A new report by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion
& Public Life offers the most current and fully sourced estimates of
the worldwide Christian population as of 2010. In a conference call with journalists, Pew Forum staff members
discussed the findings of Global
Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian
comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries provides data on the
world’s Christian population by region, country and tradition and graphically
illustrates Christian geographic distribution. Findings are based primarily on
a country-by-country analysis of approximately 2,400 data sources, including
censuses and nationally representative population surveys. The report is accompanied by an
providing an opportunity for Web visitors to test their knowledge of
Christianity around the world.
Global Christianity is part of the Pew-Templeton
Global Religious Futures project, an effort funded by The Pew Charitable
Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation to analyze religious change and its
impact on societies around the world.
Listen to the audio
Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Alan Cooperman, Associate Director for Research, Pew Forum on Religion & Public
Conrad Hackett, Demographer, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
Brian J. Grim, Senior Researcher and Director of
Cross-National Data, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
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Geographically Widespread, No Regional
Growth in Pentecostalism in Latin
Christianity in China
Global Christian Population Holding
Difficulty Measuring Growth in
The Global North and Global South
Christianity in Egypt
OPERATOR: Hello, and thank you for
joining us today for the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public
Life’s Q-and-A session on the findings from the new Pew-Templeton report,
“Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s
Christian Population.” Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public
Life, will make opening remarks, and Alan Cooperman, associative director for
research, will moderate the discussion.
They are joined by the lead
researcher for this study, Conrad Hackett, who is a demographer at the Pew
Forum. We will go to the question-and-answer portion after brief remarks from
our speakers. Please know this call is being recorded, and I’ll be standing by
if you should need any assistance. It’s now my pleasure to turn the call over
to Mr. Luis Lugo. Please go ahead, sir.
LUIS LUGO, PEW FORUM ON RELIGION
& PUBLIC LIFE: Thank you. Good
afternoon to all of you, and again, thank you for joining us today, less than a
week before Christmas, to discuss our comprehensive new report on the size and
distribution of the world’s Christian population. As was mentioned, I’m Luis
Lugo; I’m the director of the Pew Forum on
Religion & Public Life. We are a project of the Pew Research Center, which is a nonpartisan
organization that does not take positions on issues or policy debates.
This report offers the most current
and fully sourced estimates of the world Christian population in more than 200
countries as of 2010. It provides data by region, country and tradition, and
graphically illustrates the geographic distribution of global Christianity. It
also presents some comparisons with the world’s Christian population a century
Our findings are based primarily on
a country-by-country analysis of approximately 2,400 data sources, including
censuses and nationally representative population surveys. For some countries —
most importantly, given its size, China — our estimates also take into account
statistics from church groups, government reports and other sources.
It should come as no surprise that
there are significant challenges in estimating the size of the Christian
population in China. As we readily acknowledge in the report, the estimate we
offer is only an approximate one. We’re pleased to have on the line Brian Grim,
the Forum’s director of cross-national data, who has a lot of experience
working in China and would be glad to address any specific questions you may
have about that critically important estimate.
There are a couple of other things
to bear in mind. First, please note, as we mentioned in the preface, that the
definition of “Christian” we used in this report is a very broad one. Our
intention is sociological rather than theological. We are attempting to count
groups and individuals who self-identify as Christians. This includes people
who hold beliefs that may be viewed as unorthodox or heretical by other
Also keep in mind that the report
does not seek to measure religiosity or religious intensity: for example, how
often people pray or go to church. Undoubtedly many of these folks we pick up
are nominally Christian, but they self-identify as such, so they’re counted. You
know we have another major line of work, survey research, where we do attempt
to measure the extent of people’s religious attitudes, beliefs and practices in
the United States and increasingly around the world.
But we also want to know about the
size of these religious groups and how they are distributed across the globe. We
want to learn which faith groups are growing or shrinking, and where they are
growing or shrinking. So we have embarked on an effort to produce reliable
estimates of the current size and growth rates of the world’s major faiths,
beginning with the global Muslim population, on which we have issued two major
reports. (See Mapping
the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the
World’s Muslim Population, October 2009, and The
Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030, January
Lastly, let me mention that our
global demographic and survey work is part of a multiyear effort that we call
the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project. The project is jointly and
generously funded by The Pew Charitable
Trusts and the John Templeton
Foundation, and it seeks to analyze religious change and its impact on
societies around the world. There is a third component of that work, coding research,
that focuses on analyzing religious restrictions around the world.
