What are the most popular religions in cities around the world?
For this week's City Index, we take a look at the most dominant religions in ten cities around the world.
Cover Photo: Yaakov Lederman/ Flash90/Redux
Religion tends to be, whether directly or indirectly, the catalyst for many of our national conversations, whether it’s an extremist tragedy fueling presidential debate topics or the U.S. Senate voting to defund Planned Parenthood because of the pro-life movement. The religious demographics of a city can affect almost every facet of urban life, from holidays to laws. Especially now, as fights rage over religion and religious freedom in places like Paris, the demographics of urban areas will impact decisions made about the future.
Hopes&Fears looked at how religion defines the culture and history of ten major metropolises around the world.
London is a predominantly Christian city, with 48.4% of the city’s population attending one of the city’s fifty churches. Anglicanism, comprised of the original Church of England and other affiliated churches, is still the primary denomination. Perhaps surprisingly, the next largest percentage from the 2011 census identify as having no church or religious affiliation. London has an increasing Muslim population—it’s the city’s second largest religion. After the recent Paris attacks, Islamophobic incidents have increased for Muslim residents who take public transportation. The British Transport Police reported 35 cases of anti-Muslim sentiment on city trains in the four weeks since the Paris attacks.
The majority of New York City’s Christian demographic consists of Catholics. At 33%, Catholicism is the most commonly practiced religion in New York. September’s Pope visit drew hundreds of thousands of Catholics, who made the pilgrimage from around the world to see Pope Francis speak.
While the religious composition of Sydney mirrors other Western cities, Australia’s biggest city is becoming increasingly diverse in ethnicity and religion. Over the last five years, the Buddhist population has grown over 79%, followed closely by the Muslim demographic, which was at 281,578 as of 2002.
Singapore, an incredibly culturally diverse city, is also the world’s most religiously diverse city-state, according to the Pew Research Center. Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion, though that percentage has decreased slightly as the percentage of Christians, Taoists and non-religious people grew by about 3% each between 2000 and 2010.
Christianity is by far the most dominant religion in Johannesburg at 53%. The second most popular church is the African Independent Church, which combines elements of African culture with Christian teachings. Johannesburg has a large Church of Latter-day Saints contingent, with 48,112 members.
As one might imagine, Israel’s second most populous city (and party capital) is predominantly Jewish. The 1% who identify as Christian are mostly Armenians who live in Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhood, the port city of Jaffa. Even with only 5% of the population unaffiliated, Tel Aviv is one of the most secular cities in Israel, and in recent years there has been an uptick in centers for secular study opening for young Israelis who want to study Hebrew culture and text from a humanistic perspective.
Rio de Janeiro
Catholicism is the dominant religion in Rio, with 51% of Christians identifying as Catholic. Rio de Janeiro’s most famous monument, the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Hill, stands as a testament to the influence of Catholicism on Brazil’s cultural and historical identity. Rio de Janeiro is also home to the largest number of Spiritists in the country, a religious doctrine created by French educator Allan Kardec, based around the idea that humans are immortal spirits who only temporarily occupy our physical bodies.
Berlin isn’t a particularly devout city, with 60% of its residents without a registered religious affiliation. Most Berlin Christians are Protestant and part of the Evangelical Church of Germany, which is a mix of Lutheran and United Protestant theologies. Its Jewish population came predominantly from the former Soviet Union.
Christianity has experienced a huge boost through Seoul and South Korea and continues to grow, jumping from 26.3% in 1995 to 29.2% in 2005. The world’s largest Christian congregation is located in Seoul at the Yoido Full Gospel Church. The church, which has 830,000 members, is a Pentecostal church. Its founder, David Cho, was convicted in 2014 for embezzling 12 million dollars of church money.
The largest religion in Mumbai is Hinduism, followed further behind by Islam and Buddhism. The Christian population of India’s largest city is most significantly comprised of East Indian Catholics, who were converted by the Portuguese during the 16th century. Mumbai is also home to 80,000 Parsi Zoroastrians, the largest population in the world of Parsis who migrated to India from Persia and Iran in the seventh century. Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions, founded by a prophet in ancient Iran.