Lindsay: The changing geography of Christianity
Chart Source: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
December 25th, 2011
09:37 AM ET

Lindsay: The changing geography of Christianity

Editor's Note: Dr. James M. Lindsay is a Senior Vice President at the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Visit his blog here and follow him on Twitter

By James M. Lindsay

A century ago, more than nine in ten of the world’s Christians lived in either Europe or the Americas. Today, Europe and the Americas account for slightly more than six in ten of the world’s Christians. One in four live in sub-Saharan Africa, and one in eight live in Asia. (About half the world’s Christians are Catholic, slightly more than a third Protestant, and a twelfth Orthodox.) The changing face of Christendom reflects both differing demographic trends around the world - Europe’s population has grown much more slowly than any other region in the world - and active efforts by Christian churches to proselytize.

In all, there are about 2.2 billion Christians around the world, making it the most widely practiced religion. (Islam is the second most widely practiced religion, with an estimated 1.6 billion practitioners.) How do I know all this? Because the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an impressive study this week that looks at the size and distribution of the world’s Christian population. May they all have a Merry Christmas.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of James Lindsay.

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    In some European countries – Austria, Denmark, Finnland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland, members of some congregations have to pay church tax in their parochial communities. For this reason the churches see occasional exodus of worshippers.

    December 25, 2011 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • Earl


      Pls. read the revelation of the Real Name of God and the real Jesus and the fate that awaits all religions as written in the Bible in this website:

      Thank you

      December 27, 2011 at 5:10 am | Reply
  2. jv

    i submit that there are many CINO's and that the numbers are skewed. that most US adults are closet agnostics although they may be counted as one form of christian or another. the polls indicate that only 20-40% (depending upon which pollu want to believe) of US adults attend a regular weekly religious service. that means 60-80% of US adults do not attend a weekly service. so i would say that the overwhelming majority of American adults are non-religious.

    December 25, 2011 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • jv

      I should have defined CINO ... "Christians In Name Only" ...

      December 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Reply
      • Jake

        You are you to Judge that?

        December 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • gerald

      I know many people who don't go to church yet speak often of Christ and show a firm belief. I don't agree with this but am not their judge. So you are skewing the numbers yourself by taking them all as CINO's.

      December 26, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  3. Cindy Friedman

    Thanks to Fareed Zakaria!

    December 25, 2011 at 11:26 am | Reply
  4. - See What the World Is Thinking

    I have to agree with jv. It would be nice to know how many of them are actively practicing Christians.

    December 25, 2011 at 11:27 am | Reply
  5. Kleincotter

    The number of practising Christians is declining rapidly in Europe, particularly in the North...Scandinavia, Germany, France and Britain. The growth of non-Christian China, Russia and Asia will further marginalize Christians to the atavistic US evangelicals, Latin Americans and Africans who will continue to be useful idiots, balancing the equation against the threat of radical islam.

    December 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  6. fedup99

    Use real numbers folks. all of you cowardly Christians. You are way of top and will stay that some time. It could switch completely in the Christians favor. Maybe you can try to kill millions of the muslims o make our world a better place--you sickos.
    Estimated 2000 Projected 2025 Projected 2050 50 Year Projected Growth 2000-2050
    Religion Adherents % of world Adherents % of world Adherents % of world New Adherents % Growth
    Christianity 1,999,563,838 33.0% 3,016,670,052 33.4% 3,651,564,342 35.3% 1,052,000,504 52.61%
    Islam 1,188,242,789 19.6% 2,184,875,653 26.1% 2,629,281,610 28.0% 1,041,038,821 87.61%

    December 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • amato

      fishy translation

      December 26, 2011 at 12:44 am | Reply
  7. marie

    @kleincotter: useful idiots?, Im sure they'd beg(4use of a better word)2 differ

    December 26, 2011 at 8:55 am | Reply
  8. Rz

    Behind every intention there is an underlying spirit. The spirit of Christmas, like many good religions, has been somewhat distorted by time and the twists of man. You need not be Christian, nor Muslim, nor Jewish, nor a follower of any other named religion/faith to understand and follow what I have come to believe is probably the most important underlying spirit of our existence;

    Peace on Earth and goodwill amongst all men.

    Believe it, and try your best to live it.

    December 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Reply

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