South Africa
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  Preferred Religion (2015)1: Western Christian

  Majority Religion (2015)2: Protestant (incl. Anglican, Pentecostal) (32%)

Religious Adherents, (2015)2

South Africa Southern Africa World
Christian (all denominations combined) 61.5% 62% 29.9%
 
  • Protestant
  • 18.1% 19.4% 5.6%
     
  • Pentecostal
  • 10.6% 10.9% 2.8%
     
  • Catholic
  • 6.7% 8.6% 15%
     
  • Anglican
  • 3.3% 3.3% 1.2%
     
  • Orthodox
  • 0.5% 0.4% 3%
     
  • Other and Unknown Christian
  • 22.4% 19.3% 2.3%
    Christian Syncretic 16.3% 16% ---
    Ethnoreligionist (incl. Animist, Shamanist) 6.8% 7.5% 2.5%
    Muslim (all denominations combined) 1.7% 1.5% 22.8%
     
  • Sunni Muslim
  • 1.5% 1.3% 19%
     
  • Shia Muslim
  • 0.2% 0.1% 3.4%
     
  • Other and Unknown Muslim
  • < 0.1% < 0.1% 0.3%
    Hindu 1.1% 1% 14.5%
    Bahai 0.5% 0.5% 0.1%
    Buddhist (all denominations combined) 0.4% 0.3% 6.6%
     
  • Other and Unknown Buddhist
  • 0.4% --- 0.5%
    Jewish 0.2% 0.1% 0.2%
    Other Religionist 0.2% 0.2% 0.2%
    Not Religious (incl. Atheist) 6.2% 5.5% 12%
    Unknown 5.2% 5.5% 4.8%

    Religious Demography3

    The country has an area of 470,693 square miles and a population of 47.9 million. The 2001 religious demography census estimated that 80 percent of the population is Christian. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and adherents of traditional African beliefs constitute 4 percent of the population. Approximately 15 percent of the population indicated that it belongs to no particular religion or declined to indicate an affiliation.

    African Independent Churches (AICs) are the largest group of Christian churches. Once regarded as Ethiopian churches, the majority are now referred to as Zionist or Apostolic churches. There are more than 4,000 AICs, with a membership of more than 10 million, constituting approximately 20 percent of the population. The Zionist Christian Church is the largest AIC, with an estimated membership of more than four million. AICs serve more than half the population in northern KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga areas. There are at least 900 AICs are in Soweto.

    Other Christian groups include Protestants (Dutch Reformed family of Churches, Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) and the Roman Catholic Church. Greek Orthodox, the Church of Scientology, and Seventh-day Adventist churches are also active.

    African traditionalists make up less than 1 percent of the population. Practitioners include traditional healers, often referred to as witches, although they do not see themselves as such. Many of the African traditionalists combine Christian and indigenous religious practices, and 15 percent of the population claims no affiliation with any formal religious organization. It is believed that many of these persons adhere to indigenous religions.

    An estimated two-thirds of South Africa's Indian population, a majority of which resides in KwaZulu-Natal, practice Hinduism. The small Muslim community is mostly made up of Cape Malays of Indonesian descent, and the remainder is largely of Indian extraction.


    Sources

    1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson the principal investigator of the World Christian Database and the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database.

    2.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports the estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. The RCS was created to fulfill the unmet need for a dataset on the religious dimensions of countries of the world, with the state-year as the unit of observation. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivision within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson the principal investigator of the World Christian Database and the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database.

    3.  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.

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