Now I’d like to turn things over to
the Pew Forum’s associate director for research, Alan Cooperman, who was the
lead editor of this report and who will be the moderator for this conference
call. Thanks again to everyone for joining us, and Alan, over to you.
ALAN COOPERMAN, PEW FORUM ON
RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Thank you,
Luis. Hi, everybody. Thanks for being on the call, really appreciate it. I’m
going to be very brief. Just so we’re all literally on the same page for this
call, if possible, if you can be online during the course of the call, if you
go to our website at pewforum.org and go to the global Christianity report, but
don’t open up the online version of the report.
Rather, I’m going to suggest, if possible,
that you open up the PDF,
which you’ll find under the “quick links”; it’s the first of the quick links. The
reason I suggest you open up the PDF rather than the online version of the
report is that the PDF has page numbers on it, and so we may, during the course
of the call, want to refer to particular pages. You may want to ask about
something on a particular page, or someone here may want to talk about a
You’ll also find on the website interactive
maps and sortable
tables. So if you are interested in the estimated number of Christians or
subgroups of Christians — such as Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians
or other Christians — in any particular country, it’s very easy to find that
data in the sortable tables. If you’re interested in regional data, you can
find it in the maps as well.
And with that, I hope that I’ve
filibustered enough that perhaps you’ve had a chance to get open the PDF on a
back screen. I’m going to turn this over to the Pew Forum’s demographer, Conrad
Hackett, to run through some of the key findings of the report. Conrad?
“Christians are by far the world’s largest religious group. Christians are also remarkably widespread.”
CONRAD HACKETT, PEW FORUM ON
RELIGION & PUBLIC LIFE: Thank you,
Alan. It’s a pleasure to be with you today. Our report finds there’s a large
Christian population, as you might expect. We find there are 2.18 billion
Christians around the world, representing nearly a third of the 2010 global
population. Christians are by far the world’s largest religious group. Christians
are also remarkably widespread. In two out of three countries and territories
in the world, the majority of the population identifies as Christian. Our 2010
estimates of the global Christian landscape are based on our analysis of over
2,400 surveys and censuses.
Historical data is helpful to put
our results in context. We include some comparisons to the global Christian
landscape in 1910, based on historical work which was done at the Center for
the Study of Global Christianity, which is tied to Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary in Massachusetts.
For those of you who now have the
PDF version of the report open, I invite you to turn to page 12, which contains
a population cartogram, or a “weighted”
map, depicting the world distribution of Christians in 1910 and 2010. I’d
like to take a minute to describe some interesting patterns revealed on this
First, you’ll see that the Christian
percentage of the world hasn’t changed much in a hundred years when you look at
the pie charts on the left side of the map. They visualize the Christian share
of the world in 1910 and 2010. Then and now, about one in three people in the
world are identified as Christians.
While the Christian share of the
world hasn’t changed much, Christians have grown radically in absolute numbers.
Each square on the maps represents 1 million Christians. You’ll see there are
many more squares in the 2010 map than in the 1910 map because the Christian
count has more than tripled from about 600 million Christians in 1910 to 2.18
billion in 2010. Of course, the absolute number of people in the world has also
grown, and grown at about the same pace, which is the reason why the Christian
percentage of the world hasn’t changed much in the last century.
However, the geography of where
Christians are distributed has changed tremendously in the last hundred years. In
the 1910 map, you’ll see the continent of Europe dominates the weighted map
because at that time, two out of every three Christians in the world lived in
one of the countries of Europe. While the majority of Christians lived in
Europe in 1910, by 2010 only about one in four Christians live in Europe.
If you hunt for sub-Saharan Africa
on the 1910 map, you see it’s very tiny. Then in 2010, the region is much
easier to recognize because it has grown tremendously. In fact, it grew by a
factor of 60 — that’s six-zero — over the century, and there was also a 10-fold
growth in the number of Christians in the Asia-Pacific region.
