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In Theory: Researchers project changing religious demographics

The Pew Research Center created a projection of what world religion will look like through 2050, based on current trends and "using data on age, fertility, mortality, migration and religious switching for multiple religious groups around the world."

According to researchers, in 2010 Christians made up about 31 percent of the total population on Earth, while those practicing Islam made up 23 percent. The researchers found that, if current demographic trends continue, "Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century."

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In the United States, researchers project that the Christian population will decline from more than 75 percent of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050. Adherents to the Muslim faith will also surpass Judaism as the largest non-Christian religion in America.

According to the projection, the population of religiously unaffiliated — which includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with a particular religion — will increase, while their share of the global population will decrease.

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Looking past 2050, researchers projected that if current trends continue, "Muslims would outnumber Christians after 2070."

"With the exception of Buddhists, all of the world's major religious groups are poised for at least some growth in absolute numbers in the coming decades," the study says.

Q: Do you find these projections to be a valid indicator of the future of religion in the U.S. and in the world? What do these predictions mean for both those practicing faith and those unaffiliated?

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I suppose the 2070 projection should frighten me, but I expect to be dead by that time.

Many of my constituents expect to also be Raptured, and a lot of other people don't care. I think there are a few things we should consider here that need considering.

First, where is our Christian resolve to proliferate and produce godly offspring? I think many have bought into the notion that the world population can't support us, so we keep our families small.

Wrong! Just drive outside your cities and you'll see miles of land that could be used for housing, industry or whatever. We have plenty of room, and why not grow more godly in number than the pagans so that we'll never succumb to their immoral ways or religiously onerous laws?

With some minor investigation, it's not difficult to grasp how Muslims have so many offspring. Perhaps we should pay attention. But primarily, America needs religious revival. If we're Christians in name only, and not in our hearts, we aren't really Christian at all (and Christians don't leave the faith or they never had it; period.).

Americans have bowed to politically correct science and pop-spirituality so much that whatever atheists like Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking might pontificate (and opinion-based "theologians" like Oprah Winfrey) our people stake their eternities on it, and go about spouting off like they're premier intellectuals and fully spiritual.

How apropos in our narcissistic society where "cool" people rule by being acceptable, and thinkers, believers, and the Christian-identifying-citizens shake their heads in quandary. But squeaky wheels get the grease, and so do those who perpetuate the status quo of disbelief; everyone's good, disorganized religion reigns over organized, and Islam is our friend.

Here's what I see if our people do not reclaim the God we profess in America's pledge: Islam will gain majority; sharia law will follow. Moderate/ liberal Muslims will fall lockstep since they'll finally believe Allah's jihadists have his blessing, and everyone remaining will be left to the oppressive conditions of the past: lower castes, special penalties for unbelievers, and beheadings of all dissenters.

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What a naysayer I am, huh? Annie, get your gun! We have dark days coming unless we win this battle of belief, people.

"Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. Then I will say to them, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!'" (Mat 7:21, 23 NIV).

Rev. Bryan A. Griem
Tujunga

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Those numbers look pretty good to me. I was expecting a great loss of believers, but those numbers indicate otherwise.

I am not surprised that Muslims may eventually outnumber Christians; in fact, in the past I thought that Muslims did outnumber Jesus-followers.

Anyway, I had heard before that Muslims tend to have more children than Christians, so it's only natural that they would eventually outnumber "the one true religion."

I'm kidding, and that's a joke! While I may believe that Jesus is the fullest revelation of God, God is too huge, too awesome, as the kids say, to be limited by one religion.

Some of my Christian brethren and cistern may disagree with me on that point, but that's what I believe.

But back to the numbers: They indicate that religion is not dead or dying, and to me that's a good sign.

The church may have to reinvent itself (or God may have to reinvent the way his believers worship him/her), but religion itself — or belief in God — seems to be as strong as ever.

Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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The significance of religious affiliation data to me, firmly in the "none" camp as I am, lies in the secular world.

The projection that Islam and Christianity will have an almost equal number of adherents worldwide by 2050 and that Muslims will have surpassed Christians by 2070 means that I can point to a reason why Donald Trump is doing so well in the polls. Not a logical reason, mind you, but a reason.

Nothing about him personally or professionally qualifies him to be president, but Trump's campaign promise to "Make American Great Again" by excluding Muslims and immigrants, and his overall racist views, appeals to those white Americans who fear an "other" out to get them and winning at it to boot, and this data supports that. Another recent study by demographer William H. Frey predicts that the United States will be a "majority minority" in less than 30 years and in 2066 whites will make up 44%, with minorities (Latinos, blacks, Asians and multiracial) comprising the rest.

White GOP voters (and Republicans are overwhelmingly white), particularly those without higher education, are buying the message of rich-from-birth Trump that it is the growing number of "others," not our structural inequalities, making their lives harder.

As for meaning beyond this political one, the growth or decline of religious groups is somewhat of a demographic accident — religions with a lot of adherents of reproducing age are growing, those with older members not so much.

Roberta Medford
Atheist
Montrose

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Sure, these projections seem entirely possible — especially the decline in Christianity in America. We've been talking and writing and despairing for decades now over 'the graying of the Church.' Pretty much any religion with adherents still of child-bearing years can easily gain on Christianity's majority in the decades to come.

I'm surprised to hear the guess that Buddhism won't grow in numbers. So many spout Buddhism as the better alternative to Christianity, you'd think that at least in this country, there'd be a Buddhist convert made every seven seconds or so. But it might be that once people draw anywhere near to the full practice of Buddhism, they find that it's not so easy as they thought it would be, and therefore just buy the T-shirt rather than sign up for the whole religion.

Of course the most fascinating projection is that the world population of Islam may pull up roughly equal to Christianity in the next 35 years, and surpass it by 2070.

My first thought was that it's really, really time for me and everyone else in the world not only to learn more about Islam but to befriend our Muslim neighbors. Islam is making its comeback as a major player on the world stage, and the rest of us will have to learn to share.

The rapid growth of Islam is better, in my opinion, than the alternative projection that the 'nones,' those unaffiliated with any religion, would come to dominate the world's population. Muslims believe in peace and love and all kinds of good things; I'll take them any day over people who believe in nothing.

And maybe the growth of Islam will put an end to the terrorism that so dominates the news, and our prejudices, these days. Muslims will be less marginalized, and therefore less fear-based, and since there will be far less perceived need for violence, 'radical Islam' may well give way to the 'wonderful Islam' practiced by every Muslim that I've ever met.

And now if you'll excuse me, since this is the 274,275,432nd study to tell me that my job security is next to nil, I'm going to go hone my skills as a house painter.

The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George's Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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