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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the past twenty-five years, an enormous amount of data on religious affiliation has been collected and analyzed. New sources of information include government censuses (half the countries in the world include a religion question), records kept by religious communities (membership rolls), and published works by individual scholars (such as monographs on new religious movements). All sources of data on religion must be employed to understand the total context of religious affiliation. The dynamics of change in religious affiliation can be reduced to three sets of empirical population data that together enable us to enumerate the increase or decrease in adherents over time: (1) births minus deaths, (2) converts minus defectors, and (3) immigrants minus emigrants. Because Christian data is the most extensive, the six dynamics are examined for Christianity for the whole world, the United Nations regions, and China and Brazil.

Keywords: religious demography, censuses, membership, affiliation, births, deaths, conversion, defection, immigration, emigration

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