Today, as a result of these changes,
there is no indisputable regional center of Christianity. In terms of
population, Europe was clearly at the center of the Christian world in 1910. You
see this in the weighted map, and if you turn to page 9, you can also see it
quantified in a pie
chart. In 2010, no one region holds a majority of the world’s Christians. Of
the five regions we discuss in the report, the Americas — including North
America and Latin America — is the region with the greatest share of global
Christians, over one-third.
Today we describe how Christianity
has spread far from its historical origins. Christianity began in the Middle
East and North Africa region of the world, but today, less than one out of
every 100 Christians in the world lives in the Middle East and North Africa
region. In fact, there’re actually more Christians in Indonesia, a
Muslim-majority country, than in all 20 countries in the Middle East-North
Africa region combined.
Additionally, Germany is the
birthplace of the Protestant Reformation, but using our broad definition of
Protestantism — which includes Anglicans and independent churches — there are
more than twice as many Protestants in Nigeria as in Germany today. And today
Brazil has twice as many Catholics as Italy has.
Additionally, I’d like to just give
you a sample of a few results that didn’t make our press release or executive
summary that you may find interesting. In Great Britain, the proportion of
people identifying as Christian recently fell by about 6 percentage points in
less than five years, as described in our spotlight
on the United Kingdom. In Egypt, the Christian population is only half the
size that media accounts typically claim, and we describe this in our spotlight
The share of Christians in India is
greater than census data suggests because many Christians in Scheduled Castes,
historically referred to as Untouchables or Dalits, identify as Hindu to
maintain eligibility for affirmative-action-type benefits that are legally
restricted to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in India. We describe this in our methodology
Our report has a lot more to say
about four Christian
traditions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy and other Christians, as
well as three Christian
movements: pentecostalism, the charismatic movement and evangelicalism. We
welcome your questions about any aspect of the report.
COOPERMAN: Conrad, great, thank you very much. With no
further ado, let’s open it up to questions from the reporters on the line. We’ll
take the first question, please.
BILL TAMMEUS, THE KANSAS CITY STAR: Hi, thank you. Some years ago it was suggested
that South America would, maybe within the lifetime of the current generation,
become a pentecostal continent. I’m wondering whether your research has turned
up any evidence that that in fact is happening, or was that just someone’s pipe
COOPERMAN Go ahead, Conrad.
HACKETT: OK, thank you very much. In the back of our
report, on page 67, we talk about Christian movements, including pentecostalism,
and we have a share of the global pentecostal count that’s in the Americas. But
we don’t actually do any projections of the pentecostal movement. We do find
evidence that in many Latin American countries, such as Brazil, there continues
to be a large growth of the pentecostal population.
So for Brazil, for example, a study
recently came out from the census bureau that was conducted in 2009 of about
200,000 households, and it showed a large increase in the number of people
affiliated with pentecostal churches compared to the 2001 Brazilian census. We
use that recent 2009 estimate to make sure we are capturing all the people who
may have once attended a Catholic church who are now identifying as members of the
pentecostal movement. But we don’t at this time attempt to project pentecostal
BRIAN GRIM, PEW FORUM ON RELIGION
& PUBLIC LIFE: If I can jump in, just
speaking of Brazil, still, Catholics are in the clear majority, and across
Latin America we still find Catholicism to be the largest religion.
COOPERMAN: Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement
are clearly related, so in addition to the pentecostal numbers, we would also
have charismatics, including Catholic charismatics. If you were to add those
two together — and those two categories in our numbers are mutually exclusive,
so you can add those together — you cannot add them together with the evangelical
numbers, but you can add the pentecostal and the charismatic numbers together —
you’ll see that together, that’s a substantial portion of the population in the
Americas. It’s a quarter of the population. Correct, guys?
LUGO: Yeah. Let me also get into the act here. Indeed,
with respect to Brazil, of course the single largest country — when we last
polled on religion in Brazil for our 10-country pentecostal
survey, about half of Roman Catholics identified as charismatic, so it
shows you the importance of pentecostalism as a movement, not just in the
growth of pentecostal churches, but in non-pentecostal churches where many of
these beliefs and practices have been incorporated.
