A picture says more than a thousand words, and that goes for this world map as well. This map conveys not just the size but also the distribution of world religions, at both a global and national level.
Strictly speaking it's an infographic rather than a map, but you get the idea. The circles represent countries, their varying sizes reflect population sizes, and the slices in each circle indicate religious affiliation.
The result is both panoramic and detailed. In other words, this is the best, simplest map of world religions ever. Some quick takeaways:
- Christianity (blue) dominates in the Americas, Europe and the southern half of Africa.
- Islam (green) is the top religion in a string of countries from northern Africa through the Middle East to Indonesia.
- India stands out as a huge Hindu bloc (dark orange).
- Buddhism (light orange) is the majority religion in South East Asia and Japan.
- China is the country with the world's largest 'atheist/agnostic' population (grey) as well as worshippers of 'other' religions (yellow).
- The Americas are (mostly) solidly Christian
Different Majorities across Asia
- Because countries are sized for population rather than area, some are much bigger or smaller than you'd expect – with some interesting results: There are more Christians in Muslim-majority Indonesia than there are in mainly Christian Australia, for example.
- Hindus are a minority everywhere outside India, except in Nepal.
- North Korea is shown as three-quarters atheist/agnostic, but this is debatable, on two counts. In what is often referred to as the last Stalinist state on Earth, religious adherence is probably underreported. And the state-sponsored ideology of 'Juche', although in essence based on materialism, makes some supernatural claims. For instance: despite having died in 1994, Kim Il-sung was declared 'president for eternity' in 1998.
Of course, clarity comes at the cost of detail. The map bands together various Christian and Islamic schools of thought that don't necessarily accept each other as 'true believers'.
It includes Judaism (only 15 million adherents, but the older sibling of the two largest religious groups) yet groups Sikhism (27 million) and various other more numerous faiths in with 'others'. And it doesn't make the distinction between atheism ("There is no god") with agnosticism ("There may or may not be a god, we just don't know").
And then there's the whole minefield of nuance between those who practice a religion (but may do so out of social coercion rather than personally held belief), and those who believe in something (but don't participate in the rituals of any particular faith). To be fair, that requires more nuance than even a great map like this can probably provide.