Is Christianity Losing to Islam?


A pilgrim holds a giant crucifix at the Fatima shrine in Fatima, central Portugal, on May 12, 2019. – Thousands of pilgrims converged on the Fatima Sanctuary to celebrate the anniversary of Fatima’s miracle when three shepherd children claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in May 1917.  The Muslim Times has the best collection for interfaith tolerance

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Source of the Op Ed: Project Syndicate

By Paul Seabright, who is Director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse and the author of The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life.

The story of religious competition is not one of ideological struggle between Christianity and Islam. It is one of growing corporatization, with local and folk religions everywhere being gradually but inexorably replaced by churches and mosques that are affiliated with two of the world’s main religious brands.

TRENTO – Populists in Europe and North America like to claim that Christianity in the modern world is on the retreat against a resurgent and confident Islam. Even observers who do not subscribe to the idea that a “clash of civilizations” is occurring often conclude that Christianity is on the decline.

At first blush, the facts at the world level might seem to support this view. Between 1950 and 2015, according to census figures gathered by the World Religion Database, a large comparative project based at Boston University, the share of the world’s population that is Muslim rose from 13.6% to 24%. Over the same period, the share that is Christian fell from 35% to 33%.

But this is no open-and-shut case. The same trends look very different when broken down by region. Christianity has grown slowly since 1950 because in that year it was concentrated in two types of regions: those, like Europe, that were populous but growing slowly, and those, like Sub-Saharan Africa, that were fast-growing but still small. Islam has grown quickly since 1950 because it was concentrated in populous regions that were destined to grow fast over the next 65 years, particularly in Asia (contrary to a widespread stereotype, roughly 80% of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs). Christians made up less than 3% of Asia’s population in 1950. So, although this share had risen to 9% by 2015, too many of the world’s babies born in the intervening period were never going to be Christian anyway.

But the world is converging demographically, and fast. One of the only iron laws governing human societies is that when women are both educated and free to work for money, they choose to have fewer children, whatever their bishops and imams may say. Fertility in Muslim-majority Iran fell as fast in the 1980s and 1990s as it had done in Communist China under the one-child policy a decade earlier. In the twenty-first century, demography will lose almost all its earlier importance in shaping the relative growth of the world’s religions.

One way to see the importance of demography up to now is to calculate what would have been the shares of Christianity and Islam in the world’s population in 2015 had the number of each religion’s adherents simply grown at the average rate of the population in their own country since 1950. Islam would have had a share of 20.2%, so its share of 24% is indeed a lot higher than expected. But Christianity would have had only 27.7%, so its actual share of 33% is also much higher than expected.

To understand what has been going on, consider Africa. In 1950, Muslims represented 36% of Africa’s population, a share that had risen by 2015 to 41.8%. Christians represented a mere 21% of the population in 1950, but by 2015 this had risen to an astonishing 48.5%. Much of this reflected the massive expansion of evangelical and pentecostalist churches across the continent, from Abidjan to Zanzibar. So, if Islam and Christianity were both getting a bigger share of the pie, who was losing out?

The answer is a large number of different religions that the World Religion Database classifies as “Ethnoreligions.” These local and folk practices encompass everything from spiritual healing to rites of passage, fortune telling, and preparations for love, death, and war. They may recognize gods of the village, the river, the forest, and the mountain. And while they commanded the allegiance of 42.6% of Africa’s population in 1950, this share had dropped to a mere 8.6% by 2015.

Africa is not alone. Asia has also experienced a sharp fall in the share of the population professing adherence to local and folk religions, notably those that commanded the allegiance of many Chinese in spite of efforts by centralizers from Confucius to Mao Zedong. In Latin America, where the Roman Catholic Church made inroads much earlier, most ethnoreligions disappeared in the nineteenth century.

In short, the big religion story in the last century is not one of ideological struggle between Christianity and Islam, with Islam winning. It is a story of growing corporatization, with local and folk religions everywhere being gradually but inexorably replaced by churches and mosques that are affiliated with two of the world’s main religious brands. Hinduism and Buddhism, the two other main brands, have been much slower to respond, but they are starting to change, and the growing religious assertiveness of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is just a foretaste of much bigger things to come.

This phenomenon is the religious equivalent of the displacement by Walmart and Target of local grocery stores across the United States. You may regret it or welcome it, but it has proved unstoppable.

Historically, religions have competed in three main ways: war and conquest, demographic rivalry, and persuasion (in the marketplace of beliefs, we might say). War and conquest were overwhelmingly the most important vehicle of religious competition throughout history until the nineteenth century, and demographic competition was overwhelmingly the most important for most of the twentieth century. Despite the turbulence in the Middle East, war and conquest have declined massively in importance as a vehicle of religious competition in recent decades. And demographic competition will fade as the world’s female children gradually have fewer of their own.

On a world scale – whatever populists may say – Christianity is not struggling; it is in more vigorous shape than it has ever been. And the marketplace is where most of the religious action is going to take place in this century. As in many other marketplaces, there are large returns to scale for those who can work out how to exploit them. That is why corporate religion is here to stay – and why we should expect it to consolidate its dominance.



