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. Questioner2999

    I'm not religious, but I find the anger expressed by many of my fellow non-believers curious to say the least. Not sure what purpose insulting people who believe serves except to make yourself feel better by putting others down. My guess is that many posters are very unhappy people.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Mit C


      December 19, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Mark

      Thanks Questioner. I don't see why someone who thinks that Christianity is a fairytale would get so angry at those who do believe. At most they should just be snickering and patting themselves on the back for their superior intellect.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm |


    December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm |

      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."

      December 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Mark

      Republican and NOT a big fan of Ayn Rand.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm |


    December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  4. Matt

    Too little, too late. Us Atheists are growing fast. We will overtake silly religion with sensible science and facts in no time at all.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • john

      you will then be the new religion. how can this be so difficult to understand. athiesm is a religion

      December 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  5. o.k.

    @Louisa Ferre-admittedly I didn't understand that handle–had to look it up. Nice. Arrogance is fun too. The fig reference (I assume your referring to the parables) I got.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  6. AGeek

    China has roughly 1.34 billion people, and only 67 million have swallowed this tripe – 5%. The US has 313 million people and 247 million have apparently drank the kool aid – 79%. The US has invaded three countries in the last 10 years. The US spends more on their military than the next six countries combined. China is the largest holder of US debt. You draw your own conclusions.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  7. Jon

    Way to pollute the world, Christians.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Mark

      Why do you say that Jon?

      December 19, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  8. Colin

    Who is most likely to think they will live happily ever after they die in a magic place where only good things happen:

    (a) A seven year-old girl who has just read Cinderella;

    (b) a ten year-old boy who has just read Harry Potter;

    (c) a Christian who has just read that collection of Bronze Age mythology we call the “Bible”; or

    (d) all of the above?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • john

      too bad thats not what most people believe heaven is in the first place.. score zero for you

      December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  9. OLE

    Top Ten reasons why Jesus is not God.
    They are here in a descending order:
    10- God cannot be born.
    9- No explicit statement in which Jesus said, “I’m God” or “Worship me”.
    8- No one can see God in this life.
    7- Jesus never taught the Trinity.
    6- God does not sleep, eat, drink, etc. Jesus slept, ate, drank, etc.
    5- Jesus does not know everything.
    4- Jesus explicitly states that he is not God.
    3- The Bible does not call Jesus the son of God alone.
    2- God cannot change. He is perfect.
    1- God is the essence of the worship. He is the object of worship. Had Jesus been God, he would have told people to worship him. Truly, he did the exact opposite as in Matthew 15:9.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • john

      ive already busted at least half of those.. including seeing god.. keep being angry though, im sure your life is fruitful

      December 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Mit C

      Ole, one little word totally knocks all of those 10 points out of the water: Immanuel. Matthew 1:23

      December 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  10. Ashley

    It's extremely saddening to see the amount of hate coming out of people on here. I see so many demeaning, offensive, critical, abrasive and judgmental comments coming from all sides. Atheists, Muslims, Jews and Christians alike all pointing fingers and insulting one another and you all should be ashamed of yourselves. How can anyone say so many hateful things to turn around and boast about your own faith or even the lack of?
    I can only speak for myself as a Christian. I love God and Christ, I believe in them because of the works and events that have happened in my life. Have I run into hypocrites and those who express hate in Jesus name? Yes, I have. But that is not because of Christ, that is because we are human and they made a choice. Jesus has 2 commandments. To love God, and to love others as we love ourselves. That is the Lord that I believe in. That is the faith that makes me think twice whenever someone makes me angry or hurts me. That is the faith that encourages me and strengthens me to be a better person and to show everyone as much love and respect as I can. It does NOT matter if I agree with you. It does NOT matter if you believe in Jesus Christ. I will still love and respect you just the same. Everyone has an opportunity to seek Christ for them-self and to make a choice. All I can do is share the Christ that I've grown to know and Love, I can share with you the true and Holy Word of God. But what you do with that is up to you and God.
    All I would like, is that as much as I respect you, your choices and faith despite the fact that I don't agree with you.. please respect mine.
    Thank you, and may God bless you all.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Lol


      Educate yourself, you stupid Christian. That goes for all religions. Use some logic once in a while.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • nowimnowhere

