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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. Hebrew

    I was a Christian until I begin researching the history of Christianity; and when I found out the Catholic Church is the head of Christianity and the founder of the" Nicene Creed" I renounce my connection with Christianity, Catholics worship Mary and have many other beliefs. I am like Abraham, Jacob, Noah, Daniel, Job and many other prophets, I go to GOD for all things and he is who I worship, no one else, Good luck Christians; All praises to Allah

    December 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • al

      So you're a prophet?

      December 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Hebrew

      Not at all Al, I go to the source don't need a Label...

      December 19, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • nwatcher

      just curious – what exactly was it that made you a christian? which means follower of Christ by the way – not follower of some Creed or religious denomination.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Hal

      Hebrew, that's unfortunate. The Catholic Church is a false religion. Peter was not the first pope. He never went to Rome in his life. Also, Peter was a married man, just read the four gospels. If a person cannot confess that Jesus Christ is God and that he was crucified, buried and rose from the dead on the third day, is a false "Christian" religion.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Hebrew

      NWatcher believe it or not most folks are affiliated with Christianity because their parents introduce it to them. Once I begin to have doubt about Christianity I started researching the history of it and how it made it to the new world, North America that is. Now as for following Christ this is out of line, you follow God and he is the head; not Christ, Father comes before son even Jesus who is our example followed GOD the father..

      December 19, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  2. kalyan

    NO doubt it, See the history, when Spain migrated to usa, forced everybody to believe Christianity or punish. i know still missionaries distributing money to join. in rural places in india, china. is that correct?

    December 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • nwatcher

      ...huh? Try that again? Second thought maybe not

      December 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  3. al

    More importantly, Jesus visited Tim Tebow the other day and told him many things such as: 1) He (Jesus) prays to Matt Prater. 2) Tom Brady's is God's nephew and 3) Every word of Mormonism is true.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Belieber

      I saw him too. Praise be Loren Michaels.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  4. Jeebus $aves

    The single greatest achievement of the conservative movement in the United States has been to convince millions of weak minded people that selfishness, greed, and hate are good Christian virtues.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Jeebus $aves

    Remember children, Jesus loves you and if you don't turn to him right now, he'll burn you in a lake of fire for all eternity....because he loves you so much.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  6. Troy D

    Christian bashing. Jew bashing. Muslim bashing. Name-other-group-of-people-here bashing.

    True progress will be when the world's bloated population of bigots shrinks down to nothing.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  7. Bob

    We should all rejoice that in this most Christian of nations we are all allowed to have guns and shoot each other, that as a matter of government policy we need not care for those less fortunate than ourselves, and the we boast the highest poverty rate of any western industrialized nation.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Paul

      Yay, Jesus-people!!!

      December 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • christianbrother

      yay for republican jesus! god, guns and no pity for the weak or poor!

      "whatsoever thou doeth unto the least of these thou doeth unto me."
      apparently 95% of christians in america forgot jesus said this.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  8. Chrisitan_Apologetic

    When a athiest person does a crime we do not blame his atheism
    When a so called Christian person does a crime we blame God
    When a athiest person does anything wrong we do not blame the atheism
    THIS is DISCIMINATION against CHRISTIANS.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Paul

      Boo hoo, God boy. We actually don't blame your religion when you commit crimes, we use your religion to attack your hypocrisy when christians attack evertyone else from an imagined place of moral superiority. That's all. Frankly, that's worse!

      December 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Jeebus $aves

      How do you function?

      December 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Tom

      Without religion. Good people do good things, evil people do evil things. For a good person to do something evil it takes Religion. Why? Because seemingly good people think that they are following some ideology that is the only true way.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "When a athiest person does a crime we do not blame his atheism"
       
      Well, I'm not sure which "we" you mean, but I've seen tons of posts from self-proclaimed Christians who say that all atheists must be moral degenerates because they lack an "objective standard of morality", by which they always mean their own. Google that phrase if you don't believe me, and see tons of Christians who very much DO blame atheism.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Blessed Geek

      When a contractor says he would complete a job in three days for $1000, we hold him to his word. He says, I am better because I receive renewal training. We believed him.

      Other contractors say, they would try their best at $70 an hour. Will take 3 days to a week.

      Okay the first contractor busted his costs and took five days. Then he said, why are you blaming me or my renewal training? The other contractors took 5 or 6 days and cost $1500 and you did not complain. Why are you complaining about me. This is DISCRIMINATION.

      Moral of the story: Be honest in what you claim.

      December 19, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  9. Pratik Ratra

    Read the following article. It is interesting.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/08/14/we-are-all-hindus-now.html

    December 19, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  10. mfx3

    If the US represents 1/3 of all Christians, I can say without a doubt this religion is more of a social status phenomenon than a spiritual system or way of life. People here use it to differentiate themselves from others so they can engage in stereotyping and discrimination, nothing more. What a miserable religion.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Paul

      The term is Cultural Christians. They don't really practice, but when they have to put something on a piece of paper, they feel better writing "Christian" than agnostic or atheist, or heaven forbid, "No Religion."

