Essay:How Many Christians In The World
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How many Christians are there really in the world?
Adherents.com places the number of Christians in the world at 2.1 billion people, or 33% of the world’s population of just under 7 billion people. They also give an estimate of 76% of America’s population as Christian out of our population of 312 million people which gives us 237 million.
But can that be accurate? Doubtful.
First off, there’s a major assumption here that is rarely considered. We are not born religious. Nobody is born a Christian or a Jew. We are born into Christian households but that does not make us a member of that religion. Religiosity is a personal identity and comes later in life. What age? I have no idea. Science would give us the earliest possible age at around 3 years old. I would imagine that it is actually later.
For the sake of argument let’s assume that’s correct. Let us assume that we do not have a religious identity until we are 4. That gives us three age cohorts that must be taken out of the equation entirely.
In 2010 there were ~4 million births in the US. That was a decrease of 3% from the 2009 levels but we’ll use it. That means that at any given time there are ~12 million children ages 0–3 who have no religious affiliation. ~3/4 of those, around 9 million, are “Christian.
And what about in the world at large? The world-wide birth rate for 2010 was 19.5 births for every 1,000 people. Doing the math that gives us ~136.5 million people were born in 2010 around the world. Once again, calculating for children ages 0-3 we get ~409 million children around the world without a religious affiliation. ~135 million of which are “Christian.”
The same of course applies to every religion for the most part. They all lose numbers this way except one really. Not only are these infants and children nonreligious, but they are atheists. They have no concept of God because they are incapable of such a concept. This is not a new idea of course but has been played with throughout the centuries with the general agreement that children are incapable of understanding such a concept until later ages(hence believer’s baptisms and such.) This would mean that the only “religious group” that gains adherents would be atheism since it allows for people who lack a belief in a deity as well as those who reject such a concept.
I won’t bother to do the math on that because it is outside the purpose of this essay.
We now move on to the second oversight ignored by many. This concept is often brought up in Conservapedia, and in other places, but the true consequences of such belief are rarely, if ever, thought about. What makes someone a Christian? The page Liberal doubts the idea that many American liberals are Christians. In fact, the page says that “some may be Christians” thus rejecting the idea that even a majority of liberals are Christian. How does that cut down the number of Christians in the US?
There’s also the reality that many people who consider themselves Christian are really secular. Such is the case for many Christians in America, Australia, Europe, and Russia. Europe and Australia are particularly known for their open secularity with only 52% of people in European Union countries professing a belief in a god. Oddly enough it is surprisingly difficult to find an accurate percentage of Europeans who consider themselves Christian but realistically speaking, even if it were 76% as in the US a lack of belief in God would preclude a majority of those from being counted among them. The statistics on this, partially being unknown, are impossible to calculate. Needless to say a very large chunk of “Christians” have been dropped from the totals.
There’s also the issue of political views and religion. There are those who believe that certain beliefs or actions say that one is not a true Christian. Such examples are the widespread belief that Anders Breivik is not Christian, though he considered himself one, based on his actions. Other examples would be Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber and Adolf Hitler who, according to many accounts, was a practicing Catholic.
There are much more “mundane” reasons to deny a person’s Christianity. Many assert that holding certain beliefs such as support of same-sex marriage or abortion rights precludes one’s ability to be considered Christian. Polls in the US have shown that the percentage of Americans in support of same-sex marriage is growing. Polls in 2011 consistently showed support over the 50% line in favor. Are they Christians?
And what about Mormons? Are they Christian? There are ~5.5 million Mormons in the US and 13 million worldwide. Where do they fit in? Many Christians do not consider them to be Christian and yet they are considered to be one by numbers. They are also one of the largest religious groups in the US.
So what is the end result? The reality is that, depending on how you look at it, the number of Christians in the world is nowhere near the numbers that are often proclaimed. They may consider themselves Christian but are either secular, lack a belief in God, or hold values apparently contrary to the Christian paradigm.
While the total is not actually calculable it is apparent that the number of Christians in the US could range from 100 million to around 200 million depending on one’s definition. Nowhere near super majority that is often claimed. In the world the results would me much more significant. Though Christianity has really bloomed in the southern hemisphere there is no denying that the north plays a huge role in the population of Christianity. With that in mind the numbers are probably much closer to the 1.6 billion currently given to Islam whose numbers would also decrease.