Michael Goetzman

Religion: upbringing, statistics, & identity

People have been evolving from their parental upbringing religion since the beginning of time, through force or by choice. The largest shift of belief between generations has been in the 19th century; the only difference between the 19th century conversion and today’s conversions is that today more people are converting. The conversion has mainly been from Judaism to Christianity, Christianity to Islam, and Christianity to Jewish. Usually, people convert their religion after the age of eighteen when they are mature and can be held accountable for their actions. There is also much better access to religious texts and supplementary research.  There are many reasons why people convert to other religions other than what they grew up in. The primary reason is the marriage when people of different religions decide to get married, one of them converts to the other’s religion; however, interfaith marriages have also been proven to work. Another common reason is changing religion because one does not believe in their religious doctrines.  People choose to convert to seek more significant spiritual experiences more prominent than their original religion. Evangelism is another key factor in converting people from one religion to another. This is where a group of people actively seek out and talk to people and convince them to change their religions, they believe they are doing so for the greater good and that you will connect more spiritually.

In the 19th century, over 2000 European Jews converted to Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and orthodox Christianity) each year and the number continued growing to 3000 per year by the 1890s. In the 19th century, more than 250,000 Jews converted to Christianity. According to data from the pew research center about 1.6 million adult American Jews had converted to Christianity by 2015. Most of these Christian Jews converted into Protestantism. These Jews now considering themselves as Christians are either of Jews ancestry or were raised as religious Jews. Data according to Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013) showed that 17% of all the Jews in Russia had converted to Christianity by the year 2012. In the United States of America Judaism, the religion practiced by the Jewish people is the next largest religious affiliation in the US, though this identification is not necessarily indicative of religious beliefs or practices. The Jewish population has grown in the recent years from the 1.7 % of the U.S population and had reached 1.9% of the total population in 2014. Among this percent 44% of them have since converted to Christianity, 22 % have remained conservative to Judaism.

It’s hard to find statistics of Muslims that convert to Christianity. This could be because most Muslim-majority countries have legal repercussions for the Muslim that converts to Christianity. These legal repercussions may include imprisonment, punishment, loss of children, seizure of property, annulment of marriage and many others. However, countries like Indonesia which is populous with the Muslim majority and also one of the most liberal still have a significant number of people that are slowly converting to Christianity. Christian based surveys give some almost 2 million in a year which I think is way off. People in these Muslim majority countries with stringent liberal laws like Indonesia hide their conversions because they fear social repercussions and discrimination (Speiser, Matthew 2015). It is also evident that these liberal laws are strict at the national levels and authorities at the local levels use their power actively and push back the growth of Christianity. Statistics may not be available, but it is evident that there is a vast number of Muslims who may be dissatisfied or disheartened by the Muslim ways and choose to leave their religion.

Beyond United States, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.  In 2015 Christianity was the largest religion in the world. It is made up to 31% of the total population. The earth population by then stood at 7.3 billion and so Christianity occupied a third of the population. Muslims followed with a 24% at 1.8 billion of the world’s population. The religious projections according to the already seen trend of earth’s population is expected to rise to 9.6 billion people making a 32% increase by 2060. In the same period, the population of the Islam religion is likely to grow by 70% while that of the Christians is expected to grow by 34%. By 2060 research by pew research center show that the Muslim population will stand at 31% with a head count of over 3 billion while that of the Christians will be at 32% with a head count of over 32%. This shows that the Muslim fraternity is growing at a very high rate and by the 2070s the Muslim population or rather Islam will have the highest majority in the world.

This population growth is not only attributed to Christian to Muslim converts but also because of the fertility levels and the presence of a substantial young generation in the Muslim fraternity. The fact that there are no legal repercussions in Christian dominated countries when Christians convert to Muslims gives the Muslim the go-ahead to convert many of the Christian members to their religion. Also the fact that Christians allow their children to be married into the Muslim fraternity and they end up converting is also a significant contribution as to why the Muslim population is growing at a fast rate. The kind of education where especially in developing and third world countries the Islam religion is offering to develop and build schools in return for building mosques in the schools. This allows the Christian children that attend these schools to freely convert to Islam.

In the United States, it is estimated that over 20,000 Americans are converting every year from Christianity to Islam. This is seen mostly in the African country-origin fraternities in the United States, and this growth is attributed to the fact that the fraternities are discriminated in various churches in the United States (Piatt, Christian. 2016). They then seek an alternative means of worship where human life is held sacred despite the differences in skin color. In the United Kingdom, there has been a rise in the number of converts per year to about 5200. This has been attributed to the many immigrants who enter the United Kingdom, and because of this the other members of the society are attracted by their ways and convert to their religion. In France, according to the Muslim converts association, there are about 4000-7000 Muslim converts every year. The attack on Charlie Hebdo seems to have aggravated the situation significantly increasing the conversion rates. There are between 150,000 -200,000 people that have converted to Muslim in France so far with 70,000 of these French citizens having converted in the recent past.

Germany has about 100,000 Islam converts with over 4000 Germans converting each year. In Spain, there are about 50,000 Muslim converts with 2000-4000 converting every year. In Ireland, Islam is their fastest growing religion with over 500 Irish people converting to Islam every year. In 2011 and according to Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013) the Islam population was at 4810 and is expected to grow to 100,000 people by the year 2020.

Having looked at the above statistics, we can then clearly conclude that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and shortly the Muslims will become the majority religion in the world. How will that change our life and our religious identities here in the states?

~Michael Goetzman


Pew Research Centre (2013) A Portrait of Jewish Americans: Chapter 1: Population Estimates

Johnson, Todd M.; Grim, Brian J. (2013). The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography

Johnson, Todd M.; Brian J. Grim (26 March 2013). “Global Religious Populations, 1910–2010″. The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography

Piatt, Christian. (2016)”The Real Reason Christianity is Still in Decline”

Speiser, Matthew (2015). “Christians are leaving the faith in droves, and the trend isn’t slowing down.”

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