Indians are tolerant, enjoy religious freedom, Islam rising fastest and Christians to remain the largest religious group: Pew study

NEW DELHI: A recent report by the Pew Research Center, a Washington DC-based nonpartisan fact tank, has found that a majority of Indians enjoy religious freedom, value religious tolerance and believe that respect for all religions is central to the idea of India.

The Pew study is based on a face-to-face survey of 29,999 Indian adults between late 2019 and early 2020, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.

The Pew Research Center study highlights the new demographic projections which took into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration, and patterns in conversion.

The Pew study also took a closer look at religious identity, nationalism and tolerance in Indian society. According to the Pew survey, people of all six major religious groups – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists-overwhelmingly believe they are very free to practice their faiths.

However, in what seems to be a contradiction, the majority in almost every religious group shows a preference for keeping religious communities segregated and “wants to live separately”. The Pew Research Center survey in India was conducted in 17 languages and covered nearly all the states and Union Territories. 

Religion important for Indians 


-According to the Pew study, 97% of Indians believe in God and religion holds n important place for them.

-Around 80% of people in most religious groups say they are absolutely certain that God exists.  

-Cow is regarded as a sacred animal by Hindus in India. 

-72% of Hindus in India believe a person is not a Hindu if he or she eats beef. This percentage is higher than those Hindus who say a person cannot be Hindu if they do not believe in God (49%) or never go to a temple (48%).

-One-third of the Buddhists say they do not believe in God as belief in God is not central to the teachings of the religion.

-The Pew survey reveals that around 74% of Muslims want access to their own religious courts for resolving matters related to family and inheritance. 

-Though, Indian Muslims have had the option of resolving family and inheritance-related cases in officially recognized Islamic courts, known as dar-ul-qaza since 1937 but the decisions of these religious courts are not legally binding.

-The Pew study also took into account the opinion of the people of India with regard to inter-religious marriage. According to this, 66 percent of Hindus are against getting married in another religion. 

-Apart from this, 78 percent Muslims, 36 percent Christians, 47.5 percent Sikhs, 45 percent Buddhists and 62.5 percent Jains are also against marrying in another religion.

-Diwali is the biggest festival of Hindus. As per the Pew study, apart from 95 percent Hindus in India, 20 percent Muslims, 31 percent Christians, 90 percent Sikhs, 79 percent Buddhists and 98 percent of Jains celebrate the festival of Diwali, and from these figures, one can understand that there is a brotherhood among all religions in India.

-India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia, according to the Pew study.

-Worldwide, the Hindu population is projected to rise by 34%, from a little over 1 billion to nearly 1.4 billion, roughly keeping pace with overall population growth.

-More than 70 years after India became free from colonial rule, Indians feel their country has lived up to one of its post-independence ideals: a society where followers of many religions can live and practice freely, according to Pew study.



Major projections of Pew study 


The Pew study said that the religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 –

-The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.

-Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.

-The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.

-In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.

-In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. 

-Muslims will be more numerous in the US than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.

-Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.


The Pew study further stated that if current demographic trends continue, Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century. Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35% increase.

According to the study, by 2050 there will be near parity between Muslims (2.8 billion, or 30% of the population) and Christians (2.9 billion, or 31%), possibly for the first time in history. 

The global Buddhist population is expected to be fairly stable because of low fertility rates and aging populations in countries such as China, Thailand and Japan.

(Facts, figures & projections based on Pew study)

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