I also recall from that survey that
a significant percentage of pentecostals in Brazil were converts to pentecostalism,
which underscores the point that, yes, significant conversions are going on
towards pentecostalism. It’s not even throughout Latin America, but certainly
in countries like Brazil, Chile, Guatemala — conversions in significant numbers
RACHEL ZOLL, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I know that you began the news conference
talking about the issue of China, but I was wondering if I could ask you to get
into some detail about the numbers themselves. And although this is kind of a
silly question, I just wanted to ask you how confident you are that these are
accurate, or how confident you can be that any numbers about Christianity in
China are accurate.
GRIM: Thank you, Rachel. In the report we have a spotlight
on China, and then we have another 14 pages on China in the appendix.
So maybe one way to answer your confidence question is that the more we have to
write about it, the more nuanced the estimate is. I’ll just summarize a few of
the findings on China, and then within that give you an idea of where our
confidence level is.
There’s broad consensus that in
China there are tens of millions of Christians today, both from government
sources and independent researchers. Anyone visiting China can see that there
are steeples of churches dotting the landscape in most major cities, and
they’re usually affiliated with the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement
and the Catholic Patriotic Association. Both of these associations operate
their own seminaries, employ thousands of clergy and are served by a printing press
in Nanjing that purports to publish more than 10 million Bibles annually.
Then when we looked at the different
estimates for the full size of Christianity, not just counting the official
denominations, we saw a range from about 1 percent of the population to about 8
percent of the population. Given that 1 percent is more than 10 million, just
the margin of error in a survey can be very — you can have a very different
result because of sampling. But our ballpark estimate, looking at a whole
variety of sources that are outlined in the methodology,
is that about 5 percent or one out of every 20 Chinese today is Christian, and
this puts it in the middle of the different ranges of estimates.
But where there’s less consensus
from researchers in China is the number of Christians who worship in
unregistered churches, or those that are not affiliated with the state-approved
Protestant and Catholic associations. In practice, unregistered churches,
sometimes referred to as “house churches,” are forced to operate on the edges
of the law. This is because there are very few specific laws that clearly
establish the limits and freedoms of religious groups in society. Because of
this ambiguous relationship that these types of group have — and it’s sometimes
adversarial — relationships between the government and Christian groups that
aren’t willing to join these state associations make it difficult to measure
the size of these groups because both the government and the groups themselves
can be suspicious of attempts to measure them.
“Just 30 years ago, most researchers weren’t even sure if religion had survived the Cultural Revolution in China, but today’s researchers are unanimous in agreement that religion is growing, including Christianity.”
But again, there is clear consensus
that religion has grown in China. In fact, just 30 years ago, most researchers
weren’t even sure if religion had survived the Cultural Revolution in China,
but today’s researchers are unanimous in agreement that religion is growing,
including Christianity. But whether the growth will continue or it’s reached a
peak, we don’t know. Then again, if you have a look at the appendix, you can
see the somewhat in-depth discussion of the different estimates.
I think that we have some degree of
confidence that the size of the Christian population of China is more than 2 or
3 percent of the population but less than the higher estimates of 7 or 8
percent. So the number that we’ve settled on is 5 percent. Again, in some ways,
that’s an arbitrary number, but there seems to be evidence that there’s a large
Christian population beyond those affiliated with the officially recognized
groups, but to estimate the size of these unregistered believers is very
The last note I’ll make is that
measuring religion in China is a very difficult endeavor, first, because
nationally representative surveys, where we can have access to data, are very
limited. And even if these surveys exist, China is in such a state of flux with
massive movements of people migrating that there may have been whole villages
that have now moved to cities and trying to even count these people is a
challenge in itself.
COOPERMAN: In addition to Brian, who’s an expert on religion
in China, we also consulted some other experts on religion in China, and should
you wish to contact some people, we could help you with that separately
offline, as well.
JOHN ALLEN, NATIONAL CATHOLIC
REPORTER: Good morning. Obviously, one
of the megatrends that you spot in the study is the distribution of Christians
away from Europe to the rest of the world. One thing that struck me reading
through the data is that it seems to me that the Protestant percentages in
Europe have dropped more dramatically than, say, the Catholic or Orthodox
percentages. That is to say, the Protestant footprint in Europe has declined,
it would seem, more significantly than those other two traditions. First of
all, I want to know, is that accurate? Am I reading that correctly? And
secondly, if I am, do you have any thoughts as to why that might be?
