianity TEACHES and ENCOURAGES greed, starvation, and economic/familiar struggle of other people at one's own expense.

    You provide me with answers to these questions, I will give value to your comment. Please, send your intelligent responses to meatcnn at gmail com I have YET to have anyone respond-instead they always bash me online, and no one seems to have the courage to step up to the plate.

    I thought us animals had more courage than name calling?

    December 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      AMEN, REALLY!!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Yes, really

      It is a stretch of interpretation that "survival of the fittest" is analogous with greed and depravity. In fact, it's often misinterpreted in many ways, depending on what our perception of "fit" means. In reality, "fittest" is a term that refers to the species that is best adapted for the immediate, local environment ("Stephen Jay Gould, Darwin's Untimely Burial", 1976; from Michael Ruse, ed., Philosophy of Biology, New York: Prometheus Books, 1998, pp. 93-98.)

      Natural selection is not in discordance with civility. First, the natural contest among species to perpetuate their genetic material that occurs over thousands of years should not be confused with the struggle that individuals have for financial and emotional well-being on a day-to-day basis. The latter is not a zero-sum game, meaning my success doesn't come at the expense of all of those around me. On the contrary, one of the things that makes human beings successful as a society is our ability to work together and our dependence on each other in a society where individuals have specialized talents that contribute to our well-being as a whole.

      This is not unique to the human species, by the way. Other social animals – ants, bees, prairie dogs, etc. – have a similar social dynamic. Other specific behaviors also exhibit in those species – not greed and murderous depravity, as you would suggest, but benevolence. For instance, a prairie dog will risk their personal well being to alert the others in its community of an approaching predator (Slobodchikoff, C. N. (2002) "Cognition and Communication in Prairie Dogs", In: The Cognitive Animal (pp. 257-264), M. Beckoff, C. Allen, and G. M. Burghardt (eds) Cambridge: A Bradford Book.)

      This behavior evolves because it actually promotes the well-being of all the individuals in the population. Societies that are able to live in harmony and work together are more likely to survive than those that are full of backstabbing miscreants. So, here is your explanation for why people have the capacity to be good to one another, grounded in biological science. As LaPlace once said on the existence of God, "Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là."

      December 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      LOL, Science is neutral. The same theories that give us microwave ovens gave us the atom bomb. If Im not mistaken, it was a religious people (Christians) that chose to use it for evil, instead of good. (Atom bomb)

      December 19, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  12. The only one

    And with every new believer the world slips further into the second era of darkness, as the 'dark ages' rise again. People need to read history and learn that the eras where religion rules are the worse ones.

    Wake them up before they destroy us all.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  13. GodofLunaticsCreation

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFd3e3m4Eao&w=640&h=360]

    December 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Dr.Tong

    After a Mormon (LDS) member is elected President, the Mormons will have a surge in membership and, eventually, become the world's largest religion. The Book of Mormon will replace the flawed Bible, and a new era of peace will begin.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Rick

      LOL! All of the "books" are crazy, however the book of mormon is literally hilarious. Do you people actually believe this stuff? Jews living in America thousands of years ago? Seriously????

      December 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Or not.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Wholly Mary

      Thanks for the laugh!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • eric calderone

      I don't think so: truth matters. Since the doctrine of the LDS Church is fabricated, and has no precedent in Christian history, there will be no surge in membership. The falsehoods of LDS doctrine are too blatant to conceal; members quickly become inactive and drop away. While I doubt that a Mormon will become President in the near future, even if that did happen there would only be a modest, at most, affect on membership. Afterall, one does not change one's view of the nature of God based on who is U.S. President.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • tre

      wow

      December 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  15. DoubtingThyomas

    With the US population of 302 million, I seriously question the numbers quoted. Sounds like more self serving lies to me.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Rick

      That number's pretty accurate for America. Do a Google search.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Rick