      December 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Robin

      There is a world of difference between people who practise Christianity as it was intended and those who use the religion. It's far easier to smile out one side of your mouth and use a well-accepted label while behaving badly on the other side. I'd say it's high time for anyone who doesn't really know Christianity to learn what it is instead of throwing stones, within or from outside the religion. That information can be found by reading what Christ is recorded as having said and taking an example from the way he behaved. It doesn't come from interviewing leaders or individuals in any particular doctrine, as they all have their own bent on things. Once you "get" it you will be glad to call yourself a Christian.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • David

      You don't read very well do you? The US does not have 1/3 of all Christians.
      The US has 300 million people who are not all Christian. There are 2.2 billion Christians worldwide.
      Do the math ...

      December 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Kosher Kow

    all you religious freaks freak me out. i know thinking for one's self is hard, but give it a try some time, or keep fearing god...

    December 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
  12. Jeebus $aves

    Yet somehow these people feel oppressed? The Republican National Committee had a Holliday Party this year. Is that part of their war on Christmas?

    December 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  13. Paul

    So, if you remove Catholics, because all good evangelicals know that catholicism is a fraud, and you remove those creepy Mormons, there are only about 500 million protestant christians worldwide. That's only about one third the nnumber of Muslims. How convenient. When you need numbers, all people who have heard of christ are OK by you, but when the "one true faith" issue comes up, only evangelicals count. How about that.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      BINGO! You nailed that one perfectly. Excellent posting...and observation.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  14. Truth

    @HeIsGod I asked a straight forward question a person who does good all his life but doesn't believe in any religion will that person go to hell or not ?

    December 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Paul

      Oh yes. Jesus HATES people who refuse to tell him daily how awesome he is.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      ATruth: He did answer u, but if u need yet more proof, read Romans (NT). "There is NONE RIGHTEOUS, no not one; for ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • nwatcher

      Truth? "...you can't handle the truth!..." If there is a God and that is what He said then Yes – you headed for no good.
      If you don't believe there is a God then why ask the question? (and yes, you are still headed for no good)

      December 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Chrism

      you know what I hate? I hate how thin the plastic is lean cuisine entrees. I keep having to peel back these multiple thin shreds.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Belieber

      b4,
      Ever been to college ? When you get there take a Logic course. Using babble verses PROVES nothing. It's circular reasoning.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  15. looool

    Sorry to break it to you. It's a fairy tale. get real.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  16. Pete

    Uh, no $#¡+

    December 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  17. REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdcoDRpizv0&w=640&h=360]

    December 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Paul

      Atlas Shrugged is a worthless pile of pulp. The only people who value it are half-wits who haven't even rwad it all the way through because it gives them the impression that their greed and selfishness are acceptable. What a joke. You Atlas Shrugged clowns are sad, small people. Ayn Rand was a crazy cat lady who generally hated people.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • REPUBLICANS LOVE AYN RAND

      Republicans love her works!

      December 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      Another good posting, Paul.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "There are two novels that can change a bookish 14-year-old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs." —Paul Krugman, American economist

      December 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  18. b4bigbang

    To No Longer Christian: Actually, u never were a Christian:

    18Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

    19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • jnsm

      Typical Xtian arrogance. You are always boasting about people of different (or no) faiths who convert to Christianity, but when some of you leave the flock, "they were never Christians". B.S.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  19. If horses had Gods ...

    Biggest egos that's for sure.

    December 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  20. Hal

    Very simple. Jesus Christ is God. Those that confess that Jesus Christ died on a cross, shed his blood for our sins and rose again the third day are true Christians. Also, Christianity is not a religion, it is a personal relationship with Jesus.

    December 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • answerthis

      Why did God need Jesus to die on the cross? If he is omnipotent he wouldn't have needed for this to happen. With just a wave of his almighty hand he could have wiped away humanity's sins without all of the drama.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • mjm

      Sorry Hal, it is a religion and 2/3rds of the world's population don't practice it.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Hal

      God created man perfect. He gave man a free will to choose good or evil. Man chose evil, thus man is a sinner. To cleanse man of his sins, blood had to be shed. So over the centuries man followed God's plan until it was time for him to come to earth, take on the form of a man, live a sinless life and give himself as a sacrifice. For without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • JT

      If Christianity is not a religion then I demand your churches start paying taxes.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Hal

      @mjm, that's you're opinion. You have the freedom to choose how you want to live your life. No one can force you to believe anything. My hope is that God will open your spiritual eyes and give you a glimpse of the truth.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Capitan_Arecibo

      Because of free will...

      December 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Hal

      @JT, it may happen. It is not a requirement for Christian Churches to pay or not pay taxes. It is a decision of our government. Jesus said, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and the things of God unto God.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Hal

      Yes Capitan, free will. God does not force anyone to do anything.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Belieber

      If god created everything, then it created the system too. Why did "blood had to be shed" ? God could have just said, "never mind", or "I guess I'll be nice and change they system"?

      December 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • JT

      *groan*...not the "free will" scam. Anything to maintain the delusion I suppose. You should just simply say "magic" to all questions.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:22 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.