The headlines might declare that Christianity is declining in the United States, but new research shows it’s growing faster than the population around the world – and atheism and agnosticism are on a gradual decline.
The 2019 Status of Global Christianity report shows there were 2.5 billion Christians in the world as of mid-2019 – a major increase from the 1.98 billion Christians in 2000 and more than double the number of Christians (1.2 billion) in 1970. Christianity is growing worldwide at a rate of 1.27 percent each year and outpacing population growth (1.20 percent) – and is booming in Africa (2.37 percent), Asia (2.79 percent) and Latin America (2.29 percent).
By comparison, there were 138 million atheists around the world in mid-2019 – slightly more than the 137 million in 2000 but less than the 165 million in 1970. Atheism’s annual growth (.04 percent) is less than that of the population, and the number of atheists worldwide is projected to decline to 132 million in 2025.
Agnosticism and those affiliated with the “nonreligionists” category also are on the descent, according to the report.
The Status of Global Christianity report is released by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
A Pew Research Center study this month showed the percentage of American adults who call themselves Christian has declined the past decade, from 77 percent to 65 percent, while the percentage of U.S. adults who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” has risen from 17 percent to 26 percent in that same span.
Globally, though, the data is opposite of the Pew data, according to the Status of Global Christianity report.
There were 716 million agnostics in the world as of mid-2019, but by 2025 that is projected to fall to 707 million. Nonreligionists numbered 854 million this year but are expected to fall to 839 million by 2025.
Much of Christianity’s growth is due to its surge in other continents. Africa (119 million) and Asia (160 million) each have more Christians than North America (100 million).
Among Christian traditions, evangelicalism (2.19 percent) and Pentecostalism/charismatic Christianity (2.26 percent) are growing faster than Protestantism (1.61 percent) and Roman Catholicism (1.02 percent).
Despite the positive data for Christianity, the report showed its growth in cities isn’t as dramatic. The global urban population is growing at a rate of 2.15 percent, more than the growth of Christianity in those cities (1.58 percent).
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Priscilla du Preez/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.