A new paper published in Demographic Research suggests that the religiously unaffiliated are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population in coming decades. A net growth of unaffiliated people through religious switching is predicted to be more than offset by higher childbearing among the younger affiliated population.
The paper starts from background data saying that people who are religiously unaffiliated (including self-identifying atheists and agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular”) made up 16.4% of the world’s population in 2010. Unaffiliated populations have been growing in North America and Europe, leading some to expect that this group will grow as a share of the world’s population.
The new research however, concludes that such forecasts overlook the impact of demographic factors, such as fertility and the large, aging unaffiliated population in Asia.
In related research, the Pew Research Centre suggests that Christians will be a minority in the UK by the middle of this century amid surging growth in atheism and Islam, an authoritative new study charting the future of the world’s religions predicts.
According to their projections, the proportion of the British population identifying themselves as Christian will reduce by almost a third by 2050 to 45.4 per cent, compared with almost two thirds in 2010. At the same time the number of Muslims in Britain is predicted to more than double to 11.3 per cent, one in nine of the total population.
But countering global trends, the Pew Research Centre predicts that biggest change in the religious make-up of Britain in the next three and a half decades will be a major expansion in the number of non-religious people. who would account for just under 39 per cent – close to parity with the number of Cristians.
(See the Pew Research Centre report here)