The Vatican has just reported that Islam has overtaken Roman Catholicism as the largest faith in the world. Apparently Muslims make up 19.2% of World population, while Catholics make up 17.4%. This really should not be much of a surprise, I would have been more surprised if Catholicism was still ahead.
I think there are a couple of key aspects that have been left out of the analysis in this report. Sure, Catholicism is now outnumbered by Islam, but Catholicism only counts their own members, not members of break off sects (aka Protestantism) or other independent Christian faiths (aka Mormonism, JW, etc). While it is likely that the number of Muslims includes all Muslims regardless of Sunni, Shiite, or any other affiliation.
A more accurate comparison would have been to compare Catholicism with Sunni Islam while comparing Christianity as a whole with Islam as a whole. If done in this way, Christianity makes up 33% of world population while Islam (still) makes up 19.2%. A significant lead for Christianity.
However, all is not necessarily well in Christendom. The Western world, which contains a majority of Christians, have some of the lowest population growth rates in the world. In some countries, there are nearly as many deaths as there are births in a given year. Additionally, more and more people from Christian backgrounds are leaving religion altogether as they become more wealthy and have less of a need for religion.
The growth rates of major Christian religions, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, etcetera has diminished to a crawl; really the saving grace for Christianity are the newer religions and movements within the umbrella. The evangelical movement has gone through a boom period and independent faiths such as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s witness continue to have significant growth rates and are establishing a greater footprint in the community.
But even the growth of those faiths and movements can’t keep up with Islam. Undoubtedly, this 14% gap in population between Christianity and Islam will continue to shrink. At some point in the not to distant future Islam will pass Christianity. Islam continues to spread, they are essentially experiencing their own modern-day crusade (a topic for another article) and taking over countries as they go along. Christianity cannot keep up with this. It is a harsh reality that needs to be recognized and if the Christian world is concerned about there ought to be serious discussion about how to deal with it (and I don’t mean deal with it in terms of War or violence) and adjust. It is a unique time for the world. We are indeed witnessing the rise of the East, both the Near East and the Far East. Could this century be the century of the East? Time will tell.