March 17, 2010

Mapping Christianity

Last week's New Technologies and Interdisciplinary Research on Religion was a fascinating collection of work in this area. Historians, data visualizationists, linguists, sociologists, economists, etc. presented on a wide range of topics which really worked well together. You can find our presentation here.

So after the last week of alcohol and drug related postings I guess you can say that we've found religion! Hallelujah! And returning to our earlier analysis of the cyberscapes of religion, the following three maps take a more fine grained look at representations of Christianity on the internet.

The first map displays references to four types of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Protestant) at a global scale. Vivid patterns are visible on this map. References to "Catholic" dominate in many places. Of course, those who are making placemarks may be more likely to refer to a specific Protestant denomination (e.g., Methodist, Baptist, etc.) which would serve to overstate the level of Catholicism.

However, there are clear clusters of the three other types of Christianity. Most interesting is the fact that references to "Pentecostal" are more visible than references to "Catholic" in most parts of Brazil (and large parts of South America) despite the fact that almost three-quarters of Brazilians identify as being Catholics. Part of the issue is likely down to the fact that we thus far have confined our searches to English-language terms and are therefore missing out on all the references to Catholicism in Spanish. However, it is intriguing that Pentecostalism is so visible in Brazil (perhaps because it is rapidly growing in popularity in the region).

Taking a closer look at Europe, there is a fascinating split between Orthodox Eastern Europe, Protestant Germany, and Catholic everywhere else. In places such as the UK that contain more Protestants than Catholics it is likely that people aren't using the actual term "Protestant" as a signifier of their religion.

Too combat this issue of Protestantism being an overly general term that few people associated with, we also looked at a broader range of terms related to Christian denominations in the US and discovered patterns that are incredibly clear. Catholics are most visible in much of the Northeast and Canada, with Lutherans taking the Midwest, Baptists the Southeast, and Mormons unsurprisingly taking much of the mountain states. Methodists, interestingly, seem to primarily be most visible in a thin red line between the Southern Baptists and everyone else. The obvious (and farcical question) is against whom are they forming a defensive barrier?

Our readers might also be interested in the fact that there are parts of the country in which the Amish are most visible in religious cyberspaces: a somewhat surprising finding given the fact that they are not supposed to be using contemporary technology - let alone be annotating Google placemarks.

30 comments:

  1. The division is very interesting. Its almost completely separated by region, which i guess is not that surprising. but when you see it laid out before you it really begins to sink in. Especially Europe. How eastern Europe is definitely more orthodox. This is a very interesting study. i could spend much time studying the last map especially.

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  2. Wow, baptists in Maine? who knew.

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  3. Although I know that some Amish use technology more than you might expect (such as at a place of business--almost impossible to survive without the internet these days), they also have the dubious distinction of being a religion/culture which attracts an unusual number of voyeuristic tourists to their regions who may be the ones adding some of the placemarks. You rarely hear of anyone going to Minnesota to see the Lutherans.

    P.S. I just found your blog a few weeks ago, and while I visited initially because I thought it would be about sheep (I'm a spinner/knitter/felter etc), I keep coming back because it is totally intriguing. Thanks for your efforts!

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  4. Love this blog...it is really interesting to know your findings...

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  5. "In places such as the UK that contain more Protestants than Catholics it is likely that people aren't using the actual term "Protestant" as a signifier of their religion."

    The word you are looking for is 'Anglican'

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  6. What is your research methodology? I find it misleading to post a map without any indication of where the data comes from and how it was collected. Surely you cannot be searching Google manually for every lat/long, so how is this data gathered?

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  7. The Baptists in Maine are American Baptists, not Southern Baptists. The two groups split just before the Civil War, largely over the question of slavery.

    The North American map is missing the two biggest Protestant denominations in New England: Unitarian and United Church of Christ.

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  8. A couple of quick response:

    Jennifer: we did a quick update to the FAQ that briefly gets at your question. Essentially we are using a software program to collect the data

    Canadian Yankee (love the name btw): we did do searches on Unitarian and UCC but did not include them in the final map as they had a lower number of hits overall in the U.S. and we were stretching the color palette with ten denominations. Apologies. When included you do see a cluster in New England.

    LauraRose: Very valid point. But having grown up in Lancaster county, PA (hence the last name) I'd love to go to Minnesota and gawk at the Lutherans.

    Gunnar: Yeah, we did drop into academic speak a bit on that one.

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  9. Is there a way to redo the European map to actually show the divisions within Protestantism because, as it stands now, the map is very misleading without reading the 'fine print' (it makes you wonder why the hell Ireland and the UK ever fought and killed each other at all).

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  10. I question some of your findings. I live in Western PA and travel the area quite a bit. You would be hard-pressed to find a Methodist Church - yet nearly every town or village or city has at least 1 Presbyterian Church. While a great idea, I think your research has some serious flaws.

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  11. I agree with moc and Gunnar, you definitely need to re-do the Europe map, as it's totally misleading at present; I think this is a great idea, and a very nice way to present the data, but would be better if it was accurate!

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  12. Ok just so you know in Brazil (where portuguese is spoken) pentecostal is spelled the same as in english and I assume it's the same in spanish so that would explain why those countries pentecostal numbers would be so high in countries that are almost completely Catholic. I lived in Brazil and I know that pentecostal religions are growing very quickly I just could not believe it until I realized how the data was gathered. Don't be fooled by this chart Brazil is still very catholic. Europe is obviously also way off (especially England!)

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  13. