5 Global Trends Impacting Religion in 2017 and Beyond

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By Aaron Earls

What will religion look like in the world next year and into the future? Using their annual research, Gordon-Conwell’s Status of Global Christianity offers a preview of the world’s near and long-term religious future.

The world is becoming more religious.

Despite how it may seem, religion continues to thrive in the world—growing at a 1.33 percent rate, higher than the population growth (1.21).

In 2017, almost 6.7 billion people will identify with a religion, which equals 89 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, almost 92 percent will be religious in some way.

Atheism is on the decline.

Non-religionists continue to fall behind global population rates. Their 0.31 percent growth will bring them up to almost 834 million in 2017.

While agnostics are growing around 0.36 percent, atheists have the smallest growth percentage of any belief system—0.05.

According to projections, non-religionists will actually decline in raw numbers sometime after 2025. For atheists, they will start to drop sometime after next year.

Christianity is growing, but not as fast as Islam.

The overall global population is growing at a 1.21 rate. Only Islam (1.93 percent), Sikhs (1.62 percent), Hinduism (1.34 percent), and Christianity (1.31 percent) are growing faster.

In 2017 and the foreseeable future, Christianity should remain the largest religion in the world with almost 2.5 billion adherents. Islam will have slightly less than 1.8 billion followers, while Hindus will cross the 1 billion mark.

The world is more urban than ever.

In 1900, there were 20 megacities, cities with more than 1 million people. In 2017, there will be 522 such cities.

Next year, 55 percent of the world’s population will live in an urban environment. That amounts to more than 4.1 billion people. Of those, almost 1.6 billion will be Christians.

Literacy continues to expand.

From 1900 to 2000, literacy rates among adults jumped from 27.6 percent to 76.7 percent. By next year, more than 8 in 10 global adults will be able to read.

Christians are working to produce more Bibles to keep up. More than 87 million Bibles will be printed in 2017. When combined with the smaller portions of Scripture, 2017 will see more than 5.1 billion pieces of the Bible printed.

AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@LifeWay.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.

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