COOPERMAN: Just to make sure I understand your question,
you’re asking if we see a greater decline in Protestantism in Europe than we do
in Catholicism and Orthodoxy?
COOPERMAN: Well, to be candid, in the historical
comparisons we made, we haven’t focused on the differences by tradition. We
really focused on the country- and regional-level differences over time, and so
there’s a lot of attention on just trying to get the data right for each
country. That said, it does seem to me that many countries in Europe that have
historically large Protestant populations have experienced or seem to be
experiencing some recent change in the size of those Protestant populations. I
alluded to the spotlight on the United Kingdom, where we describe how the
Office of National Statistics’ large household survey shows a significant drop
in the overall Christian percentage, just in the last five years. Brian, do you
have anything to add on that?
“Despite the Communist government’s attempts to minimize religion in Russia for much of the 20th century, more than 70 percent of Russians today identify as Christians, and those are primarily Orthodox.”
GRIM: One thing I could add that I found surprising
in the study is that given the communist domination of much of Eastern Europe
for nearly a century, combined with the growing secularism in Western Europe,
it still comes as somewhat of a surprise to some, I think, that three-quarters
of Europeans are affiliated with some Christian tradition. So for instance, you
mentioned Orthodox, John. Despite the Communist government’s attempts to
minimize religion in Russia for much of the 20th century, more than
70 percent of Russians today identify as Christians, and those are primarily
Orthodox. So maybe that’s a decline from 1910 figures, but within the context
of what’s going on within Russia, that 70 percent of the country identifies
with Orthodox Christianity still may seem surprising to some.
LUGO: Perhaps John had in mind the specific focus
on Germany, Conrad, where we do suggest that the decline has been predominantly
concentrated in the Protestant community in Germany, as opposed to the Catholic
HACKETT: Thank you, Luis. Yes, my own impression is
that a Catholic identity tends to stick in a way that may not always be true
for other kinds of Christian identities in countries that are undergoing a lot
of religious change, and that may be part of what’s going on here.
COOPERMAN: I’ll just throw in — John, as we noted, the
historical data were provided to us, and we’re very grateful for them. They were
provided to us by Todd Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global
Christianity. We’re glad to provide you with contact information for Todd; he’s
really the leader in this field of historical analysis of church sizes.
We used this data for comparison
purposes, but we tended not to try to get down to comparing percentages of
Catholics in particular countries, 1910 to now, for a variety of reasons. But
one reason is that the 1910 data is really done somewhat differently. Borders
of countries have changed since 1910, a lot of things have happened, and we
began to feel that it wasn’t best to try to get too deep. The comparisons are
good at a regional level, but you get to individual countries and a lot of
things have changed, including the definition of what is Protestantism, with so
many new independent churches in some places.
But I think if you talk to Todd, one
thing you’ll see is that in his estimates for 1910, Catholics made up about
half the global Christian population. And you’ll see that today, by our
estimates, they still make up about half of the global population, whereas
Protestantism — again, depends on how you’re defining it exactly, but if you
take the same broad measure and you include Anglicans and independents in your
measure of Protestants, you’ll see that Protestantism also has grown since
1910. The major subgroup of Christianity that has shrunk in proportional terms,
not absolute numbers but proportional terms, since 1910, according to Todd — one
that shrunk the most is Orthodox Christianity.
But I suggest, John, you might want
to get into that in more depth with Todd Johnson, and again, we’d be glad to
supply his contact to you or any other reporters who are interested in talking
CATHY GROSSMAN, USA TODAY: Thank you. I’d like to ask my traditional
question after these surveys, which is to ask the researchers: Of all the
findings, what finding surprised you the most?
HACKETT: Sure. Well, actually, one thing that I didn’t
anticipate going into the study is just the fact that two out of three
countries and territories in the world have majority Christian populations,
and, furthermore, 90 percent — nine out of 10 — of all Christians live in a
country that has a Christian majority. That is not something I expected.
“I was surprised, frankly, and I think a lot of people may be surprised to find that Christians make up, roughly speaking, the same proportion of the world’s population today that they did a hundred years ago.”
