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

(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.

There are about as many people unaffiliated with any religion as there are Catholics.
There are about as many people unaffiliated with any religion as there are Catholics.   (Shutterstock)
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