South Africa
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Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1

South Africa Southern Africa World
Baha'i 0.5% 0.5% 0.1%
Buddhist 0.3% 0.3% 7.2%
Chinese Universalist <0.1% <0.1% 6.3%
Christian 82.0% 82.4% 32.8%
Confucianist <0.1% <0.1% 0.1%
Ethnoreligionist 7.1% 7.9% 3.5%
Hindu 2.4% 2.1% 13.8%
Jain <0.1% <0.1% <0.1%
Jewish 0.2% 0.1% 0.2%
Muslim 1.7% 1.5% 22.5%
Shintoist 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Sikh <0.1% <0.1% 0.3%
Spiritist <0.1% <0.1% 0.2%
Taoist 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Zoroastrian 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Neoreligionists <0.1% <0.1% 0.9%
Atheist 0.3% 0.2% 2.0%
Agnostic 5.4% 4.8% 9.8%

Religious Demography2

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.


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.

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