Stop the Myth

From an article in the New York Times about the separation of Church at State (not to be confused with NOFX’s separation of Church and Skate)

The United States has always been home to striking religious diversity — diversity that has by fits and starts expanded over the last 230 years.

Um. The United States is 77 percent Christian (down from 86 percent in 1990.) The world is approximately 33 percent Christian, 21 percent Islamic, 14 percent Hindu, 16 percent non-religious, 6 percent Buddhist, 6 percent Confucianist, etc. I think the correct statement is “the United States has always been home to striking Christian religious diversity.”

For an interesting graphic, check out this geographic picture of religious adherence in the United States. It would be cool to run this through the cartegram software of Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman.

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6 Responses to Stop the Myth

  1. Kaveh Kh. says:

    Actually you won’t need to run the caartegram program again, just take the cartegram of the states (fig. 2 in the linked page) and superpose the religion colours on it!

  2. Dave Bacon says:

    Of course! I am a total moron. Well, off to teach 😉

  3. An says:

    just a tiny, nitpicky correction – it’s Hindu, not Hindi. Hindi is the national language of India.

  4. PG says:

    You may be missing the context of a statement Feldman makes earlier in the article:

    “To begin with, America was religiously diverse: how could the state establish the religion of the sovereign when the sovereign people in America belonged to many faiths — Congregationalist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Quaker?”

    Now that diversity within Christianity has been expanded to include a diversity among all extant faiths. Also, which individual countries would you consider to be more religiously diverse than the U.S.? While the world as a whole is more diverse, not that many nations are.

  5. Dave Bacon says:

    Doh. Thanks An. Fixed now.

    PG: It’s not a question of whether there are more diverse ones but whether saying that 76% Christian is really diverse. I’m just pointing out that the articles definition of religion is narrow even by human standards (not to mention all those alien civilizations and their wacko religions and pseudo-secularities that that the author is leaving out. 😉 ) Nor am I arguing that diversity should be the object either. I’m just pointing out that the author’s definition of diverse is a bit mythical (but understandable.)

  6. Rod says:

    The Glenmary map is totally bogus. A glance at West Virginia will tell you that — less than 35% of the population claimed by an organized religion? Dig a little deeper, and you find that their methodology was not to ask people directly for their affiliation, but to ask the national church governing bodies for the data. Some, notably the National Baptist Convention (formerly American Baptist), declined to participate. As Baptists form a big chunk of West Virginians, in one fell swoop WV’s religiosity falls. Throw in the fact that many mountaineers belong to small churches that don’t belong to a national organization, and you’ve just about clobbered the state.

    Imagine what Utah’s map would look like if the LDS had declined to participate, or what Miami-Dade or L.A. County would look like if the Catholic Church hadn’t ponied up the data.

    On the larger note, I actually agree with the posters who make the point that diversity has grown; diversity is always measured with reference to something, and certainly compared to England itself, 18th-century America was a diverse place. Now our reference point is the world, rather than an island off the coast of a single continent, so the absolute measure has grown but the relative measure has not.

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