Study: Islam will soon be the most practiced religion in the wor

Study: Islam will soon be the most practiced religion in the world

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LUBBOCK -

For more than 2,000 years, Christianity has been the world's most practiced religion with billions of followers. But according to a Pew Research Center study, between 2010 and 2060 another faith will grow at an unprecedented rate.

Jeremy Herrera's new found faith was difficult for his mother to accept. She raised him Catholic.

"I grew up Roman Catholic," Jeremy said. "I was baptized in the Catholic church, my entire family is Catholic."

Growing up, Jeremy said he was very enthusiastic about his faith. He went to mass every week, sacrificed something for Lent each year, fasted on Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday.

"When I got into college, like most people probably around my age, they get into college and they start questioning their faith," he said. "As you get into college, you begin to get exposed into many different ways of life, ideologies, different philosophies"

He says with those questions came resistance to what the Catholic faith taught him.

"They say you have to love Jesus with all your heart, you have to accept him as your personal Lord and Savior, and this is all part of the Christian theology," he said. "And I had a really hard time with that, because really, the main thing for me was how do I, how can I accept a stranger like that."

Trying to make sense of it all, he looked for answers in the New Testament, but that just lead to more questions.

"I felt that Christianity in terms of its belief, its creed, it was very complicated," he said. "I could never explain God in one sentence, when it comes to Christianity, I don't think any Christian for that matter can explain who God is, and have it make sense. Because for me, the whole idea of the Trinity just threw me off."

Eventually, Jeremy abandoned the family faith and belief in a higher authority.

"I lived a life where I didn't believe in God, I didn't care about God, didn't want to know God, and questioned myself with these ideas if God really existed or not," he said. "And I just felt like, 'well, I'll live my life however I want,' you know? Live a good, moral, upright life."

But as time passed by, Jeremy says he felt a hole in his heart, and even though his childhood faith wasn't going to work for him, he started searching for God again.

"I decided that I would start with Judaism or Islam, and a long time ago I seen somewhere somehow Muslims praying," he said. "I don't know where, but that image always stuck in my head, the way they prayed."

So his research took him to Islam.

"I called the Imam here at this mosque, and I asked him where I could purchase one (Quran), and he said, 'you know, you don't have to purchase one, you just come out to the mosque, join one of the nightly prayers and I'll give you one for free.' So I said, 'OK,' so I came, picked up my Quran, I left and I started reading it, and from there on that's where my journey toward Islam started."

Jeremy's journey is not that uncommon, those who study religious conversions report many younger people are attracted to Islam because of simplicity.

"I think in many ways Islam is very simple," said LCU professor of religion Stacy Patty. "It's attractive because it's simple. There is one god, we pray, we take care of people, and we live our lives, we love our family, etc."

"They find Islam to be a complete package and complete way of life," Imam Samer Altabaa said. "They find all the answers in Islam that makes sense, there is no contradictions, and is so simple."

According to the Pew Research, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 and while Islam is the world's second largest religion -- it's the fastest-growing major religion.

"Actually I can hear, and see, and feel even Islam is really the fastest-growing religion in the world, and a lot of people convert to Islam, I can see it here in Lubbock, I could see it when I was in Denver, I could see it even when I was in Cleveland, Ohio," Altabaa said. "We always have people who come to Islam and convert to our faith."

But professor Patty thinks otherwise.

"I don't think there is more conversions, in terms of percentages," Patty said. "It's a combination of factors in my mind. On one hand some Christian and Jewish groups certainly have secularized overtime, there is less emphasis in traditional Christian doctrine, less emphasis upon purity of a marriage, those sorts of things, and then that leads to some people longing for that again. And I think it's pretty clear that in many cases conversions come because they are looking that."

Regardless of conversions, Pew Research predicts adherents to Islam will increase by 70 percent by 2060. The number of Christians is expected to rise by 34 percent. So by the turn of the century there will be 3.1 billion Muslims in the world.

According to Pew, there are two main factors. The first one is Muslim women on average have three children, compared to women from other religious groups that have two. The second factor is Muslims are on average seven years younger than non-Muslims, which means they are or they will start having children.

But with that growth comes apprehension about Islamic extremists. Even though Jeremy was full of conviction, there was also fear fueled by the Muslim backlash and misconceptions about the religion's true belief.

"Of course I was scared, I was terrified of Muslims, 'what are they going to do to me?' But I came, I saw, I sat in the back, and I saw them praying," Jeremy said. "After the prayer I met with the Imam, he talked to me, gave me the Quran and that was it."

"Unfortunately our religion was hijacked by extremist radical people. These people are radical extremists and criminals," Altabaa said. "This is the religion of peace. This is the religion that came to stop violence and killing."

"Horrible misconceptions," Patty said. "I always tell people, 'you need to meet some Muslims, you need to go to Friday prayer and understand who they are. They are our neighbors, they are Americans. Muslims were here before there was an America, And they've always been here."

Three years after adopting a new way of life and trying to learn a new language, Jeremy says it's the best decision he has ever made.

"I feel now that i actually have a purpose to live," Jeremy said. "I didn't find it anywhere else. But through reading the Quran I found my real reason for even existing." 

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