A new report from the Pew Research Center says that, by 2050, the number of Muslims worldwide will be roughly equivalent to the number of Christians. That’s what most headlines about the report are saying.
But the report also has a lot to say about those of us who are “unaffiliated,” that is, atheists, Agnostics, and those who believe in a Higher Power but who want no part of organized religion.
The biggest highlights?
1) The number of Unaffiliated people worldwide is projected to rise from 1.13 billion to 1.23 billion between 2010 and 2050. However, the percentage of religiously-unaffiliated people in those years will drop from 16.4% to 13.2%.
I can’t remember the last time I saw the words “decline” and “Unaffiliated” in the same sentence.
Why such a change? It has to do with geography and fertility:
Religions with many adherents in developing countries — where birth rates are high, and infant mortality rates generally have been falling — are likely to grow quickly. Much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity, for example, is expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s religiously unaffiliated population, by contrast, is heavily concentrated in places with low fertility and aging populations, such as Europe, North America, China and Japan.
2) In the United States, however, the number of “Nones” is projected to roughly double over the next 40 years, from about 51 million to just over 100 million:
Furthermore, our percentage will increase from 16.4% to 25.6%, bucking the worldwide trend:
We’re invading the Christian space:
3) Another reason for the increases and decreases worldwide has to do with people switching their religious affiliations. On that front, Christians should be freaked out because a lot of people are leaving that faith specifically, while tens of millions of people are becoming religiously unaffiliated:
But those changes hardly make a difference when Muslims are breeding at a much faster rate and seeing relatively little exodus from the faith.
Obviously, these are all projections. We don’t know exactly how this will all shape out. If the trends continue, though, we’re looking at a world where Islam is the predominant force, for better or worse.