What is the World's Largest Religion?

Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

The world's largest religion is Christianity, making up about 33% of the world population according to a 2005 survey by the Encyclopædia Britannica. That is approximately two billion people. Other large religions include Islam (20%), Hinduism (13%), Chinese folk religion (6.3%) and Buddhism (5.9%). Indigenous religions make up 4% of the world's population, and atheism about 14%.

Islam is one of the world's largest religions.
Islam is one of the world's largest religions.

Of two billion Christians, about half are represented by the Roman Catholic Church, led by the Pope, with the rest being members of the Eastern Orthodox Church or various Protestant sects. The Christian Church suffered several schisms throughout its history, most importantly the East-West Schism (1054) and the Protestant Reformation (16th century).

Some of the largest regions include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, and more.
Some of the largest regions include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, and more.

Christianity, which began as a Jewish sect, has been the world's largest religion for about 1600 years, since on 27 February 380 when Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, ending hundreds of years of Roman mythology as state religion. Before that, the world's largest religion was likely Hinduism, which is so old that its beginnings are poorly understood. Christianity received another major boost in the 980s, when Vladimir the Great was baptized and spread Christianity throughout Russia. If Christianity was not the world's largest religion before then, then it surely became the largest at that time.

Approximately 9 in 10 South Americans identify themselves as Christians, with a heavy emphasis on Catholicism.
Approximately 9 in 10 South Americans identify themselves as Christians, with a heavy emphasis on Catholicism.

Christianity received further gains in the 15th and 16th centuries, when missionaries, especially the Spanish and Portuguese, aggressively spread the religion throughout Africa and the Americas. Today, South America remains the most exclusively Christian continent on the planet, with more than 90% of its residents claiming the Christian faith, almost entirely Roman Catholicism. In recent years, Christianity, while remaining the world's largest religion, has been experiencing a consistent decline in industrialized regions like the United States and Europe, while experiencing gains in developing regions like Africa and South America. The declines are particularly pronounced in countries like Denmark and Sweden, where only 2% of the population regularly attends church.

Christianity is the world's largest religion.
Christianity is the world's largest religion.

Although Christianity was followed by about a third of the world's population throughout the 20th century, the religion also faced its greatest challenges throughout this period, with the rise of communism (which makes atheism the state religion) and skepticism. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, many former atheists are starting to express their Christian faith again, and in Russia there is a close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the government.

About a third of the world's population believes in Christianity.
About a third of the world's population believes in Christianity.
Michael Anissimov
Michael Anissimov

Michael is a longtime wiseGEEK contributor who specializes in topics relating to paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism. In addition to being an avid blogger, Michael is particularly passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. He has also worked for the Methuselah Foundation, the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Lifeboat Foundation.

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Discussion Comments


People of science and people of religion, we all know that everybody has been brainwashed since birth. To argue the contrary is pointless. A simple moral code would suffice for the peaceful coexistence of all peoples. Believe in a god if you must, but in balance, the peoples of earth would be better off without such a belief. Every creed/people of this planet have something to offer and most times religion interferes with that process. A moral majority will govern this planet before 2050, and it will not include a "second coming" or any god. Happy trails humans.


The religion Islam is the best among all the religions and Allah willing, a day will come the day Islam will remain as a religion to preach.


I am a Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ) and as I am taught by The Holy Bible to Love everyone. I suggest that we should all follow this. Also it doesn't matter if we are even the smallest religion by a count of people. If a few hundreds can conquer a whole country just by following the instructions of God, why can't we be stronger than many if we just follow His instructions?


Christianity is the true religion among others. There is no exact evidence for the other, which talks about their beginning and ending.


Christianity may be supposed to be a peaceful religion, but it has not been practiced in that manner. Did we forget the Crusades, the inquisitions, the burnings at the stake, the accusations of heretics and the stoning of such poor souls?


For all those who claim Islam is the largest religion, I have one question: Where is the credible source that states that Islam is the largest religion? Link Please! I don't want to undermine your claim, I just want to verify and agree.

