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. John in AZ`

    Did I miss something? "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." If it's the same percentage...WHY is this news?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Binky42

      Because they like to stroke their own egos?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Only 33% of the World's population is Christian. That means 67% do not believe in Christianity. I think that a 33% approval rating for an almighty god is pathetic.


      December 19, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  2. OLE

    Christianity does not make any sense, If a God cannot even save himself from the cross, then what kind of a god is it??? What kind of God committs suicide?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • 4th wright

      It is called sacrifice. The giving of ones self for others. "Greater love has no man, than he that gives his life for another."

      December 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • i wonder

      What kind of god gets his hurt feelings appeased by death?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • sybaris

      Exactly, IT didn't sacrifice anything.
      Something inherently of spirit has nothing physically to give.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  3. David Johnson

    Every time CNN has an article like "Young People Leaving Evangelicals" etc., they always find an article that is pro-Christian.

    Anyone have any proof that the Christian god actually exists?


    December 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
  4. Holy

    Christianity does not make any sense, If a God cannot even save himself from the cross, then what kind of a god is it??? What kind of God committs suicide????

    December 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  5. Brian

    "There is a BIG difference between saying one is a Christian and acting like a Christian."..........................................................Reminds me of that famous quotation from Friedrich Nietzsche: "The last Christian died on the cross."

    December 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • David Johnson

      According to the World Christian Encyclopedia (2001), there are about 38,000 different denominations of Christianity in the world.

      Each denomination can show you scripture, that "proves" they understand the wants of Jesus/god.
      All of the denominations could not be correctly interpreting the bible. Many are contradictory.

      Many of these denominations believe only their members will be saved.

      Most Christians believe god's purpose in creating the Bible is to guide human beings towards a knowledge of God, and to help them lead moral lives. To convey to man, the will of the one true god. This being true, it is imperative that everyone understand the will of god with equal clarity. Otherwise, we will end up with several thousand different versions of god's will. LOL

      Most Christians believe, that god is perfect, where to be perfect is to be the greatest being possible or, to borrow Anselm’s well-known phrase, "the being than which none greater can be conceived."

      If the Christian god exists, and He is all knowing and all powerful and all loving, why didn't He provide a bible that could not be misinterpreted? That everyone's comprehension of His will would be the same?

      The bible says:
      1 Corinthians 14:33 – KJV
      33For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

      ambiguity – a word or expression that can be understood in two or more possible ways : an ambiguous word or expression.

      "There are in excess of 1,000 Christian faith groups in North America. They teach diverse beliefs about the nature of Jesus, God, the second coming, Heaven, Hell, the rapture, criteria for salvation, speaking in tongues, the atonement, what happens to persons after death, and dozens of other topics.

      On social controversies, faith groups teach a variety of conflicting beliefs about abortion access, equal rights for ho_mo$exuals and bi$exuals, who should be eligible for marriage, the death penalty, physician assisted suicide, human $exuality topics, origins of the universe, and dozens of other topics.
      The groups all base their theological teachings on the Bible. Generally speaking, the theologians in each of these faith groups are sincere, intelligent, devout, thoughtful and careful in their interpretation of the Bible. But, they come to mutually exclusive conclusions about what it teaches. Further, most are absolutely certain that their particular interpretations are correct, and that the many hundreds of faith groups which teach opposing beliefs are in error." Source: Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance

      If the bible is ambiguous, then it cannot be said to be inerrant. If the bible is not without error, then how do we know which parts to accept as truth and which to reject as fiction? Is the will of god, relative / subjective?

      The Christian god with all the trappings, is very unlikely to exist.