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4 replies

  1. Fátima is a central town that’s home to the Sanctuary of Fátima, a Catholic pilgrimage site. The Capelinha das Aparições marks the spot where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917. Other sacred sites include the Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, with its golden angels, and the modern church of Igreja da Santíssima Trindade. The Museu de Arte Sacra e Etnologia exhibits religious artifacts.

    The name of the town speaks of the Muslim heritage, as Fatima was the name of the favorite daughter of the holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.

    The Muslim Times has the best collection for the Muslim heritage. For out collection please click below:

  2. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. Nevertheless, the West has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to the media, prejudice, and ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as an extremist, terrorist religion. Many people hate Islam and do not want to acknowledge its true teachings. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a peaceful religion, which does not promote any forms against the teachings.

    The vast majority of Europeans and Americans know very little about Islam. They know hardly anything about its history and its teachings and do not particularly want to learn, according to a German academic. Very few westerners are bilingual. On the other hand, majority of Muslims are bilingual and have an associated knowledge of other cultures. In this respect, they are far ahead of many western citizens.

    Islamic studies is a “Strategic subject” that, when accurately and effectively taught, can aid community cohesion and extremism, according to British Ministers. Islamic studies should be part and parcel of National Curriculum instead of citizenship education so that all state , church and private school children could learn and understand Islamic traditions and values. The subject must be taught by Muslims.

    According to the Holy Quran, all children are born Muslims, it is their parents who make them Jew, Christian or others. This is one of the many reasons why now western peoples are reverting to Islam on their own free will. Throughout the history, Muslims never forced non-Muslims to accept Islam. This is the main reason why Muslims lost Spain and India.

    Today, many non-Muslims regard Islam as a religion that promotes violence, terrorism and war. Unfortunately, they rely in their view of Islam on the general media, which is not always accurate in reporting the news. Many media outlets, such as TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, are influenced by their investors or owners who have certain agendas and who want to promote certain values and points of view. Other media outlets are simply after the “big story”, in order to make more money and more profits. Others are simply “followers”, who only gather news from other sources, re-package it and try to sell it again purely as a business.

    In all these cases, the news reporting is not accurate, but is driven by ulterior motives or simply by profits. Only very few media organizations are committed to providing accurate and true information, regardless of financial gain. Therefore, people today should be very careful in what they take from the media.

    Before blindly accepting what the TV, radio or newspaper is reporting, one should think critically about what is being reported. Is this being reported accurately, or is it being exaggerated or even completely fabricated? Who are these people reporting the news, and do they have vested interests to report the story in a certain way, or are they completely objective and fair? Critical thinking is very important in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to accepting the media reports about important and controversial issues.

    Islam is in fact a religion that promotes peace and understanding among people of all faiths, and it strongly prohibits all forms of violence and aggression against all people regardless of their faith or race.

    Islam Prohibits Violence and Aggression, and stands for Peace and Justice.

    Islam clearly prohibits all kinds and forms of aggression and violence against anyone, except in self-defense. Islam is a practical religion, meant to be implemented in every aspect of our life. Therefore, it realizes the fact that a person who commits aggression and violence against others will not cease these actions unless they are deterred by similar actions taken against them.

    Islam also places very high importance on justice, and allows for aggressors and unjust people be punished accordingly, unless they repent before they are brought to justice. At the same time, Islam encourages people to forgive those who have wronged them whenever possible.

    The beauty of Islam is that it is a religion which appeals to common sense. There is no blind belief or dogmatism in Islam. The fundamentals of Islam are simple, straightforward and easy to understand.
    If Islam is so bad, then why is it the WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING RELIGION! It is also one of the youngest religions. However no matter how hard everyone tries to give Islam a bad name, it will be twice as more populated. So let’s get straight to the point yeah?, Basically Islam is the most hated religion I don’t know why hmm maybe because it is also the most fastest growing religion and 2nd largest but no one will be able to stop this religion from growing.

    Islam is the fastest growing faith in Britain. Hundreds and thousands of Brits are reverting to Islam. By the middle of this century, over half of Brits would be Muslims.
    “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion for from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.” [G.B. Shaw, THE GENUINE ISLAM, Vol. No. 81936.]

  3. Why is there so much focus on converting Christians to Islam? Organised religion in the Christian world has mostly declined as people have become more educated. That does not mean that people have lost the values they grew up with. But religion is something personal, more relevant to some than others. And if people choose to be agnostic or atheist, that is entirely their right, and should concern no others. But the war of religion continues, each wanting to draw in as many followers as possible, and those followers are mostly the more vulnerable and ignorant, who are needed to financially support the organisations. Yes, they are run like businesses. Let people believe whatever they want, so long as it doesn’t hurt others. We don’t want to live in theocracies.


    Religion in US ‘worth more than Google and Apple combined’
    Religion in the United States is worth $1.2tn a year, making it equivalent to the 15th largest national economy in the world.

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