Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seven billion and counting

   As of October 31 seven billion are living on this earth, according to the UN Population Division. This is only twelve years after the world's population reached six billion.
   The website of the UN Population Division admits that there is the possibility of error by as much as twelve months. The US Census Bureau says the most likely date the world's population will reach seven billion is between March and April next year. Thus there is a great disparity between the various forecasts.
   In my own lifetime the population of the world has tripled. In the year 1500 there were only 500 million people in the world, while in 1800 there were one billion.
   Seven billion and counting. The population of the world is expected to hit eight billion by 2025.
   The UN estimates that the population of the world will reach nine billion by 2042 and stabilize at just over ten billion by 2100. As the following table shows, even the UN's own estimates vary greatly, depending on the rate of population growth.
  The current annual rate of increase is only 1.2%. The global population growth rate peaked at 2.1 % in 1970 and has steadily declined since then, due largely to smaller family size.

    Where you fit into the seven billion? See
   Watch the world population clock. See

    Have you ever wondered how many people have ever lived on the earth? The following table is an educated guess:

How Many People Have Ever Lived On Earth? 108 Billion
YearPopulationBirths per 1,000Births Between Benchmarks
50,000 B.C.2--
8000 B.C.5,000,000801,137,789,769
1 A.D.300,000,0008046,025,332,354
World population in mid-20116,987,000,000
Percent of those ever born who are living in 20116.5
Source: Population Reference Bureau estimates

   Other guesses range between 75-110 billion. For the sake of convenience, let us assume 100 billion. In that  case, no more than 7% of the people who have ever lived are alive today. Seven billion and counting, but this is a very large number, as is the percentage.
   The following video may also be helpful in understanding how these figures are calculated:!.

    Of the seven billion currently living on this earth, how many people and what percentage belong to the world's major religions? The following table illustrates this:

Other (incl. non-religious & atheists)1,735,099,12825.87%
Source: The CIA World Fact Book, 2008 ed.
    The growth rate of these religions is shown in the next table:
ReligionTotalNatural (births)ConversionsGrowth
Global population78,860,79178,860,791-1.41%
         Source: Britannica Encyclopedia

   From this table it is apparent that all the major religions in terms of size are experiencing a growth rate that exceeds the current growth rate of 1.1% of the world's population. Islam's growth rate is higher than that of Christianity, but in absolute numbers the increase of Christianity is greater. 
    The five fastest growing religions in terms of new adherents per year are:
          1. Christianity                  25,210,195
          2. Islam                          22,588,676
          3. Hinduism                    12,533,734
          4. Chinese folk-religions    3,715,548
          5. Buddhism                      3,687,527
    The main reason for the higher percentage increase of Islam as compared to the other major religions is its higher fertility rate, but that is declining decade after decade, as one can see from the following tables:

Avg. world fertility3.503.403.303.303.
Avg. Christian fertility3.
Avg. Muslim fertility5.
Avg. world fertility2.802.732.702.652.622.602.592.592.612.582.56
Avg. Christian fertility2.622.552.542.512.492.462.502.522.602.582.56
Avg. Muslim fertility3.693.623.563.563.523.473.443.373.303.233.00
Source: CIA World Fact Book, 2010 ed

 Source: CIA World Fact Book, 2010 ed

   These figures for the world's major religions suggest that they will continue to remain constant in relation to each other and to the population of the world as a whole, with perhaps a slight overall growth for the major religions. The next billion or two will probably divide in a way that is similar to what we find today.
   In other words, religion is not dying, as some secularists believe. If anything, secularism may be declining. God is not yet dead. Far from it.
   This does not mean that evangelism work by whatever religion is not useful. On the contrary, it contributes to the relatively higher conversion rate of some of them, but the percentages of the world's population for the various religions will remain more or less constant.

Conversion of St Paul

   I have one concluding question which is theological and may stir up a few objections. Of the 100 billion or so people who have ever lived or are still living, how many were or are or will be saved? Is it only a small percentage of that vast number, as an analysis of these figures might suggest?
   Personally, I am inclined to conclude that this may not be the best way to state the question. But if it is acceptable, then I suggest that God did not create 100 billion people in order to assign most of them to hell, which I interpret as a total separation from God.
  On the contrary, God loves his creation so much that all his creatures, including all or most of the 100 billion, experience his love and can enjoy his presence.
  This may seem a controversial assertion, but it follows I believe from this brief study of the world's ever increasing population and the world's religions.
   Lest I be accused of universalism, let me deny that claim. There is a lot of biblical warrant for my assertion, but I do not want to dredge up texts on both sides of this debate. I want to avoid biblicism, and yet I do want to remain true to the Christian scriptures.
   There may be some people who are not saved, but many, even most, are. Otherwise, what sort of a God do we worship? Our God is a loving God! He does not want any to perish!
   The question of who is saved and how many are saved is not ours to answer. God alone knows. He alone decides. Or do we claim to be wiser than God?
   I am convinced that this number is much greater than many of us are willing to acknowledge.
   God's love is much greater than anything we can imagine. It reaches out to each and everyone of us. That some may reject that love is a whole other issue that I do not want to address right now.
   I want to leave you with an image of God's love reaching out to each of us as well as to each person who has ever lived. If you deny this by limiting his love, your God is too small.
   Seven billion and counting. And more than a 100 billion people in all. What an amazing God! What amazing love!