      December 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  6. LunAtheicst

    I've been scanning the comments here but I see neither GOLC nor UD posting here. Perhaps they are hanging-out in wikipedia to keep themselves believing their own lies.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  7. supreme

    i absolutely love how the commentators are always atheists, and always throwing temper tantrums. Keep it up, this is extremely funny.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Reasonably

      The Christians may be too busy praying for our lost souls. Or trolling at Fox News.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • mad.com


      December 19, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Binky42

      Which forums are you reading? It's usually a 50/50 split.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • mad.com


      December 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  8. Reasonably

    Why is it when sports nuts have a touchdown or home run or three pointer (whatever) they cheer to their God, but when they miss they don't curse him? Is that because he punishes those who talk back? Or was the miss the punishment for thoughtcrime?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Katie

      Did you see the Tim Tebow SNL skit? If not, I highly recommend you Google it. That'll answer your question.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • 4th wright

      When I do it, it is an act of giving the moment of glory to God. I can only speak for myself, but for me it is an exercise in humility.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • M Foy


      December 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  9. dave

    oh no, a relgion post, the troll's are on a rampage quick close the page. anything that feeds troll's is a bad idea. because someone else's religion really effects you that much apparently.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • The Big Fat One

      The 9/11 hijackers were very, very religiously motivated. Do you think that affected anyone?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • The Big Fat One

      ps learn the difference between effect and affect

      December 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  10. MAJORITY always WINS

    It's in my name! Get it over with.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Phyllis G Williams

    God cannot Lie, Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among
    Men, whereby we must be saved." Old Testament saints all had to wait until The Lord Jesus died to go to heaven.
    Only Moses, Elijah, Enoch(representing the Law, Prophets, Rapture) were taken to heaven by God Himself. Men like
    David, Job etc. had to wait, because 1st John 5: 20 tells us Jesus "is the True God, Eternal Life".

    December 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Jim

      No, but god can kill innocents in the name of his chosen people. The BiBull is nothing but racism, genocide and justified evil. Islam, Judaism are just as bad. All designed to justify doing evil to those who have different beliefs. You're welcome.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • JimP

      'God cannot lie..." Yes, he can and does:
      2 Th 2:11 KJV) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

      That's pretty nasty stuff, sending delusions (falsehoods, lies) so that someone will believe them. Especially using your magic "god" powers to fool them. Messes with their free will and that's another thing that your god isn't supposed to do.

      The fact that your god even knows *how* to whomp up false delusions so good they can fool people does not speak well of his virtue. But he has had that problem before:

      Jeremaih 18:8 I [God] will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Phyllis G Williams

      How do you know the bible is true, or that you are correctly interpreting it? There are over 1,000 different denominations of Christianity in North America. Each have read and studied their bible. Each have come up with different interpretations of god's will.

      Give me some proof that the Christian god actually exists.



      December 19, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • M Foy

      It seems Jim and Jim P and others confuse the acts of men with the Word of God. The blessing of free will is we decide to do good or evil. Often those that proclaim to be holy (or in the know) are only after power and temporal glory. They wage war not for God or His glory but for their own. For land and power, Thus the need for Christ's sacrifice.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  12. Brian

    "today the Americas are home to more than a third of all Christians. ".........................................Yes, thanks to the Spanish conquest. People had a choice of converting or having their throat cut.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Katie

      So that proves Christians really are pro-choice!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Chad

      Except that hasn't been the threat for centuries. We all used to be neanderthals smashing animals with clubs. Things change. In fact the fact that we're only 1/3rd in a country founded on Christian beliefs means it's on a decline.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • M Foy

      Chad missed the details of the article. In the USA 247 million are Christians. Along with Mexico, and Brazil they make up one-third of the world's Christians. Christyanity is growing in Cina too.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  13. Willow

    There is a BIG difference between saying one is a Christian and acting like a Christian. Maybe 80% of Americans say they are Christian but I wonder how many do not live by their own beliefs? The most extreme example are pedophile Catholic priests.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • Jim

      Really? For every pedophile priest, I wonder how many Fundamentalists rip off their parishioners while raping their wives? How many Baptist preachers condemn gays to hell while buttplugging little boys overseas? Get over it.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      How many christians rail against abortion and then go have one? About 780,000 per year in th USA.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • David Johnson


      The power and money hungry Evangelicals are just as bad as the Catholics. The Catholics can always quit their church to protect their children. The Evangelicals want to take over the country.


