Top 20 Most Religious Countries in the World

Cultural identities and societal norms are shaped by diverse religious landscapes. Each nation’s religious commitment influences its traditions, practices, and social fabric, from predominantly Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to predominantly Christian nations like Ghana and Ethiopia. This article explores the interplay between faith, culture, and societal norms in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. We gain insight into religion’s profound impact on human societies through the diversity and practices of these nations.

We uncover the intricate relationships between different religious communities in countries like Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand and the challenges they face in maintaining harmony and understanding between them. Observations of religious commitment and traditional practices reflect a deep connection to faith and spirituality, shaping their cultural heritage and social norms. Through examining their religious landscapes, we gain a better understanding of how religion shapes culture and society, highlighting how religious tolerance, dialogue, and mutual respect contribute to peaceful coexistence among diverse religious communities.

Top 20 Most Religious Countries in the World

People around the world are deeply influenced by religion. Often, it provides moral guidance, community, and guidance for conduct. Here, we examine the importance of religion in the top 20 religious countries.

1. Israel

Israel, with a population of approximately 9 million, is the only country in the world with a Jewish majority. Muslims are the second-largest religious group, accounting for close to 20% of the population. The demographic landscape of Israel has been changing over time, with the share of Jews in the total population declining, while the share of Muslims has been gradually rising. As of 2022, Muslims are the largest religious minority in Israel, accounting for 18.1% of the country’s total population.

The Muslim population in Israel has been growing at an annual rate of 2.1% in 2021, with a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.99 births per woman in 2020. The country has a diverse Muslim community, with various branches of Islam such as Sunni, Shia, and Sufi, as well as the Ahmadiya sect. Discrimination against Muslims in Israel is a concern, with 79% of Arabs reporting a lot of discrimination against Muslims in Israel. Despite these challenges, there are efforts to promote religious tolerance and coexistence, such as the appointment of Qadis by the Israeli government to serve the Muslim community.

2. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, a Muslim-majority country, strictly adheres to Islamic law based on Sharia derived from the Quran and the Sunnah. The country’s legal system is influenced by the Hanbali school of Fiqh, emphasizing a literal interpretation of Islamic texts. Saudi Arabia’s governance is deeply intertwined with Islam, drawing legitimacy from its custodianship of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Sunni Islam.

While the government restricts public practice of religions other than Sunni Islam, private worship is technically allowed, although non-Islamic religious materials may face confiscation. Efforts to enhance religious freedom include inter-faith dialogues and curbing hate speech, yet Saudi Arabia remains highly restrictive, prohibiting public practice of non-Islamic religions.

Recent reforms, like granting women driving rights and reducing the religious police’s powers, signal a shift towards moderation under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership.

Top 20 Most Religious Countries in the World

3. Oman

With its large Muslim population, Oman is known for its religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different faiths. For decades, the country has promoted interfaith dialogue on a global scale to foster religious tolerance, mutual understanding, and peaceful coexistence. In Oman, the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs has always had a vision to maintain a constructive and genuine dialogue with scholars and religious representatives.

Both Sunnis and Shiites live in harmony and accord with the Ibadhis, who are the majority in Oman and have been for centuries. Various religious groups in Oman pray to God together, reflecting the peaceful coexistence of different faiths in the country. Sheikh Abdallah, the Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, displays the country’s unique perspective on religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Since 5,000 years ago, Oman has been a crossroads of cultural exchange, with Omanis trading in peace with other cultures. While Islam has long been the predominant religion in the region, its trading roots link it to the world’s most populous democracy.

During the year 629, the Prophet Mohammed exhorted the two kings of Oman to embrace Islam peacefully. Arab tribes were united, the kings converted, and the Persians were expelled. In the 11th century, two caliphs clashed, resulting in the Sunni-Shiite split. The Sultanate of Oman chose not to adopt either of these schools. Oman eventually adopted an Ibadi school of thought, which is neither Sunni nor Shiite. Today, three-fourths of Omanis belong to the Ibadi sect.

4. Pakistan

Over 220 million Muslims live in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country with negative conditions for religious freedom. However, systematic blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, as well as failure to address forced conversions severely restrict religious minorities’ freedom of religion or belief.

