December 18, 2012

The Global Religious Landscape

Other Religions

Worldwide, there are an estimated 58 million members of other religions, accounting for nearly 1% of the global population. The “other religions” category is diverse and comprises groups not classified elsewhere. This category includes followers of religions that are not specifically measured in surveys and censuses in most countries: the Baha’i faith, Taoism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism and many others. Because of the paucity of census and survey data, the Pew Forum has not estimated the size of individual religions within this category, though some estimates from other sources are provided in the Spotlight on Other Religions sidebar below.

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Members of other world religions are heavily concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region (89%). The remainder is divided among North America (4%), sub-Saharan Africa (3%), Latin America and the Caribbean (2%), Europe (2%) and the Middle East and North Africa (less than 1%).

Although the majority of members of other religions live in Asia and the Pacific, only about 1% of the people in the region adhere to these faiths. In the remaining regions, members of other religions make up less than 1% of the population.

India has the largest share (47%) of all members of other religions, including millions of Sikhs and Jains. Outside India, the largest shares of people who belong to faiths in the “other religion” category are in China (16%), Japan (10%), Taiwan (7%), North Korea (5%) and the United States (3%).

Adherents of “other religions” do not make up a majority of the population in any country.

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Median Age

Globally, members of other religions are older (median age of 32) than the overall global population (median age of 28). Reliable regional data on the median age of followers of other world religions is available only for Asia and the Pacific, where it is 33, four years older than the overall regional median (29).


Spotlight on Other Religions

The “other religions” category is diverse and comprises all groups not classified elsewhere. It includes followers of religions that are not specifically measured in most censuses and surveys, including but not limited to the faiths listed below. Estimates of population sizes for these groups generally come from sources other than censuses and nationally representative surveys.

Baha’i Faith

The Baha’i faith began in Persia (now Iran) in the 19th century. Baha’is are widely dispersed across many countries, with significant populations in India, the United States, Kenya and elsewhere. The Baha’i International Community reports more than 5 million adherents.

Jainism

Jainism originated in India and dates back to at least the 6th century B.C.E. Today, the vast majority of Jains live in India, though significant numbers also are found among Indian immigrant communities in Kenya, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The 2001 Indian census enumerated more than 4 million Jains in India, but some Jains have contended that number is a substantial undercount. According to estimates by the World Religion Database, there are fewer than 250,000 Jains outside India.

Shintoism

Shintoism is a Japanese faith that has been part of religious life in Japan for many centuries. Although Shinto rituals are widely practiced in Japan, only a minority of the Japanese population identifies with Shintoism in surveys. The World Religion Database estimates there are almost 3 million Shintoists worldwide, with the vast majority concentrated in Japan.

Sikhism

Sikhism was founded at the turn of the 16th century by Guru Nanak in the Punjab, a region now split between India and Pakistan. More than nine-in-ten Sikhs are in India, but there are also sizable Sikh communities in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. The World Religion Database estimates there are a total of about 25 million Sikhs worldwide.

Taoism

Taoism (also known as Daoism) traditionally is said to have been founded in the 6th century B.C.E. by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Adherents live predominantly in China and Taiwan. The World Religion Database estimates there are more than 8 million Taoists.

Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo was founded in the 19th century by Nakayama Miki in Japan. The faith is one of many new Japanese religions; others include Shinreikyo, Mahakari, Omoto and PL Kyodan. Reliable estimates of the number of followers of Tenrikyo and other new Japanese religions are not available.

Wicca

Wicca is a Pagan or neo-Pagan religion that gained popularity in the 20th century. It is practiced mostly in the United Kingdom and the United States. Reliable estimates of the number of Wiccans around the world are not available.

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism traditionally is said to have been founded by Zarathustra in Persia sometime before the 6th century B.C.E. Adherents live mainly in India and Iran. The World Religion Database estimates there are about 200,000 Zoroastrians worldwide.

Others

Other faiths in the “other religions” category include Cao Dai, I-Kuan Tao, Mandaeism, the Rastafari movement, the Rātana movement, Scientology and Yazidism, to list just a few.