Every now and then we need a reality check on what’s happening in the world in terms of religious development and spiritual need. Crosswalk is vitally committed to demonstrating the passionate love Jesus has for the world, and so such information is of great interest to us. A huge 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center, based on the religious beliefs of nearly 64,000 people from 65 countries, yielded some interesting, encouraging, and challenging results. While I encourage you to read the entire study, here are some salient points:
- The rumors of religion’s death have been exaggerated. While secularism is rising in places like the Silicon Valley, the study revealed that virtually every major world religion (except Buddhism) will rise in numbers in the next 50 years.
- 63 percent of the people polled said they are “religious.”
- The least religious country in the world is clearly China, with twice the amount of convinced atheists than any other nation (61%). The most religious country in the world? Thailand (94 percent religious, almost all Buddhist with 5% Muslim and less than 1% Christian).
- The fastest growing world religion is Islam.
- Christianity will still be the world’s largest faith by 2050, but only barely. However, if present trends continue, by 2070-2100 Islam will gain the numerical edge.
- In 2050, Islam and Christianity, combined, will represent 6 out of every 10 human beings on the planet.
- In the United States, Christianity will retain its majority but decline, and Muslims will grow to surpass Jews as the second largest non-Christian American religion.
- Religiously unaffiliated people now make up 16% of the world’s population. By 2050 they will rise in real numbers but decline in terms of percentage, and constitute 13% of the global village.
- Interestingly, there was a strong correlation between income and religious belief. Less than 50% of people in the two highest income brackets said they were religious! Yet 70% of those in the three lowest income brackets said they were religious. Similarly, the number of convinced atheists is as high as 22 to 25 percent among people with medium high and high income but only 5 to 6 percent among people with low and medium low income.
Here are a couple of conclusions. Regarding the correlation between income and religious belief, in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” In Luke’s Gospel, he said, “Blessed are the poor…” with no qualifier (“in spirit”). Scholars can debate the difference here, but practically if you are not poor, you’d better be poor in spirit. The full quote is this: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:3 ESV). Jesus repeatedly indicated that your wealth can drive you away from God. It is happening in our world. I hope and pray God blesses you financially, but not if it will give you a false sense of independence and importance that drives you away from God and his poor in spirit followers.
A second conclusion, the battle for the world’s soul is between the cross and the crescent. I saw this during my years in West Africa as people were leaving their African Traditional Religions behind and embracing either Christianity or Islam. There is a world of difference between these two faiths. The need for global evangelism and studies in comparative religion and apologetics (“reasons for the faith”) has never been greater. Here’s our promise:
…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these (human) kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. – Daniel 2:44 (NLT)
For the Kingdom of God,