COOPERMAN: I’ll tell you, I was surprised, frankly, and I
think a lot of people may be surprised to find that Christians make up, roughly
speaking, the same proportion of the world’s population today that they did a
hundred years ago. I tried asking — and you’ll see in the quiz we
asked people this question. I tried just asking friends, family, acquaintances,
including some people who know quite a bit about religion around the world, and
I got quite a few people who thought that the Christian population probably had
grown substantially in percentage terms over the last century. So it may be a
surprise to know that, yes, it has grown substantially in real numbers, and it
has spread substantially to areas in which it was not very prevalent a century
ago, but in absolute terms it’s a picture of relative stability.
You might note in the report that at
one point we say that the global Christian population by Todd’s estimate in
1910 was 35 percent and by our estimate today is 32 percent. You might say: Well,
is that a decline? I guess part of what I’m saying here is it could nominally
be a decline, but given the differences in the way these are measured, our sense
that the 1910 numbers are not based on scientific surveys and censuses quite to
the same degree that our current numbers are, we’d rather play it safe and
suggest that this is, roughly speaking, the same ballpark — a third then, a
third now — rather than trying to say that a 3 percentage point decline is a
real decline. We just don’t know that that’s the case.
GRIM: I might betray my age a little bit by how I
start to answer this, but for those that grew up in the United States during
the Cold War period and went to houses of worship, it was a frequent prayer
that I remember hearing that — of being thankful to be able to worship in a
country where there was freedom of religion, and a lot of prayers were for
Christians behind the Iron Curtain, which existed back then.
Just like I was mentioning about people
not really knowing whether or not religion survived the Cultural Revolution in
China, there really was no idea whether or not religion would somehow have a
rebound after so many decades of communism in Eastern Europe; in Cuba, where we
still see about two-thirds of the population affiliated with primarily
Catholicism; Russia — almost two out of three people are affiliated with the
Orthodox Church. And in China, though the Christian numbers are relatively
smaller, we’re seeing hundreds of millions of people affiliated with religion.
So I think that that was part of
what I think people will find surprising, that religion has endured despite a
century of attacks from not only communism, but also — not that you would call
it an attack — but the more secularization of many Western societies.
It is no small thing to keep up with a rapidly expanding, mobile population, which is essentially what Christianity has managed to do in the last 100 years.”
LUGO: If I could just add to — and this was
something that we tried very hard to capture in the executive summary and
elsewhere, Cathy, underscoring what Alan just said, that in percentage terms
there has been relative stability, but always keeping in mind that to maintain
that relative stability in terms of percentage, there has to have been
significant growth in absolute numbers. So it’s both a picture of stability, but
also significant dynamism in global Christianity. It is no small thing to keep
up with a rapidly expanding, mobile population, which is essentially what
Christianity has managed to do in the last 100 years.
HACKETT: If I could just add on — Alan alluded to a
quiz. I’m not sure if we’ve made you all aware of this, but there is a quiz on
the landing page for our report, next to the tabs for the sortable tables and
the maps. In social science research, a lot of times when research is done, if
someone first learns about the result, they have a tendency to say: Oh, yeah. That
sounds right. So we encourage you maybe to ask your colleagues to take our quiz
and see how they do, and whether they in fact know some of the things which we
document in this report. We found, informally, that many people are surprised
by the change that’s taken place over the last hundred years in global
Christianity, and the quiz might be a way to just reveal how much new
information there is here, compared to what people commonly know about global
COOPERMAN: Thank you, Cathy. Was that sufficient?
GROSSMAN: Yes. Thank you.
TROY ANDERSON, TOTHESOURCE.ORG: Hi — wanted to find out how Christianity
compares to other fast-growing religions in the world and what your projections
are for the numbers and the decades ahead?
HACKETT: Thank you very much for that question. We are
in the midst of a project where we’re doing projections for all the major
religions of the world. We have done so already for global Islam, and we had a
report that came out projecting that the global Muslim population is likely to
grow at a rate faster than the world’s general population in the decades ahead.
We are getting our data ready and looking forward to having the final results
and being able to share them for Christians and other major world religions in
terms of projections. But unfortunately, we just don’t have the information
yet, so please stay tuned.
