On World Religion Adherence Distribution Evolution

  • Marcel Ausloos
  • Filippo Petroni


Religious adherence can be considered as a degree of freedom, in a statistical physics sense, for a human agent belonging to a population. The distribution, performance and life time of religions can thus be studied having in mind heterogeneous interacting agent modeling. We present a comprehensive analysis of 58 so-called religions (to be better defined in the main text) as measured through their number of adherents evolutions, between 1900 and 2000, – data taken from the World Christian Trends (Barrett and Johnson, “World Christian Trends AD 30 – AD 2200: Interpreting the Annual Christian Megacensus”, William Carey Library, 2001): 40 are considered to be “presently growing” cases, including 11 turn overs in the twentieth century; 18 are “presently decaying”, among which 12 are found to have had a recent maximum, in the nineteenth or the twentieth century. The Avrami–Kolmogorov differential equation which usually describes solid state transformations, like crystal growth, is used in each case in order to obtain the preferential attachment parameter introduced previously (Europhys Lett 77:38002, 2007). It is not often found close to unity, though often corresponding to a smooth evolution. However large values suggest the occurrence of extreme cases which we conjecture are controlled by so-called external fields. A few cases indicate the likeliness of a detachment process. We discuss a few growing and decaying religions, and illustrate various fits. Some cases seem to indicate the lack of reliability of the data, but others some marked departure from Avrami law. Whence the Avrami evolution equation might be surely improved, in particular, and somewhat obviously, for the decaying religion cases. We point out two major difficulties in such an analysis: (1) the “precise” original time of apparition of a religion, (2) the time at which there is a maximum number of adherents, both information being necessary for integrating reliably any evolution equation.


Preferential Attachment Avrami Equation Avrami Model Preferential Attachment Model Religious Adherence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The work by FP has been supported by European Commission Project E2C2 FP6-2003-NEST-Path-012975 Extreme Events: Causes and Consequences. Critical comments by A. Scharnhorst have to be mentioned. Moreover this paper would not have its form nor content without comments and constructive criticisms by J.J. Schneider and D. Stauffer whom we gladly thank. Beside COST Action MP0801, MA thanks FNRS FC 4458 - project having allowed some stay at CREA and U. Tuscia.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GRAPES, Université de LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.DIMADEFA Facoltà di Economia, Università di Roma “La Sapienza”RomeItaly

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