Across the Globe, 1 in 6 Unaffiliated With a Religion
New study sheds light on global religious practices
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2012 11:53 AM CST
There are about as many people unaffiliated with any religion as there are Catholics.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The third-largest "religious" group in the world isn't actually affiliated with a religion: A new Pew study finds one in six people across the globe don't follow any particular religion. Thus, the "unaffiliated" make up 16% of the world population, or about the same percentage as Catholics, the New York Times reports. Christians, including Catholics, make up 32% of the population, making them the biggest religious group with 2.2 billion followers. Muslims come in second (23%, 1.6 billion), followed by the unaffiliated and then Hindus (15%, 1 billion) and Buddhists (7%, almost half a billion).

The vast majority of the unaffiliated—more than 75%—live in China and other parts of Asia. Many of them do hold religious or spiritual beliefs (including belief in a deity, in some cases), but do not follow a particular religion. More findings:

  • People following tribal religions or folk religions (including aboriginal traditions) make up 6% of the global population.
  • People following smaller religions—like Bahais, Jains, and Sikhs—make up less than 1% of the populations.
  • Jews make up just 0.2% of the population at 14 million.