June 22, 2015

What is each country’s second-largest religious group?

Second-Largest Religious Group
Religiously unaffiliated people – sometimes called the “nones” – account for 16% of the world’s population, and they make up the largest “religious group” in seven countries and territories. Perhaps more remarkably, they also are the second-largest group in roughly half (48%) of the world’s nations.

Indeed, while either Christians or Muslims make up the largest religious group in nine-in-ten nations around the globe, “nones” rank second in size in most of the Americas and Europe, as well as in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Largest Religious Groups, by Country

“Nones” are a diverse collection of people, including atheists and agnostics, as well as those who have a mix of religious beliefs and practices but do not identify with a particular faith. While the “nones” are not a religion per se, they are broadly categorized as such because, regardless of their beliefs, they don’t identify with a religious group.

Of the 112 countries and territories in which the unaffiliated rank second, Christians are the largest religion in 106. In many of these nations, including the U.S. and most of Western Europe, “nones” are a substantial minority. They make up a quarter or more of the population in the United Kingdom and Germany, for example.

Second Largest Religion Where Largest Is Christian

Christians are the second-largest religious group in 43 countries – including in much of predominantly Muslim North Africa and the Middle East – although in many of these states, such as Saudi Arabia and Libya, less than 5% of inhabitants are Christian. Indeed, in many countries, the largest group is far larger than the second-largest group. Across all countries and territories in the world, the median share of the country population in the largest religious group is 88%, whereas the median share in the second-largest group is 9%. Three-quarters of the world’s people live as part of the largest religious group in their country, while 16% are part of the second-biggest group.

Second Largest Religion Where Largest Is Muslim

Muslims are the second-largest group in 30 countries. Islam ranks second to Christianity in many African countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan belt of nations that run across the continent. Many of these countries, such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, are situated between the predominantly Muslim Maghreb of North Africa and the more solidly Christian countries in the southern part of the continent. Islam also is the second-largest religion in India, after Hinduism.

Number of Countries by Largest and Second Largest Religious GroupAdherents of folk religions are the largest religious group in just three countries (Macau, Taiwan and Vietnam), but they are the second-largest group in 23 nations, including China (where “nones” are the biggest group). Hindus, meanwhile, make up the second-largest group in 12 countries, perhaps most notably Pakistan. Buddhists are the second-largest group in seven countries (including Japan). Jews are not the second-largest religious group in any nation.

Note: This analysis is based on the eight religious categories used in “The Future of World Religions” report: Christians, Muslims, the religiously unaffiliated, Hindus, Buddhists, adherents of folk religions, Jews and followers of other religions. These results would vary if subgroups within these categories were classified as separate religions.

Country and regional religious composition data, along with future composition projections, are available in sortable tables. You can also download a list (Excel file) of the largest and second-largest religious groups in each country. Additional data on country-level religious demography is available at the Global Religious Futures website.

Topics: Religious Affiliation, Religiously Unaffiliated

  1. Photo of Conrad Hackett

    is a demographer focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

  2. is an advanced analytics intern focusing on demography and religion at Pew Research Center.

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25 Comments

  1. Anonymous3 weeks ago

    You mapped Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh wrong.

    Reply
  2. Adebola9 months ago

    How do you guys came about Nigeria’s population and religious distribution? Saw in an article earlier that you guys only used data from the southern part of the country because it’s impossible to get such data from the northern part. As a Nigerian, I doubt your info about Nigeria, whoever wrote this article or the infographics knows it’s not correct, not even a bit. From all past population census in history, there’s no point in time Muslims are minorities in Nigeria, most importantly, it’s not as if they stopped reproducing/breeding en mass in the northern part of the country which will now result in the Southern part having more population than the North. In fact, giving birth to very high number of kids without thorough upbringing/looking after aides Boko Haram operation in the North because Boko Haram can easily convince these kids and brainwash them to do their dirty work.

    I think it’s from this article, and the exact words used were “However, these estimates should be taken with caution because sample data is mostly collected from major urban areas in the south, which are predominantly Christian.” pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-c…

    Hence, with these inaccuracy from a country I’m familiar with, I doubt the accuracy of any other countries listed. It’s likely there would be another population census in Nigeria next year (2016), Nigeria has a new President with a reliable integrity I believe things would be done more genuinely, if PEW Research could do something, maybe take another study independently and make it all round the country but along side the Nigerian officials when the population census is going on, it would be difficult for the Nigerian authorities to inflate/decrease any numbers because they know an international firm also collected same data but independently, therefore, they will ensure accurate information was presented to the populace and PEW Research can also publish it’s own recorded data from the event. All the best.

    Reply
  3. Frances FitzGerald11 months ago

    Dear Sirs:

    Do you count Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism as folk religions? Really? Those are the religions of Vietnam today and of China before Mao – and thus of Taiwan today.

    And what of Indonesia? It’ full of “statistic Muslims,” but it’s deeply Hindu underneath.

    Sincerely, Frances FitzGerald

    Reply
  4. Peggy Taylor11 months ago

    Is there a longitudinal report of the “nones”? I’m curious what the history has been for this group.

    Reply
  5. Robert Burns11 months ago

    How many different sects are in these Religions and how different are their teachings from one another? You can’t call that kind of arrangement a Religious group anyway. The largest sect is Roman Catholic bar none and Roman Catholicism also split up a very long time ago. Religion like politics, is a joke. All you get is the flavor of the day. Think about this: We can’t learn from our own mistakes but we’ve convinced ourselves that we know the mind of God. How pathetic!