Also, for the minority of atheists present, the 14 percent claim of your followers is actually those who profess no belief, not belief that there is no God. Whatever you say about how we who believe in a God, many gods, or other Higher Powers, we are not brainwashed, tricked, or fooled. Science does not back up your belief in atheism! Science is not an excuse!

I fully support science and religion and they don't have to conflict. So don't even act like science says there is no God. Prove there is no god or gods by the scientific method.

Say there is no evidence for God. I say there is no evidence against God. If you want to pretend everything happens by chance, coincidence and good luck, fine! Just don't tell the rest of us who have different beliefs that we are foolish and brainwashed. Can everyone just respect each other's beliefs?


Islam is just plain cruel. It loves to create war. Many are killers.


Before The deity referred to as God was introduced by some clever person, who felt the need to control other people, the human race worshipped the Sun, Moon and stars etc. Then along came other clever people who formed religions, again to control people, and the leaders of these religions all insisted that there religion was true, and people should follow them in the name of their God. Then along came prophets etc. who were very clever people, who convinced the various populations that they had been chosen by the deity called God, to convert people and write books that pointed the direction for people to take.

To sum up, we now have a world populated by people, who worship a deity that was invented by a human being who was clever, and religions that all insist that they are the true religion, and so much trouble in the world caused by these religions, that were invented by humans, to control other humans, that I think I will start having faith in the Sun, Moon and stars.


Actually, atheism is the fastest growing religion. I've never heard a fellow atheist blame a god for natural disaster. That's because we don't believe in god, we believe in science.

People who believe god is real just need to open your eyes and see the other side of things. The only reason you believe is because you were raised that way, and same with your parents and so on. There has never been any proof and there never will be. Humans are becoming smarter and that is why new studies are proving atheists are the fastest growing group of people.


Christianity has only been the world's largest religion for about 100 years. Hinduism was the first world religion and also the longest lived world religion. Buddhism has been the world's largest religion since the Mongol Empire up until the 1950s. Buddhism spread peacefully through missionary work. Christianity spread through colonization and slavery. There is also evidence that early Christianity copied from Buddhism.

Buddhism is the fastest growing religion in the world. The growth is mainly driven in Asia. If we counted the number of people practicing Buddhism along with Taoism, Confucianism or Christianity, Buddhism would have been the world's largest religion for years now.


Who are the right believers on those religions?


@anon255712: Actually Christianity is responsible for the start of many many wars over the past 1600 years. The most peaceful religion is actually Buddhism, whose followers only practice peace and tranquility, but are also some of the best fighters in the world but are the biggest pacifist you could ever meet.

Look up the practices of Buddhist monks. Buddhist monks will die for what they believe in, which is less than I can say for any modern Christian.


There is but one God, whatever your belief may be.


Islam is the fastest growing religion and has now surpassed Christianity, with an astonishing number of people converting from Christianity to Islam. Islam also appeals to tribal people because of its social structure and family values.

As for the atheist claiming, "If god is so loving why does he create disease and natural disaster?" The answer is in two parts.

First: Many of us believe that God tests us, that life is full of tests. Passing the test like Abraham did and living through pain like Jesus and Muhammed did helps reinforce the love for God and proves submission to our creator is far greater than any other achievement in a person's life.

Second: A more reasonable explanation given to me by my father is that, when God puts a person through pain and misery through his life or before his death (naturally, not tortured by someone), then God washes all their sins away through this pain. For the people he loves, he creates for them anguish and pain because God is aware each one of us is capable of committing sins. This pain is punishment enough, so he is true to his word when he says he punishes people for their offenses.

I believe punishment in this life is far less painful than the punishment one has to endure in the hereafter. The eternal flame of hell is certainly something I don't want to dwell in. I'd rather suffer a stroke, suffer a few years and die with hope.

God has made this world a paradise for some and a burden for others. This has no impact on the hereafter; we are judged on our actions. But just bear in mind that those who don't deserve paradise in the hereafter may end up living a heavenly life here, oblivious to the fact that the fury of hell is awaiting them.


