Recent studies estimate that atheism has lost 28 million followers in the space of 41 yearsmarco tosatti rome
According to the annual “Status of Global Missions” study, in this first part of the millennium non-believers will lose two million seven hundred thousand members, whilst declared atheists will lose one million and 370 thousand “faithful”. "Catholicism is growing at a rate of 34 thousand people a day, while Islam is gaining 79 thousand followers per day, and Hinduism 37 thousand.
Between 2000 and 2011, the “non religious” category lost 700 members every day, while the “atheist” category lost 300 per day.
The figures published by the agency “Analisis Digital”, showed if we compare current figures with those from 1970, the height of the “sexual revolution” in the Western world and of communist atheism in Eastern Europe, we see that in 41, years atheism has lost 28 million followers.
In return, the number of non-religious individuals has gone up by more than one hundred million.
With the fall of communist regimes many of those who, for reasons of political and cultural expediency, particularly in Eastern European countries, declared themselves “atheist”, because state atheism was favoured by the various regimes (Moscow established the Institute and Museum of Scientific Atheism, to mention one example), went for the less bold option and preferred to plead non-religious.
Likewise, in China, after the devastating wave of the “Cultural Revolution” with all its human and cultural disasters, many people today prefer to declare themselves non-religious rather than atheist.
In any case, in the mid Twenty-first century, atheists and non-believers seem to be heading towards a definite decline.
In some cases they convert to a religion, albeit in a very superficial manner, (and this often seems to be the case of millions of people in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia, where there is a particular tendency to subscribe to the Orthodox faith with a return to traditional forms of worship). Many older people die leaving practically no children and therefore do not “transmit” faith in the non-faith.
On the contrary, religions are flourishing in the twenty-first century, with no exception. Even Judaism which accounts for a tiny minority. Which had little more than fifteen million members in 1970; less than 14 million reported in 2000, but now appears to be recovering with numbers returning to what they were forty years ago.
Christianity, in all its possible variants, totals two billion three hundred million followers, and is growing more than any other faith: according to the calculations made by the study, more than 83 thousand faithful come under the sign of the Cross. Following close behind, of course, is Islam. There are almost one billion six hundred thousand followers of the Prophet Muhammad throughout the world, and numbers are increasing at the speed of 79 thousand every 24 hours. Hinduism is in third place. Its believers add up to 952 million, who live primarily in India, but also in neighbouring parts of Asia. And this faith is growing at a rate of 37 thousand followers per day. Still in Asia, although present in statistically small numbers elsewhere, is Buddhism. At the global level, there are about 468 million followers of various “routes”, which are increasing at a rate of 13,800 per day. Taoism is a predominantly Chinese faith, but thanks to the country’s total figures, it holds an important place among religions, coming just below Buddhism. Taoism has 457 million followers who have survived all the political and religious climates of their homeland and are increasing at a rate of 9,300 new followers every day. Lastly, we have the planet’s countless “ethnic” religions, which encompass 269 million people from many different creeds. This category is growing at a rate of 9 thousand per day.
A total of two billion people on the planet, know nothing of Jesus Christ; in other words they were never explained the message of the Gospel. Another two billion and 680 million, according to information in the report, have listened to it a few times, or have come to know it is some way, however they are not Christians. However, the “fertility” of the Christian message in Churches, is striking. Even if Jesus Christ founded only one (and at that time of course tiny) Church, and prayed, not long before his death, for his followers to be united so “that all may be one”, at the beginning of the twentieth century there were already sixteen hundred different Christian denominations; but a century later, that is today, there are 42 thousand different denominations which in one way or another refer to the Galilean.
This world growth is characterized by great diversity and interest. The Catholic Church has approximately one billion and 160 million believers, and is growing at a rate of 34 thousand per day. Particularly impressive, however, is the phenomenon of Protestant Pentecostals. The various churches on the planet, that fall into this category add up to about 612 million followers; and are estimated to grow at a rate of 37 thousand faithful each day. Pentecostals have clearly exceeded the faithful of the classic Protestant churches, which currently total 426 million, a figure that is increasing at a rate of 20 thousand per day.
Orthodox Churches, which to some extent suffer the consequences of their strong national and ethnic identity, have 271 million baptized faithful, and are witnessing a much lesser growth than other religions, for the reasons just mentioned, with 5 thousand new followers joining its churches each day. Among other things, Russia, which is the heart of an important Orthodox Church, is a country whose birth rate shows characteristics of a crisis. This is also a result of the high number of abortions. Anglicans have seen the demographic centre of their church move towards Africa and Asia. There are 87 million Anglicans around the world and they are growing at a rate of three thousand faithful per day. Lastly we have all those whom the study defines as “marginal Christians”. This includes Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and all those who call themselves Christians, but are doubtful about the divine nature of Jesus or the Trinity. They total 35 million and are growing at a rate of two thousand a day.
Of course it is understood that the most common criterion of growth, according to the study, is birth rate: having many children and educating them in one’s own religious tradition. The other form, which is certainly less “prolific”, is conversion. It is much less frequent, however it is experienced by millions of people every year. The most common and practiced form of conversion is through marriage: one spouse decides to embrace the faith of the other. In 2011, Christians of all denominations circulated 71 million Bibles throughout the world (there are about one billion and 740 million Bibles on the planet, many of which are “clandestine”). And in 2011 409 thousand Christians will leave for foreign countries to preach the Gospel, sent by 4 thousand 800 different missionary agencies.