      Headline: Billions more brainwashed into believing in an imaginary old man who lives in the sky and watches everything you do. Great News! The world is screwed until we get rid of all these delusional beliefs. Hard to believe that sane people actually believe in talking snakes and magical men that walk on water. Amazing.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

      AYN RAND,Atheist Quote-Every man builds his world in his own image; he has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of his choice. If he abdicates his power,he abdicates the status of man, and the grinding chaos of the irrational is what he achieves.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  16. REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0BXTlh7xPs&w=640&h=360]

    December 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  17. Stan

    Merry Christmas everyone!!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  18. gnash

    I'm with Michael & Dan!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  19. Leucadia Bob

    The only way that this Earth will survive is through education. The Bible is one book, just like the Quran and whatever the hell else the other religions wrote. These books were written years ago with no knowlege of the technology that exists and drives the world today. We MUST adapt to the times, and realize that there is a tremendous amount of UNKNOWNS that exist in the universe. Simply explaining it away with a witty passage in a book that was written in hopes of making a primitive people follow somebody's agenda will only lead to greed, struggle, starvation and deprivation of the most GRAND thing of all.....LIFE. LIVE NOW YOU FOOLS!

    December 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • john

      ..and the books we used for eduscation in our school system 20 years ago are being thrown out because the information has been edited, is wrong, or flat out biased. funny huh.. i would think wisdom is the word you were searching for

      December 19, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Absolutley-and I also reiterate that it is not WISE to cram your entire Belief System into one Book. Be objective. Don't believe what the Bible says because you were told so. Look at the world around you and forget about what you have read and think deep and philosophically about what we are doing here and what the most advantageous things are that we can do to preseve life. You have NO IDEA what happens when you die. NOBODY DOES, yet for some reason, billions of people want to believe in it, and are willing to stake their PRESENT CONDITION (LIFE) on this belief. I say live in the HERE and NOW.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Craig

      KISS MY ASS...... The Bible is the truth

      December 19, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      There is no ABSOLUTE TRUTH Craig – you're a Sheep. Off to the slaughter house with ya. Baaaaaaaahhhhhh.......

      December 19, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Really

      @Bob again, 'there is no absolute truth.' Are you sure about that? Are you 100% sure about that? I agree Bob, live it up-do whatever you want, that's exactly what evolution teaches-so, please don't mind me as I go around murdering everyone that I want to on the premise of living it up. You have your challenge, email me an intelligent response to my initial comment. ....You are doing a great job so far of making fun of people, but can speak with intellect? Email me....

      December 19, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • tallulah13

      @Really

      What does any of the original post have to do with murder? What sort of person are you if you think that murdering people on a whim is "living it up"? You are a really evil person if that is what you get from the notion that there is no "absolute truth." I don't know what point you are trying to make, but the one that was made is that your neighbors should be very cautious around you.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Are you serious? It's SO SIMPLE. Eliminate that which is unknown and you have facts. Determine which facts are true and you have a LIMITED idea of what the ABSOLUTE TRUTH may be. You will never know ALL of the fcats so why sit there and act as if you KNOW THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH? This is the problem with religion – everyone thinks they know everything. I tend to put it out there as "WHAT DON't WE KNOW" simply because you NEVER KNOW-you pompass ass

      December 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  20. T

    "Christianity goes global as worlds largest delusion"

    December 19, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Rick

      AMEN to that! Billions of delusional mentally ill people. It's sad and patetic.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Concerned

      BINGO!

      December 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • dudley0415

      About 95% in fact. That puts you the 'upper' 5% – but that's the point, isn't it?

      Those with the capacity for faith are blessed, not nuts.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Roscoe Chait

      You've heard of the arms race. Well, this is the religion race, to see which religion will gather the greatest number of delusional followers over the next few decades. If I were a betting man, I'd bet on Islam. Despite Bachmann and her wacky Christian-based nonsense, the Islamo-fascist Muslims convert you and hold you at the point of a gun.

      December 19, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
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About this blog

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.