Key Findings From the Global Religious Futures Project


The Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project aims to understand religious change and its impact on societies worldwide. The project, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and The John Templeton Foundation, consists of surveys, demographic studies, and annual tracking of religious restrictions. This article presents key findings from the project and provides context from other Pew Research Center studies.

People are becoming less religious in the U.S. and many other countries

The percentage of American adults identifying as Christian has been declining, while the share of those who do not identify with any religion has been increasing. This trend is projected to continue in the future. Additionally, religious observance, such as attending religious services and prayer, has also decreased among U.S. adults. Similar secularizing trends are observed in Western Europe and other economically advanced countries.

Population growth is faster in highly religious countries

While many parts of the world have low birth rates, highly religious regions, such as Africa and the Middle East, experience rapid population growth. The average woman in these regions has more children compared to Europe, North America, and East Asia. Moreover, a larger proportion of the population in these regions consider religion to be very important to them, both young and old.

Vast majority of the world’s population is projected to have a religion

Projections based on demographic data indicate that the majority of the world’s population will continue to identify with a religion. By 2050, around 31% are projected to be Christian, 30% Muslim, and only 13% are projected to have no religion. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have the fastest population growth, contributing to the increasing size of the Christian and Muslim populations. Muslims are projected to grow faster than any other religious group, possibly becoming the world’s largest religious group by the end of this century.

Is religion gaining or losing influence? Depends where you are

In a survey conducted in 27 countries, more people said that the role of religion has decreased in their nations compared to those who said it had increased. However, there were exceptions, such as Indonesia, Kenya, Brazil, and Israel, where the majority believed that religion’s role had increased. Religion has also experienced a resurgence in the former Soviet Union, where it was previously repressed. In China, where religious repression continues, reliable measures of religious activity are difficult to obtain.

Government restrictions on religion have been rising globally, with 57 countries having “very high” levels of government restrictions in 2020, compared to 40 in 2007. Many countries have official state religions or clearly favored religions, with 27 out of 43 countries with state religions being Islamic. In some countries, religion and the power of the state are closely intertwined, with a majority of Muslims in certain countries endorsing Shariah as the official law of the land.

Religion’s role as a uniter and divider

Religion can have both positive and negative aspects. It brings meaning, purpose, solace, and moral guidance to many people’s lives. Active participation in religious congregations is associated with higher levels of happiness and civic engagement. However, religion can also be divisive, with examples of religious tensions and divisions in India, Israel, and Western Europe. Christians in Western Europe, for instance, tend to express higher levels of nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and negative views of religious minorities.

Does economic prosperity bring secularization?

There is a correlation between higher economic advancement and lower religious commitment. Countries with higher gross domestic products per capita tend to have lower levels of prayer and belief in the necessity of religious faith for morality. However, the fastest-growing countries tend to be highly religious, suggesting that the share of the global population that is religious may increase. Additionally, younger people in many countries are less religious than older generations, indicating a gradual increase in secularization.

Religion’s intersections with gender and education

Women, on average, tend to be more religious than men in countries with Christian majorities. However, this gender difference is not universal and varies across countries and religious groups. The relationship between education and religion is complex. In the United States, higher education levels are associated with lower religious commitment, but highly educated Christians are just as religious as less educated Christians. Globally, there are differences in average education levels among different religious groups, with Muslim and Hindu women having fewer years of schooling. However, there are signs of progress, with all major faiths making gains in average years of schooling and gender gaps narrowing.


The Global Religious Futures project provides valuable insights into religious change and its impact on societies worldwide. The findings highlight the decline of religion in some countries, the rapid population growth in highly religious regions, and the complex intersections of religion with gender, education, and socio-political dynamics. As the project continues, further studies will illuminate the role of religion in different regions, contributing to a deeper understanding of global religious trends.

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