      Well said, Ashley!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • False

      Shut the hell up. God is not real. You are delusional. You are too stuck on your own importance and think god made you, loves you. There is nothing special about you. Why would you love an imaginary friend who says bow to me or else. Your religion is dying.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Leucadia Bob

      Wish I could agree with you Ashley, but the heart of the matter is that all wars have been fought over Religion, and usually because those with the Religions belived firmly in something that they could NOT prove existed, and were willing to fight for it. My goal as an Agostic Atheist is to wake everyone up, so that they see what is in front of them, instead of being deceived by the corrupt agenda of man. In my mind that is what I am attacking – the controlling of the masses by a book (or let's say books) written by man. I don't want to persectute you-I want you to open your eyes. Have you ever seen God or Talked to God? Is God an old man in the sky? Do we live eternally in Heaven when we die? What is Heaven? Does it matter? You can live in Heaven on Earth if you choose to, enjoying all that life has to offer, of you can torture yourself, or kill infidels, or judge the pleasures of life as EVIL in hopes that this sends you to Heaven. You seem like you are very non-judgemental so I'll give you a break. But you know as well as I that there are way too many people out there judging in the "Name of their God"

      December 19, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Ashley

      Wow. The responses from False and Lol really just proved my point. You haven't met me yet you call me 'stupid' and tell me to use logic... then followed by telling me to shut up and that I'm delusional. Did you actually read my statement in it's entirety? As in my plea that although you don't have to agree, or believe in God- because it is YOUR choice; you turn around a criticize me when I've done nothing to you.
      I don't know why you are so angry. I don't know what has happened in your life, but to address me as you have when I am a stranger and have spoken no wrong to you.... Well, that sounds like you two are rather prejudice so what makes you and Atheism any better than the Christians that you look down on?

      December 20, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Bob

      "what makes you and Atheism any better than the Christians that you look down on?"

      Well, to start with, atheism isn't based in absurd dogma that is self-contradictory, cruel, and counter to evidence and reason. And atheists are generally much smarter than you are, stupid.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • J.W

      If atheist are supposed to be smarter you must be the exception to that rule Bob.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  11. NunyaBidness

    The headline should read, "Christianity is the Most Popular Mythology". The only reason religions exist is to make people feel better about their inevitable death.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  12. gaucho420

    The best part about this, and its under reported in this article, is the loss of faith in Europe. Two world wars, a vatican that did squat and no god to save you...NO WONDER! Hard to believe in a savoir with hundreds of million dead!

    December 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  13. OLE

    Jesus never claimed divinity. He was a hebrew prophet. Bart Ehrman (Top biblical scholar)

    December 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Casey

      LOl your crazy

      December 19, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Mark

      He does OLE. John 8:58. He says that He is "I AM". The same name that God uses for Himself to Moses.

      December 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  14. sam

    it's the largest religion because it's so popular in america?

    December 19, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  15. Casey

    Praise Jesus!

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

      Jesus was a myth. He never existed.


      December 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mit C

      David Johnson, there is ample proof outside of the Bible that Jesus did in fact exist. Look it up. Even the most devote atheist can find evidence that Jesus did live. Start with the writings of Josephus and go from there.

      December 19, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Demonfeed

    And this, dear readers, is why our country is going down the tubes... A massive majority of human beings buy into the notion that the King of Zombies died for their sins and that by being afraid of him and reading his biography that they can somehow find a place in Zombie heaven.

    Every christian is a testament to the fact that there are human beings in this world who are beaten down, shafted, neglected, and wronged who truly think that they get some kind of a prize for being abused.

    The fact that the guys at the head of the church can get away with this kind of thing in the modern world is truly frightening.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • mdc


      December 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Ray

      Look at all the "get out of jail free cards" you get in Christianity. You can't go wrong. Even Hitler could be in heaven now. What a faith!

      December 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  17. stevie68a

    People believed for millions of years that the world was flat, and we know how that turned out. Religion was created to control
    people, and is simply not true. It is fantasy.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  18. Brian

    "i absolutely love how the commentators are always atheists, and always throwing temper tantrums. Keep it up, this is extremely funny."...............................................................There you go, side-stepping the question. That's a rhetorical trick religious people like to use.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  19. OLE

    Jesus was a hebrew prophet , he never claimed divinity Bart Ehrman (Top Biblical scholar).

    December 19, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  20. scottwc33

    sad to see so many still needing a bronze age babysitter. suckers.

    December 19, 2011 at 6:09 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.