ARDA Working Papers Series


Going Global: Testing Theories with International Data

Roger Finke
Department of Sociology and Criminology
Pennsylvania State University

Over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a sharp increase in the quantity and quality of international data collections on religion. Surveys have measured the religious beliefs and behaviors of individuals in a growing number of countries, and cross-national collections now offer detailed measures on the relationship religion holds with other institutions for virtually every country in the world. When combined with a growing number of measures that take us far beyond religion, we can now explore religion and the relationship it holds with other key social and political measures and the relationships the religious groups hold with each other. Moreover, the data allow us to move beyond “Western” and historically Christian nations to test theories in the global arena. This paper reviews both the opportunities and the challenges for collecting new sources of data and proposes theoretical and substantive issues that should be addressed.

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