Let every other religion in the world preach peace to it members worldwide, just exactly the way it is been preached in christendom. Christianity is the most peaceful religion in the world.


Wow. I love it when "atheists" blame a God they supposedly don't believe in for the problems of the world. Last time I checked, God didn't hold up a liquor store, rob a bank, shoot a cop, suffocate someone in their sleep, bomb a cafe', blow up a mall, or plant land mines in Iraq.

People commit crimes, cause pain and generally treat each other horribly. God loves people but people (we) distort and twist what his plan was for us and try to incorporate our will in opposition to his. Quit dumping the world's problems on God and take responsibility for yourself. He gave you the free will to turn your back on Him, but that doesn't mean He's turned His back on you.


but it did not mention that many christians become muslims so we should know the real number!


according to the catholic church, Islam is the largest religion in the world, with 1.6 billion and it is the fastest growing religion as well.


anon117828: I really do see your point, but I just want you to know that the bad that occurs in this world is not God's doing.

It is our own for we are all born sinner and none of us are perfect, and because of our sin evil has infected the world, that is why the is pain and suffering in this world.

God is love, and that is why he gave us the choice to follow him so we have something to look forward to: eternal life in Heaven with God where there will be no pain and suffering.

I hope that God will someday open your eyes and let you feel his presence, let you feel his love.


Why blame God for all the violence, hate, exploitation, murder and all the illnesses? Most of them are self-induced, by us living according to our appetites and not according to the will of the father. The essential nature of God is love.


Not any more christianity isn't the biggest. islam was taken over and is by far the biggest religion in the world.


If you are Christian, the most important act that Christ ever performed was the atonement. This is what makes him the redeemer of the world.


The history of the Assyrian people begins with the rise of the Akkadian empire during the early bronze age period. In classical bible tradition, they are descended from Abraham's grandson (Dedan son of Jokshan), progenitor of the ancient Assyrians.


dude, it's you against the rest of the world. now tell me, do you believe you're right and 6 billion other people who believe in a god-like figure are wrong? OK, now if that's not crazy i don't know what is.


Really when it comes down to 14 percent of people (according to you) have not been brainwashed, whereas the other 86 percent have. All people are born atheist, and if not for being inoculated into a belief in what equates to a flying spaghetti monster, they would remain atheist.

Why not believe in God? He is by no means loving. I'm an atheist and my family has for the most part lived into their 80's relatively disease free. On the other hand, I have deeply religious friends/acquaintances who have prayed/attended church regularly and yet ended up with cancer dying as juveniles, ending up in car crashes leaving them paralyzed, etc.

It makes me sick when people praise God for saving them when at the same time there are 5 year olds kidnapped, raped, murdered, children thrown into rivers, 12 year olds being diagnosed as terminally ill. And all the while claiming it is God's will.

Please, God, if you exist strike me dead now so I don't have to witness your cruelty. What a joke.


Comfyshoes-I am Catholic and I just wanted to add that Catholics believe that Jesus was the son of God and was resurrected from the dead. He died on Good Friday and rose three days later.

This is why Good Friday is a holy day for Catholics and they do not eat meat on this day.

In fact they don’t eat meat on any Friday during lent. This is also why Easter is also a holy day of celebration because it signifies when Jesus rose from the dead.

This is among the most popular religions in most Latin American and Spanish speaking countries. It is among one of the most popular Christian-based religions in the United States and among the European religions.


The Catholic religion is based on a series of sacraments. The first sacrament is baptism which allows the baptized individual to enter the kingdom of God.

The next sacrament is receiving Holy Communion. The sacrament of Holy Communion is a two year preparatory program that prepares children to receive the body of Christ which is symbolized by the Eucharist that is offered in church ceremonies.

Children learn the major prayers which include, “Hail Mary, Our Father and the Act of Contrition.”

On their second year of preparation for Holy Communion, the children recite the Act of Contrition to a priest and actually perform their first holy confession.

It is after this point and upon completing this year of study that children are prepared to receive communion, or the body of Christ.

At the seventh and eighth grade years, children prepare for confirmation which is a sacrament in which you promise to follow the faith.

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