A Praying Mammal

World adherents of all religions, mid-2010:

  • Christians: 2 billion 281 million
  • Muslims: 1 billion 554 million
  • Hindus: 943 million
  • Buddhists: 463 million
  • Chinese folk-religionists: 454 million
  • Ethno-religionists: 270 million
  • New religionists: 64 million
  • Sikhs :24 million
  • Jews: 15 million
  • Spiritists: 14 million
  • Taoists: 9 million
  • Baha’is: 8 million
  • Confucianists: 7 million
  • Jains: 6 million
  • Shintoists 3 million
  • Other religionists: 1.5 million
  • Zoroastrian: 178,580 thousand
  • Nonreligious (agnostics): 660 million
  • Atheists: 138 million

This data comes from the Time Almanac 2011 edition published by Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. Totals are rounded up. My apologies to any spiritual tradition omitted from this list.

According to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “a person’s religion is what he or she professes, confesses, or states that it is.” The fact that more than 6 billion people consider themselves adherents of a religion is astonishing. Humanity is certainly a praying mammal.

What’s a person to make of these numbers? I asked a friend. He said, “Only one of them can be right.” Perhaps, but isn’t it also possible that all of them are wrong, or all of them are right, or more than one is right or wrong? God knows.

Part of the Solution

Those who imagine a post-religious solution to the defense of civilization should consider the magnitude of these numbers. If religion is part of the problem, it must inevitably be part of the solution.

More than one anti-religion government ruled large numbers of people during the past century, and these regimes were as violent as any in human history.

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