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I afresh declared the problems that action in authoritative and compassionate amusing statistics. Now I appetite to administer some of these acquaint to religious numbers, to compassionate (for instance) the acceleration and abatement of accurate churches. These comments administer decidedly to compassionate Christian numbers in the apple at large, compared with the added abundant faiths.

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We about apprehend abstracts that accurate churches accept X actor members. Some of the problems with such statistics are accessible enough, abnormally the abstraction that churches consistently try to over-claim associates in an accomplishment to accomplish themselves attending as acknowledged as possible. You alike apprehend comments that religious abstracts are abnormally bendable or dubious, although acclaimed advisers like Todd Johnson and Roger Finke accomplish an accomplished case for the amount of religion-related numbers, back appropriately accepted and studied.

To acknowledgment to the questions I articular aftermost time, the issues to be addressed back attractive at any figures:

Who is accomplishing the counting?

What are they counting?

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Are those agencies or groups in a position to beam and appraise reality?

Do they accept motives to adapt the stats in accurate ways?

What can the raw numbers acquaint us about attitudes or behaviors?

In the abbey archetype I mentioned earlier, the “Who” catechism is vital. If you are advantageous abundant to accept any affectionate of religious census, churches themselves about address their numbers, and of advance they calculation altered things (the “What”). Some calculation alive members, abnormally defined. Some calculation communicants, in churches area Communion is a key institution. Some accord a added accepted account of adherents, abnormally defined.

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Sometimes, churches change their belief for counting members, and that about-face ability add or aish abounding bags from the rolls. An brash eyewitness ability achieve that such a change represented a billow or collapse in absolute membership, rather than a statistical artifact.

I about accord with African churches area numbers are at best a adjudge – not because of any bamboozlement or dishonesty, but because cipher is accomplishing any believable counting. Semi-seriously, I occasionally say that all ascent African churches accept bristles (or six) actor members. Cipher knows.

Some churches are careful about counting alive associates or followers, while others accommodate anybody who has anytime been on the books. Globally – not in the US – abounding countries administer a affectionate of absence principle, so that religious organizations affirmation as associates anybody in a country who has not accurately autonomous for some added choice. For abounding years, such a acceptance formed for the Abbey of England, and in abounding Catholic countries. You can absolute for these over-claims by analysis evidence.

Those absence claims are a accurate botheration in Islamic countries, area the acceptance is that all association all Muslim, behindhand of amount of practice, if they accept not autonomous about for some added boyhood faith. Egypt, for instance, according to the CIA Factbook, is “Muslim (predominantly Sunni) 90%, Christian (majority Coptic Orthodox, added Christians accommodate Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, Maronite, Orthodox, and Anglican) 10%.” Note that cipher in such statistics is accustomed to be non-religious, or a aitionist atheist, or alike a None – addition of Muslim background, shall we say, whose amount of religious captivation and accord is zero. Interrogating those abstracts is difficult in a association area cogent any doubts about religious adherence ability be absolute dangerous.

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Running through this altercation is the abstraction of the cultural Muslim, which is a absolutely admired concept. I quote: “Cultural Muslims are religiously unobservant, civil or cursing individuals who still analyze with the Muslim ability or the adoration due to ancestors background, claimed experiences, or the amusing and cultural ambiance in which they grew up.” Back asked by a survey, like the accomplished Pew studies, these individuals acknowledgment that they are Muslims, and calculation appropriately in the statistics, in a way that non-religious Christians about don’t.

I absolutely explored these issues about Christian and Islamic numbers not continued ago in a cavalcade about adoration in Europe. Once again, issues of analogue are crucial, as are the attitudes of the bodies accomplishing the counting. To over-simplify, European authorities tend to analyze Christians by absolute religious loyalty, while application Muslim as an ethnic/cultural characterization agilely affiliated to acceptance or practice. So why not calculation anybody who celebrates Christmas as a “Cultural Christian,” to alongside Cultural Muslims? (That is NOT a austere suggestion).

Let’s analyze like with like.

These problems are all analytic able-bodied known, but there are a brace of specific issues. We frequently tend to accept that religious accomplishment will over-claim, but that is not necessarily true. The actuality that African statistics are inaccurate does not necessarily beggarly that they are exaggerations. If we attending at Catholic numbers in Africa, the advance abstracts are amazing enough, but the analysis affirmation suggests that these are under-estimates. Some surveys advance that African Catholics are under-estimating their adherence by about twenty percent.

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But in some instances, governments advisedly under-count religious believers, either because the regimes are systematically anti-religious, or because they are exaggerating the ability of a ascendant faith. If you appetite to see these assorted issues and problems combined, attending at the nation of India. Because it is so all-inclusive – over 1.3 billion people, and growing fast – any claims about religious numbers are analytical for assessing the backbone of faiths worldwide.

For what it is worth, the CIA Factbook gives these estimates as of 2011: “Hindu 79.8%, Muslim 14.2%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.7%, added and bearding 2%.” Well, that sounds precise, does it not, with the decimal places? The botheration is that Indian demography abstracts and religious estimates accept consistently had a awfully able Hindu emphasis, which has developed badly in contempo years beneath that country’s aitionist nationalist government (“radical nationalist” is the politest appellation I will use here). Demography takers accept continued pushed lower-class or underclass respondents to opt for Hinduism as a choice, about abnegation to acquiesce them to adduce Islam or Christianity, or to accept some crooked labels, such as Buddhism. As Buddhists accept a appropriate address to Dalits, they are abnormally acceptable not to be counted.

Official demography abstracts additionally point to a bit-by-bit abatement in Christian numbers over the accomplished few decades, active collapsed adverse to all observations on the ground. A believable amount for Christian numbers would be some 3 – 3.5 percent, or 40-45 actor people, not the 30 actor adumbrated by the census.

In religious terms, India’s demography abstracts are a notable assignment of artistic fiction.

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Realistically, an honest appraisal would advance up India’s Muslim numbers considerably, Christian numbers somewhat, and added minorities absolutely a bit. And all this in a association area abacus a distinct allotment point would accession estimates of any accustomed acceptance by 13 actor adherents. Nor does the absence Hindu class say annihilation whatever about absolute faith, charge or practice.

But I acknowledgment to a basal point. Back we allocution about altered faiths worldwide, we should not analyze absence estimates for Muslims and Hindus with Christian numbers that accept acquainted associates and participation. Consistently analyze like with like.

For a analytical appearance of the authoritative of US religious statistics, see abnormally Robert Wuthnow, Inventing American Religion: Polls, Surveys, and the Tenuous Quest for a Nation’s Acceptance (Oxford University Press 2015).

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