The world’s most committed Christians live in Africa, Latin America – and the U.S.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with a big presence in most parts of the globe. But not all Christians share the same levels of religious commitment.
Christians in Africa and Latin America tend to pray more frequently, attend religious services more regularly and consider religion more important in their lives than Christians elsewhere in the world, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. At the same time, Christians in the United States also have comparatively high levels of commitment to their faith.
The study analyzed 84 countries with sizable Christian populations. In 35 of those countries, at least two-thirds of all Christians say religion is very important in their lives. All but three of these 35 countries are in sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America. (The three exceptions are the U.S., Malaysia and the Philippines.)
At the other end of the spectrum, levels of religious importance are lowest among Christians in Europe, where deaths outnumber births among Christians.
These findings reflect the broader pattern of Christianity’s “march southward” from wealthy countries to developing ones. This phenomenon is particularly evident in sub-Saharan Africa, where Christianity is rapidly growing, largely due to high fertility rates.
At the same time, the United States remains an outlier among wealthy countries in terms of its relatively high levels of religious commitment. In the U.S., more than two-thirds of Christians say religion is very important in their lives, compared with significantly lower levels in other rich democracies. For instance, only 12% of Christian adults in Germany and 11% in the United Kingdom say religion is very important in their lives.
Christians in Africa and Latin America also tend to pray and attend church at higher rates than Christians in most of the rest of the world. For instance, at least four out of five Christians in Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon and Chad pray every day. Prayer frequency is just as high in six Latin American countries, including Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay.
Similarly, in every African country surveyed, more than 60% of Christians say they attend church at least weekly. In Latin America, more than two-thirds of Christians in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador also report weekly attendance.
Prayer frequency is lowest among Christians in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and Malaysia, where fewer than 10% of Christians pray daily. Likewise, fewer than 10% of Christians report attending church weekly in nine European countries, including Denmark, Estonia and Russia.
The U.S. is again an outlier when it comes to frequency of prayer, though this is less the case when it comes to weekly church attendance. Nearly seven-in-ten U.S. Christians (68%) say they pray daily, while 47% say they attend church at least weekly.
Joey Marshall is a research associate specializing in religion research at Pew Research Center.