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Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians all face discrimination and persecution. Hindus, the largest non-Muslim minority, are experiencing increasing marginalization, false accusations of blasphemy, and abduction, forced conversion, and forced marriage. The freedom of expression is often curtailed for Ahmadis, Christians, Ahmadiyyas, and Baha’is due to the use of blasphemy laws by religious vigilantes.

On February 7, 2023, the HRCP released a report called “A Breach of Faith: Freedom of Religion or Belief in 2021-22” which expressed concern regarding religious freedom in Pakistan, highlighting forced conversions, the desecration of minority places of worship, and Ahmadi marginalization. Several reports in Pakistan criticize national curricula as creating an exclusionary narrative that sidelines religious minorities.

5. Indonesia

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Sunni Muslims comprise 88.70% of the population, followed by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, and other faiths at 10.49%. In its early development, Hinduism and Buddhism played pivotal roles, before Islam gradually displaced them around the 13th century, influenced by trade and local traditions.

While religious minorities, including Christians, have faced discrimination and violence despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, Christianity has emerged as the second-largest religion introduced by European colonizers and missionaries.

Indonesians are required to adhere to one of six religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism – while atheism is socially frowned upon. The government has been accused of failing to protect minority rights and enforce laws safeguarding religious freedom, despite no explicit ban on atheism. In Indonesia, laws like the Blasphemy Law and Religious Harmony Regulation target non-Muslims and minorities, underscoring ongoing challenges in ensuring religious harmony and tolerance.

6. Afghanistan

Afghanistan, a predominantly Muslim nation with around 38 million inhabitants, is deeply rooted in Islamic faith and tradition. Islam serves as the state religion and primary source of law and morality, shaping the cultural and social landscape of the country. While Sunnis form the majority, there is a notable Shia minority concentrated in the western and central regions. The country’s religious history has been marked by the influence of groups like the Taliban, who enforced a strict interpretation of Islamic law from 1996 to 2001, impacting women’s rights, education, and entertainment.

Despite the Taliban’s removal in 2001, Afghanistan remains devoutly religious, with Islam enshrined as the state religion in the Constitution. Religious leaders wield significant influence in both political and social spheres. However, this religious fervor has also fostered a climate of intolerance and violence, particularly towards religious minorities and women. The nation’s history is marred by conflict and instability, exacerbated by religious extremism and political turmoil, posing substantial challenges to Afghanistan’s social and religious cohesion.

7. Iran

Iran is known as one of the world’s most religious countries. It’s a fascinating blend of Shia Islam and Persian culture, which gives the country its unique character. In Iran, most people follow Shia Islam, which has a big impact on their religious customs and practices. Many Iranians go on religious trips to visit shrines and celebrate special religious holidays like Ashura, which are an important part of their lives. The lively and deeply spiritual ceremonies associated with Shia Islam show how devoted Iranians are to their faith.

One remarkable way Iran expresses its religion is through something called Ta’zieh, which is a type of religious theater that holds great importance in their culture and religion. These dramatic performances recreate important events in Islamic history, particularly the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, and they highlight the values of sacrifice and dedication. When you combine religious customs with cultural traditions, it creates a complex and fascinating religious landscape in Iran, making it one of the most religious countries in the world.

8. Iraq

There are about 60-65% Shia Muslims in Iraq, which is a predominantly Muslim country. There are strong religious ties in Iraq, with Islam playing a central role in many people’s lives.

Despite this, Iraq’s religious landscape is complex and diverse, with many sects and denominations coexisting. Historically, the Sunni and Shia communities have had a complicated relationship, alternating between periods of relative peace and cooperation and violent conflict.

In spite of Iraq’s religious commitment, religious freedom and tolerance face significant challenges. In the past, the country has experienced sectarian violence and discrimination, particularly against Christian, Yazidi, and Sabean-Mandaean minorities.