COOPERMAN: Let me just chip in. For some of you, our
longtime followers of our research — we’re very appreciative of that. Some of
you may be newer coming to see what we do. Those who’ve been following what we
do for a while will be aware that we actually put out two reports on global
Islam. The first
report was a baseline report on the current number, the current size and
distribution of the Muslim population around the world, country by country, and
then we did the projections.
This report is the baseline report
on the current size and distribution of the Christian population. That’s
baseline data, which is essential to then making the projections. But in
addition to the baseline data on how many Christians there are in each country
in the world and where they live, we also in order to make those projections need
quite a bit of additional information that it takes time to collect, and that
includes the age distribution of Christians, men and women in every country in the
world, fertility rates, mortality rates, migration and other data.
If you go and look at our global
Islam report, it’s a sizeable, almost inch-thick report, chock-full of that
kind of information. So we are gathering that additional data for Christians
today, and I hope that at some point in 2012 or perhaps 2013 we’ll have
projections for Christians and projections for many of the world’s other major
faiths, but we don’t have them yet; we only have the baseline data.
ANDERSON: So at this point you can’t say which religion
is the fastest-growing in the world or how much growth you expect in
Christianity by 2050 or so?
COOPERMAN: Correct. At this point we cannot say that, and
I’ll just note that any time anyone were to make such a suggestion, which
religion is fastest-growing, a very important issue would be, over what time
period are you talking about? Are you talking about over the last two years,
over the last 10 years, over the last 50 years, over the last hundred years, etc.?
In our projections report for Muslims, we went back to 1990 and we projected
forward to 2030, so a total of 40 years. Stay tuned; we’ll be working on this. But
it’s a very complicated question, in fact, even to begin to analyze it. One
thing we’ll try to do is be consistent about the way we handle it.
ANDERSON: If I can, just one last question. The size of
Christianity in overall numbers has tripled over the last century or so. In
what denominations or what segments of Christianity has most of the growth
HACKETT: We probably have hints to answer that question.
There’s information in our report that may be very useful. Again, turning to
the back of the report on
page 70, we have some analysis of information from Todd Johnson at the
Center for the Study of Global Christianity. His organization has gathered
information about all the denominations in the world and categorized them, and
we have a breakdown of the distribution of Protestant denominations based on
One thing that you’ll see looking
there is that historically pentecostal denominations pick up about 11 percent
of all Protestant Christians in the world. The pentecostal phenomenon is a
movement that was just beginning a hundred years ago. Certainly the very large
size of pentecostal denominations, and the broader pentecostal movement, is a
story of dramatic growth over the last century. So that would be part of the
answer to that question.
COOPERMAN: I think that we have put more emphasis and are
more confident about speaking about where the growth has taken place than in
which denominations. That’s our particular emphasis, and partly it is because
we can look at where Christians were a century ago. We have a little less
confidence in the historical data on what Christians’ denominations were a
century ago, bearing in mind that a century ago, there were nowhere near the
number or sophistication of surveys that we have today.
A lot of what we’re looking at — or
what Todd Johnson is looking at — from a century ago is church membership data.
We think it’s very important and useful for historical comparisons, but there
are also limits to what we’ll want to do with it, in terms of looking at
individual denominations in individual countries.
LUGO: Let me add to that. This is not an easy thing
to wrap one’s mind around in terms of the measurement because Protestantism has
changed dramatically. We pick this up, for instance, in the United States,
where obviously we’ve done the most polling on this, where people’s
identification with particular denominations has become more and more tenuous. And
denominational leaders will tell you this.
“Protestantism is to some extent becoming post-denominational.”
When we did our big religious landscape survey — a survey
of over 35,000 Americans — we detected the growth was in nondenominational
churches. Protestantism is to some extent becoming post-denominational. We also
saw growth incidentally among pentecostal churches in this country. But if you
go abroad, it’s the emergence of independent churches that really do not think
of themselves as affiliated with any historic Protestant denominations. They
may have had an origin there but no longer view themselves that way.
So it’s a lot more difficult to wrap
one’s mind around Protestantism writ large. In fact, I’m sure many of those
independent churches wouldn’t even consider themselves Protestant in the way we
think of it. When we get to the level of denominations in the U.S. sense, it
becomes very, very difficult to map that onto a fast-growing global Christian
COOPERMAN: Thank you, Luis. That’s what I was trying to
say. You nailed it.
