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Counting the flocks of the earth

Fourteen years ago in Nairobi, Kenya a team of Christian demographers commissioned Rev. Dr. David B. Barrett to take the earth’s spiritual temperature. The recent result--the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford university Press--is a 1010-page survey of the world’s religions, complete with charts, statistics, commentary, and a 66-page explanation of Barrett’s method. With more success than it’s commissioners or author thought possible, the Encyclopedia (based on Barrett’s travel to 212 lands and territories) is a literal nose count of religious membership.

Barrett’s accurate research is attested to, in part, by his findings on the new religions. He notes that the new religions are so popular as to have more constituents than Judaism. At present 2.2% of the world’s population (96 million people) belong to the new religions. Barrett expects that figure to be 138 million by the year 2000. Adding Hinduism and Buddhism, which animate many of the new religions, the current figure is 963 million people. The gospel of Christ is still the leading world religion, however, providing 32% of humanity with a basis for love, hope, and meaning.