Recent years have seen an increase in interfaith dialogue and cooperation in Iraq. For example, the Yazidi Spiritual Council and religious leaders have worked to modify existing ritual practices and welcome back women who were enslaved by ISIS. Similarly, religious actors in Iraq have been recognized as critical partners in peace and reconciliation efforts, using their influence and leadership positions to promote healing and reconciliation among their members most affected by violence.

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9. Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country with a population of over 160 million people. The country is known for its strong religious commitment and traditional practices, with Islam being the predominant religion. Despite being a Muslim-majority country, Bangladesh upholds religious freedom, with the constitution ensuring equal rights for all citizens regardless of religion.

The population consists of approximately 90% Muslims, 9.5% Hindus, 0.6% Buddhists, 0.3% Christians, and less than 1% Ahmadi Muslims and Shi’ites. The presence of Christianity in Bangladesh dates back over 400 years, with the Christian community divided into Catholic and Protestant branches. Bangladesh’s religious landscape reflects a culture of peaceful coexistence among different religious communities, emphasizing tolerance and respect for diversity.

10. Egypt

The population of Egypt is over 100 million and is dominated by Muslims. The country is known for its strong religious commitment and traditional practices, with Islam dominating the culture. The majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims, with estimates ranging from 85% to 95% of the population. The Coptic Orthodox Christians form the next largest religious group in Egypt, with estimates ranging from 5% to 15% of the population.

A common national identity and culture are shared by Muslims and Christians in Egypt. As one of the world’s most important Sunni institutions, Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the country’s most important religious institutions. Despite the majority Muslim population, Egypt maintains religious freedom, and both Christians and Muslims share a common heritage.

11. Nigeria

Nigeria has a population of more than 200 million people, with a majority of Christians and Muslims. Both Christianity and Islam play an important role in the country’s religious life.

The majority of Christians in Nigeria belong to Catholicism or Anglicanism. However, the southwestern part of Nigeria is mixed, with substantial Muslim, Christian, and traditional religious communities. The “Middle Belt,” an area encompassing six states, is also highly religiously diverse, with a significant presence of ethnic minorities.

Islam is deeply entrenched in the North, with many different strands and beliefs represented, from widespread affiliation with Sufi brotherhoods to Salafi interpretations of Islam that reject Sufism. There is also a sizable Christian minority in several northern states, mostly migrants from the southern areas of the country.

Diverse sects and denominations coexist in Nigeria’s religious landscape. Despite the country’s religious commitment, there are also significant challenges and issues related to religious freedom and tolerance in Nigeria. The country has a history of sectarian violence and discrimination, particularly against religious minorities such as Christians, Yazidis, and Sabean-Mandaeans.

Nigeria also promotes interfaith dialogue and cooperation. For example, religious actors in Nigeria have been recognized as critical partners in peace and reconciliation efforts, using their influence and leadership positions to encourage their communities to support members most affected by violence and promote healing and reconciliation.

12. Ghana

Ghana is a predominantly Christian country with a population of over 30 million, known for its strong religious commitment. The Christian faith was introduced to Ghana in the 15th century by European explorers and traders, and it has since become the dominant religion in the country. The majority of Ghanaians are Christians, with Pentecostal and Charismatic churches being the fastest-growing denominations. However, there is also a significant Muslim minority in Ghana, making up about 17.6% of the population.

13. Ethiopia

With a population of more than 110 million, Ethiopia is predominantly Christian and known for its strong religious commitment. With a membership of 32 to 36 million people, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the largest and oldest Christian denomination in the country. As one of Africa’s oldest and largest Christian churches, the church was founded in the 4th century AD by King Ezana of Aksum.

About 20% of the global Orthodox population belongs to the Oriental branch of Orthodoxy, which is not in communion with Eastern Orthodoxy due to theological and doctrinal differences. Religious tensions and discrimination have occurred despite the country’s religious commitment, especially against non-Orthodox Christians and indigenous believers.

