By 2035, Muslims will give birth to more babies than any other religion, according to new research from Pew Research Center. While Christianity is expanding at modest rates through birth, research finds Muslims globally are younger, having more children and growing rapidly.
“Globally, the relatively young population and high fertility rates of Muslims lead to a projection that between 2030 and 2035, there will be slightly more babies born to Muslims (225 million) than to Christians (224 million), even though the total Christian population will still be larger,” the research noted.
As of 2015, Christians—which make up 31 percent of the world population—were giving birth to 33 percent of the world’s babies; however, the Muslim population—which makes up 24 percent of the world population—was giving birth to 31 percent of the world’s babies, accounting for the explosive growth of Islam globally. Because of this, it’s estimated that Islam will be the world’s largest religion by 2075.
Complicating projections about the growth of religions is the difficulty in predicting a “deconversion” rate where individuals may switch between religious (or irreligious) beliefs; however, according to Pew, “at present, the best available data indicate that the worldwide impact of religious switching alone, absent any other factors, would be a relatively small increase in the number of Muslims, a substantial increase in the number of unaffiliated people, and a substantial decrease in the number of Christians in coming decades. Globally, however, the effects of religious switching are overshadowed by the impact of differences in fertility and mortality.”
According to Pew’s study “one of the main determinants of future growth is where each group is geographically concentrated today. For example, the religiously unaffiliated population is heavily concentrated in places with aging populations and low fertility, such as China, Japan, Europe and North America. By contrast, religions with many adherents in developing countries—where birth rates are high and infant mortality rates generally have been falling—are likely to grow quickly. Much of the worldwide growth of Islam and Christianity, for example, is expected to take place in sub-Saharan Africa.”
What this implies is that these projections are still subject to fluctuation as religious presences evolve. In China, for instance, Christianity has unexpectedly exploded in just a few decades. According to Fenggyang Yang, director of the Center of Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, there were 3 million Christians in China in 1980, compared to 58 million in 2010. By 2025, that number could swell to 250 to 300 million.
“Assuming that the number of Christians in the U.S. stays the same over the next several decades, it is possible that China could become the largest Protestant country by 2021 and the largest Christian country by 2025,” Yang said.
Throughout the history of Christianity God has moved powerfully, in unexpected ways, and transformed entire civilizations. So while it might be easy to be discouraged by the current Pew research, perhaps the best response is simply to pray that God would do what he always does—advance his kingdom throughout the world—and ask how he might use our churches to help.