GRIM: Just going back to China a bit, following the
Communist takeover of China in 1949, the Christian groups were gradually
organized into two, what they call, patriotic associations, and both of them
refused to use the term “denomination” to describe themselves. So even in China
they view the Christian, especially the Protestant, presence in China as
But then that’s what’s been part of
the conflict in China; they’re trying to fit everybody under one Three-Self
Patriotic Movement of Protestants. Taking different theological perspectives
and trying to fit it under one umbrella has been part of the tension that makes
house churches a continuing presence in the country.
LUGO: Could I just also follow up on that and if I
could ask a question because it’s one of the things that we have in the report.
We don’t emphasize it a lot, but I know that many folks out there speak in
terms of the “Global North” and the “Global South” when they speak about these
things. I wonder, Conrad, if you could address that issue. When we take all
this data and cut it, not just in terms of easily identified regions such as
Asia or Europe and so forth, but when we think in terms of those broader
categories of the Global North and the Global South, who’s included in that,
and what do we find in terms of the shift in Christianity?
HACKETT: Sure, thank you, Luis. The Global North and
the Global South are terms that many have used to describe the groups of
countries that, at least at one time, captured those that were most developed
and those that were still in the process of developing. Today those categories
are somewhat crude, but they do function to describe something about where
Christians were a hundred years ago.
A hundred years ago, the Global North
had the majority of the world’s Christian population. At that time, about eight
in 10 of the world’s Christians lived in the Global North, which was — to
define it, North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan — with the
rest of the world being the Global South. In 2010, the Global North had about
four out of 10 Christians.
Six out of 10 Christians live, in
2010, in those other parts of the world, and that reflects largely the kind of
tremendous growth in the share of Christians in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and in
Latin America that we alluded to earlier. For example, over this time period,
in 1910 about, I believe — correct me if I’m wrong here, my colleagues — but I
think it was about one in 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa was Christian in 1910,
and it’s about six in 10 in 2010, if I remember correctly.
COOPERMAN: Conrad, I would jump in and also ask a
question, if I could, because in your opening remarks you talked a little bit
about Egypt, which is a very interesting country, a lot in the news of course
these days, including with regard to its Christian population. So tell us a
little bit, if you could — why do you think that the Christian population of
Egypt is less, actually so much less, than it’s often reported?
HACKETT: Thanks, Alan. What’s typically reported in the
news is that the Coptic Christian population in Egypt is 10 or even 15 and
sometimes 20 percent of the Egyptian population. And these estimates seem to be
based upon claims primarily from the Coptic Orthodox Church that they have this
number of members.
However, religion has been measured
in the Egyptian census going back over a hundred years, and we also have many
high-quality demographic surveys measuring religion. What these census and
survey data points indicate is that for decades, the Christian population in
Egypt has been less than 10 percent of the population and that Christians in
Egypt have lower fertility rates than the Muslim majority. So the Christian
population is not growing, and there may be a small number of converts to
Christianity from Islam, but it’s unlikely that that number is very large.
Based on census data from the most
recent 2006 census, we see that 5 percent of people in the census claim to be
Christian. We’ve talked to a number of experts to try to assess whether there
could be some kind of an undercount of Christians, and what the experts we’ve
spoken with have told us is that Coptic Christians are a proud people who, in
spite of sometimes difficult circumstances in Egypt, nonetheless are very proud
and want to be identified as Christians as a general rule. And so, based on the
demographic evidence, it seems to us that the actual statistic is about one in
20, or 5 percent, of the country is Christian.
COOPERMAN: Great. Thank you very
much, Conrad. We promised everyone we’d keep this call on time, and so we’re
winding up, unless I hear a sudden request to get in a last question. I’d urge
you all, if you want to know more, if you want to set up individual interviews,
if you want to follow up from anything at this conference, please be in touch
with our communications team, in particular with Erin O’Connell or with Mary
Schultz, and they’ll be glad to set that up for you.
Thank you all very, very much for
continuing to follow our work and for joining us on this call. I know a lot of
you would like to be heading off for Christmas, so get your stories done, and
thank you. Thank you very much.
This written transcript has been edited by Amy
Stern for clarity, grammar and accuracy.