The map and chart below show where the biggest Jewish populations live and how this has changed over the past century. In 1939, Jews numbered 16.5m people, up from 10.6m in 1900. By the end of the second world war, the Nazis had wiped out one-third of them, sweeping away a thousand years of Jewish civilisation in central and eastern Europe. The death toll might have been even higher, but a flurry of pogroms that started 60 years earlier across the then-tsarist empire had sent waves of Jewish emigrants westward. By the time Hitler struck, some 6m Jews were safe in North and South America and in Britain, with 3m more living in the Soviet Union. From 1948, most of the Jews of north Africa and the Levant emigrated. The break-up of the Soviet Union brought the latest big wave of Jewish migration to Israel in the early 1990s.
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The demographic study – based on analysis of more than 2,500 censuses, surveys and population registers – finds 2.2 billion Christians (32% of the world’s population), 1.6 billion Muslims (23%), 1 billion Hindus (15%), nearly 500 million Buddhists (7%) and 14 million Jews (0.2%) around the world as of 2010. In addition, more than 400 million people (6%) practice various folk or traditional religions, including African traditional religions, Chinese folk religions, Native American religions and Australian aboriginal religions. An estimated 58 million people –slightly less than 1% of the global population –belong to other religions, including the Baha’i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Tenrikyo, Wicca and Zoroastrianism, to mention just a few.
At the same time, the new study by the Pew Forum also finds that roughly one-in-six people around the globe (1.1 billion, or 16%) have no religious affiliation. This makes the unaffiliated the third-largest religious group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims, and about equal in size to the world’s Catholic population. Surveys indicate that many of the unaffiliated hold some religious or spiritual beliefs (such as belief in God or a universal spirit) even though they do not identify with a particular faith. Read more »