The prospects for continued growth of religious populations appear strong as they are younger on average than the world’s religiously unaffiliated population.
Some religions have much younger populations, on average, than others. In part, the age differences reflect the geographic distribution of religious groups. Those with a large share of adherents in fast-growing, developing countries tend to have younger populations. Those concentrated in China and in advanced industrial countries, where population growth is slower, tend to be older.
As people migrate around the globe, they take their religious beliefs with them, but as they do, they also may face new forms of government restrictions and social hostilities. In fact, Pew Research shows that government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion have been rising in most regions of the world, impacting both existing and newer religions. While causes of the increase are numerous and multidimensional, data reveal a clear and strong association between government restrictions and social hostilities – as one rises, so does the other.
Moreover, Pew Research studies show that religion continues to shape the attitudes, actions and beliefs of people, particularly in non-Western countries. While these studies have revealed much about the impact of religion on politics, societies and people today, much more still needs to be learned.
On Friday, Nov. 22, I'll be speaking about "Global Religious Futures: Social and demographic trends we know and what we yet need to know" at Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government. For a further discussion of restrictions on religious freedom, see my recent TEDx Talk.