      December 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  14. mohammed

    btw, LOWES Homse Improvement Store? I applaud you for taking a stand against the "reality" show in TLC. It is absolutely a lie. Islam is not made up of the people you see on that "Hollywood" show. The show is a guise to lure people in to a murderous religion, one that is preparing to take over the world, and that is no joke!


    December 19, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • hjh

      Your loving emails show how peaceful and loving christianity is. Christainity is a very loving religion, as demonstrated by loving catholic pedophile loving priests.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jim

      Hey, Catholics aren't Christians. They are satan-loving Papists. Ask a Born Again!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  15. Tony

    Yawn! I love all this religious banter its comedic gold! No body in the world knows anything about god or why we are here. Just enjoy the ride as a sack of cells that makes noise. 8¬)

    December 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  16. J3sus Sandals

    A percentage that are defined in this article as "Christian" also practice this with mixed local traditions like Vodun and Voodoo. Christian + Vodun or Voodoo = NOT Christian. Ergo...the song is badly written.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  17. mohammed

    Mohammed was a pig – a pedophile, murderer, and liar. Anyone considering "recruitment" to Islam should think long and hard before placing themselves under that regime of lies and murder. A true Muslim adheres to those things and so much more. While Christianity was once involved in Crusades (as were Muslims), it is by in large the most loving, truly peaceful religion in the world.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • hjh

      Your loving note tells every one how loving christinanity is. No one can beat the love of christiant priests the lov for the youngest in their congregations.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Jim

      Really? Pogroms against Jews? Ghettos? The Holocaust? The slaughter of Native Americans? The African Slave Trade? All of that was Islam?! I could have sworn it was christians...

      December 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Anti-dogma

      Really? Spanish Inquisition anyone? Salem Witch Trials? How about the good Christian missionaries and traders who sold blankets full of smallpox to Native Americans? Any of this ringing a bell?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  18. sybaris

    Christianity makes so much sense!
    An omnipotent god who created the first man out of dirt and the first woman out of the dirt man’s rib later impregnates a man’s wife to reproduce itself. After the baby (Jesus) is born it disappears for over 30 years, reappears and sacrifices itself to itself with the aid of the Romans. Before he is killed though he walks on water, turns water into wine, heals lepers and makes a zombie out of a man named Lazarus. Jesus tells us that his death is redemption for having created imperfect beings and that his crucifixion is better than the previous attempt to rid the world of evil a few thousand years earlier. That effort involved 40 days and nights of rain to drown every single living thing except good fish and that which boarded a large wooden boat and dispersed themselves on island continents thousands of miles from where the boat eventually landed. After Jesus’ death he reawakens three days later and tells his followers that if you telepathically promise that you accept him as your master, symbolically eat his flesh and drink his blood he will accept you and cleanse you of an evil force you inherited from the dirtman who was convinced by a talking snake to eat a fruit from a magic tree.
    How can you not believe that?

    December 19, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • crus

      Because I believe in more than what I can see. Like your own soul, for example.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • sybaris

      Then you have no reason not to believe in Zeus and thousands of other gods because there is no more evidence for one than any other.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  19. mad.com


    December 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  20. Papa

    i noticed they wont post my comments,,because it touches on Muslims....what makes islam so special.

    December 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • ummmm

      It has nothing to do with that there are word filters that block the posts.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Mama

      Don't force the issue pap, the topic is about Christians anyway.

      December 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Papa: Not to encourage Islam comments, but since you brought up unposted posts, here's a heads-up for all:

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      cu-nt.....as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters...!
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Plug1

      I'm sure that you were never a Muslim, just by your speech alone. Muslims are only made by God,not by oneself if you are guided by God there's nothing that can misguide you and vice versa. The true terrorist,in America,were your so called founding father (i.e.) most of the U.S. Presidents. They were very much involved in the slave trade.That's terrorism.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:53 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.