Recently, Ethiopia has seen an increase in religious extremism and violence, particularly against Orthodox Christians. Many churches were destroyed and dozens of people were killed in a wave of attacks on churches and monasteries in Tigray in 2020. Religious violence in Ethiopia has been linked to the Ethiopian government’s failure to protect religious minorities and address the root causes

14. India

With 1.3 billion people, India has a rich and diverse religious landscape. In the country, Hinduism is the predominant religion, with 79.8% of the population practicing it. Around 14.2% of India’s population is Muslim, making it the world’s third-largest country with a Muslim majority. Other religious groups include Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, in addition to a Christian minority of 2.3%.

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Due to India’s religious diversity, many festivals and rituals are celebrated throughout the year. Despite this diversity, tensions and conflicts have arisen between different groups, particularly between Hindus and Muslims. There have been instances of discrimination and violence against religious minorities in India despite policies aimed at protecting their rights. In order to maintain peaceful coexistence among its diverse religious communities, India must promote religious freedom.

15. Sri Lanka

Known for its strong religious commitment and deep-rooted Buddhist practices, Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist country with over 21 million people. Throughout the country, there are Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques, and churches with vibrant rituals that reflect the nation’s religious diversity. Performing arts, including Kandyan and devil dancing, are a flourishing tradition in Sri Lanka, a country with ancient architectural marvels, classic literature, and classical music.

Several institutions in the country safeguard historical documents and archaeological treasures, attracting tourists and pilgrims to sites like Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Kandy, as evidence of the country’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.

Despite the majority of its population being Buddhist, Sri Lanka is rich with Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities. In the census data, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians constitute substantial segments of the population. Besides the majority Buddhist population, the Hindu and Muslim communities also enrich Sri Lanka’s cultural heritage.

16. Uganda

Uganda, a country in Africa, is known for being very religious. Most people in Uganda follow Christianity, which is a type of religion. They believe in God and Jesus. Two big groups of Christians in Uganda are the Catholics and the Anglicans. These groups are important in the lives of the people there.

Christianity has had a big impact on Uganda’s history and culture. It has influenced the way people live, the things they believe, and even how they deal with problems in their society and government. The ideas and values of Christianity are a part of everyday life in Uganda, from the special days they celebrate to the rules about what’s right and wrong.

The Catholic and Anglican churches in Uganda are not just places to pray; they are also places where people come together as a community. People feel connected to each other when they go to church. Overall, Christianity, especially the Catholic and Anglican parts, is a big part of what makes Uganda special. It’s one of the most religious countries in the world.

17. Thailand

Thailand is one of the world’s most religious countries. Buddhism is super important there. This ancient belief isn’t just about temples; it’s a big part of how Thai people live every day. The country’s temples, called wats, are not only amazing buildings but also show how deeply connected Thai folks are to Buddhism.

Everything in Thailand is influenced by this religion, which makes it one of the most religious countries in the world.

18. Myanmar

In Myanmar, Buddhism is more than just a religion; it’s a way of life. The place is filled with monasteries and pagodas that stand as signs of the country’s deep spiritual roots. The faith is woven into their everyday lives with lots of rituals and practices. Buddhism is a big deal in Myanmar and really defines the country.

19. Malaysia

Malaysia is a diverse country where Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Hindus live together peacefully. This mix of different religions is pretty amazing. The fact that these different faiths get along so well shows how they all have their own traditions and cultural stuff, making Malaysia a great example of how different religions can be buddies.

20. Kenya

In Kenya, Christianity is a big deal, and there are also some native faiths that are part of the country’s culture. These beliefs shape how Kenyans live, from what they do every day to their big celebrations.

Kenya isn’t as religiously the same as some other places, but its mix of religions is a big part of its identity and culture.

Most Religious Countries in the World

Conclusion

Religion has profound influence on cultural identities and societal norms in countries like India, Sri Lanka, and Uganda. Despite the diversity of religious landscapes and challenges faced by nations like Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand, faith binds communities together, fostering a sense of belonging. Promoting interfaith dialogue and embracing religious diversity will enable these countries to navigate the complexities of religious coexistence and tolerance, fostering a more inclusive and harmonious society.

Religion plays an enduring role in shaping human societies and cultivating a sense of belonging and community in these nations. We pave the way for a more inclusive and tolerant world where individuals of all faiths can coexist harmoniously and respectfully by recognizing and celebrating their religious diversity.

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