Sunday, February 21, 2010

On the Size of the Baha'i Community in the World: Remarkably active & influential, despite the relatively small numbers

Most recent published estimates of the world Baha'i population are about 6.5 million. This is the figure provided in current Baha'i publications. A recent, updated estimate in the 1998 Encyclopedia Britannica is reportedly 7.67 million, higher than any Baha'i-provided figure we have seen. The accuracy of all of these figures is difficult to determine, and the organization does not provide a breakdown of membership data for each country. As with most religious groups, organizationally reported adherent counts include significant numbers of nominal members, or people who no longer actively participate, yet still identify themselves as adherents. There are valid arguments that some of the "mass conversions" have resulted in adherents with little or no acculturation into the new religious system. As is typical with a religious group made up primarily of converts, Baha'is who drift from active participation in the movement are less likely to retain nominal identification with the religion -- because it was not the religion of their parents or the majority religion of the surrounding culture. On the other hand, there are no countries in which people are automatically assigned to the Baha'i Faith at birth (as is the case with Islam, Christianity, Shinto, Buddhism, and other faiths), so their numbers aren't inflated with people who have never willingly participated in or been influenced by the religion while adults. On balance, while official Baha'i figures are not a measure of active participants, the proportion of participating adherents among claimed adherents is thought to be higher than average among the "major religions" on this list. The Baha'i community is remarkably active and influential in religious matters on both global and local levels, especially given their relatively small numbers compared to some other religions.

If the level of participation for Baha'is is higher than average among religions, the effect of the Institute Process, put in place all over the world since 2001, will ensure even higher levels of participation. I think of the dear soul who this past week completed her Runi Book 1 in our home, having completed the first section back in Minnesota, and having registered as a Baha'i during the process of her study. She has 25 hours of systematic study under her belt already and is already well-grounded in her new Faith, with knowledge of the importance of service as a Baha'i. -gw


Posted via email from Baha'i Views

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