    Reply
  6. Nate11 months ago

    Thanks for the interesting and excellent work!

    Reply
  7. Nell Webbish11 months ago

    I just love the people who post “Your numbers stink!! BLANK is really XX%” without showing any signs of know where the original number came from or providing any kind of citation for their “correction”. #NotCompelling

    Reply
  8. Daniel Rasulman11 months ago

    This is not correct. The largest group in Sweden in regards to religion is unaffiliated, the second largest group is Christian. The same error was made in another article a while back. Please correct this.

    Reply
    1. Nell Webbish11 months ago

      Citation?

      Reply
      1. Alan Macpherson11 months ago

        I believe that Daniel Rasulman refers to a 2012 Eurobarometer poll that reported responses of 13% Atheist, and 30% Agnostic. That would edge out Protestant Christianity by 2% as the number one group.
        If this data is true, it behooves a change in the nomenclature of Pew’s research from “Largest Religious Group” to something else. Non-belief is not a religion despite what the fervently religious say about the subject.

        Reply
    2. Teamawesomese11 months ago

      The study was done by “pew research” so obviously it’s going to be bias.

      These people don’t really respect atheists and agnostics unfortunately because they don’t think we have a firm grasp on morality. And yet they exaggerate social scientific studies to make their religion look more respectable.

      Reply
      1. John D11 months ago

        Why….. “the study was done by Pew research obviously it’s going to be biased”?

        Reply
  9. Bonijo11 months ago

    What are folk religions?

    Reply
    1. Gerri11 months ago

      Folk religions relate to non-affiliated religions such as Native American or Australian Aboriginal religions and others like them around the world! They were the first types of religion until more organised religions took over! Many are still practiced all over the world! They may be animistic (such as imbuing animals. In fact it could be said that most religions start off as “folk” (localised) religion until they have many followers, including the Abrahamic religions!

      Reply
  10. Ingo11 months ago

    Also, your statistics for East Asian countries are higly inaccurate.

    Most Japanese declare to be irreligious because they don’t belong to religious groups, but they actually practise Shinto.

    Demographic analyses already report that the Chinese traditional folk religion has between 700 million and 1 billion adherents in China, while you predict that it will remain stable at the 300-400 million that is the estimated number for the past century. At the same time the number of Christians (68 million) is clearly unsubstantiated and inflated, given the recent surveys that find only around 30 million (2%) Christians in China.

    As for India: If social and population growth trends won’t change significantly, and if Hinduism won’t undergo a profound reformation, its decline will likely be much faster. Hinduism is being eroded not only by the growth of the Muslim population of India, but also by the numerous tribal religions that are claiming independent status in recent years (Sarnaism, Donyi-Polo) and by the growth of Christianity among tribal populations.

    Reply
    1. Conrad Hackett11 months ago

      Estimating the size of China’s Christian population is complex due to the limitations of existing survey data. We describe these challenges here: pewforum.org/files/2011/12/Chris…

      Our estimate of Japanese religious composition is based on self-identity. In Japan, as in other countries, those who identify with no religion in surveys have a mix of religious beliefs and practices.

      Note that religious identity and practice are less congruent than is frequently assumed. Mark Chaves discusses this issue here: dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace/bi…

      Reply
    2. Anonymous1 month ago

      doniyo polo and sarnaism falls under the umbrella of Hinduism/Sanatan Dharma. It includes religion which came from Hinduism and anything which is animistic with Hindu concepts in it which includes Donyo polo, Sarnaism, Kirat Mundhism etc

      Reply
  11. Ingo11 months ago

    Your predictions are totally unreliable. Given the population changes that have occurred over the last 10 years, if current trends will continue, Christianity will decline way faster, especially in Western countries. Moreover, some of the figures for Christianity that you have used for the year 2010 are inflated and unsubstantiated.

    Reply
    1. Conrad Hackett11 months ago

      We have 36 pages of documentation for the sources used to estimate religious composition: pewforum.org/files/2015/04/PF_15….

      Reply
  12. Mike11 months ago

    The maps sucks the color schemes, the chroma and hue were not used properly leaving very confusing maps.

    Reply
  13. Chris11 months ago

    You’re using out-of-date figures as regards the UK. Recent surveys consistently indicate that the majority of those questioned have no religious affiliation. That makes Christianity the largest religious group but only the second most widespread world-view in the UK.

    “In the UK, the percentage of the population which describes itself as belonging to no religion has risen from 31.4% to 50.6% between 1983 and 2013 according to the British Social Attitudes Survey’s 31st report issued in 2014. Among people aged between 15 and 24, the incidence of religious affiliation is only 30.7%. It is only amongst the over 55s that the majority of respondents are religious.”

    Reply
    1. Conrad Hackett11 months ago

      Our estimates of religious composition in 2010 are based, wherever possible, on one-step, direct measures of religious identity from a census or survey. A one-step question asks something like, “What is your religion, if any?” Some surveys, including the British Social Attitudes Survey, measure religious identity in two steps. Two-step measures often seem to conflate the measure of religious identity and religious commitment, as I discuss on pages 5 and 6 here: researchgate.net/publication/264…

      Our 2010 estimate of religious composition in the UK is based on 2011 census data.

      Reply
  14. Bob11 months ago

    Why is the whole of Kashmir shown to be part of India in these maps? Are they forgetting that parts of Kashmir are administered by Porkistan and China?

    Reply
    1. Reemee11 months ago

      (May) Peace be upon you.

      Reply
  15. Dan Kanouse11 months ago

    Finally rational people are being counted!

    Reply