Islam will be the world’s largest religion by 2070

Islam will be the largest religion in the world by 2070 and is the only faith growing faster than the global population, a US research centre has said.

The Pew Research Centre analysed demographic changes in major world religions and found the population of people describing themselves as Muslim will grow by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2050, compared with 35 per cent for Christians, the next fastest-growing faith.

The research centre, based in Washington, said the world’s population will grow by 37 per cent by 2050.

In 2010 the world had 1.6 billion Muslims and 2.17 billion Christians, the Pew report said. By 2050, there would be 2.76 billion Muslims and 2.92 billion Christians. If both religions continued to grow at those rates, Islam would have more followers than Christianity by 2070.

Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population but Pew predicted that by 2050 it would be overtaken by India, which would have more than 300 million Muslims, though Hindus would remain the majority.

Islam has the youngest following among major religions with a median age of 23 in 2010, seven years younger than non-Muslims.

This means that a larger share of Muslims are, or soon will be, at the age when they begin to have children. They also have more children than members of other religious groups. Globally, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 on average for the other groups. Thirty four per cent of Muslims are under 15, meaning they have more childbirth years remaining.

Although a growing number of people describe themselves as atheist, agnostic and non-religious in Europe and North America, the report predicts they will decline as a proportion globally, from 16.4 per cent to 13.2 per cent by 2050, because of high fertility rates feeding growth among those describing themselves as Muslim.

Christianity is likely to be slowed as followers join other religions or become non-religious. About 40 million people are expected to move into Christianity globally, while 106 million will leave.

The centre also said, based on a survey last year, that more people in eastern and southern Europe have an unfavourable view of Muslims compared with northern and western Europe. The majority in Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece viewed Muslims unfavourably, an attitude far less common in France, Germany and Britain.

People who considered themselves on the right politically were much more likely to see Muslims negatively.