In 2050, There Will Be More Christians Than Ever Before — But Even More Muslims

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Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims — some 1.7 million of them from abroad — have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims — some 1.7 million of them from abroad — have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's pilgrimage. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP/Corbis

In 2050, how will people worship? According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, there are dramatic changes coming to the world's religious practices. High fertility rates and a large young population in the Muslim world will soon end Christianity's reign as the world’s most popular religion. In America, though, nearly a quarter of the population won't believe in any particular religion, at all.

The Pew report projects that, by the middle of the century, the world's populations of Muslims and Christians will be nearly equal. (Christians will make up 31.4 percent of the population and Muslims 29.7 percent.) Both groups will see dramatic increases in raw numbers as the global population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion. But by 2070, the report says, Muslims will begin to outnumber Christians.

In America, that balance will be a bit different. In 2050, Pew says, Christians will still make up a majority of the population, but not by as much. In 2010, 78.3 percent of Americans affiliated themselves with Christianity; by 2050, Christians will make up 66.4 percent of the population. And there will be two other big changes: Muslims in America will outnumber Jews, and a full quarter of Americans will consider themselves atheists, agnostics, or unaffiliated with any religion.

That's a big difference from the rest of the world — overall, an increasingly small percentage of people will remain unattached to a religion. That's partially because unaffiliated people are concentrated in “places with low fertility and aging populations," Pew reports. In contrast, the populations of developing countries, where Christianity and Islam dominate, are growing fast.