Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
The country has an area of 16,485 square miles and a population of 16.4 million. Approximately 60 percent of the population has some religious affiliation, although many do not actively practice their religious beliefs. Approximately 55 percent consider themselves Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant, including the Dutch Reformed Church, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Remonstrants); 5.2 percent Muslim; 3 percent other (Hindu, Jewish, or Buddhist); and 36 percent atheist or agnostic.
Society has become increasingly secularized. In general, church membership continued to decline. According to a 2006 study by the government's Social Cultural Planning Bureau, church membership declined steadily from 76 percent of the population in 1958 to 30 percent in 2006 (16 percent Catholic and 14 percent Protestant). Only 16 percent regularly go to church. Catholics constitute the largest religious group in the country.
An estimated 850,000 Muslims, constituting 5.2 percent of the population, live in the country, primarily in the larger cities. Approximately 370,000 are of Turkish background and 330,000 are of Moroccan background. Other Muslims are from the country's former colony of Suriname, and there are large numbers of asylum seekers from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia. Research released in May 2008 by the University of Groningen yielded an estimate of 200,000 practicing Muslims in the country; the estimate was based on, among other things, an analysis of attendance at mosques.
According to the Jewish Social Work organization, the country counts approximately 45,000 Jews, but the Stephen Roth Institute and the Council of Europe estimate the number at closer to 30,000. Less than one-quarter of those belong to active Jewish organizations.
There are approximately 95,000 Hindus, of whom 85 percent originally came from Suriname and approximately 10 percent from India. The country hosts smaller numbers of Hindus from Uganda, as well as members of similar movements based on Hindu teachings such as Ramakrishna, Hare Krishna, Sai Baba, and Osho.
The Buddhist community has approximately 17,000 members.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.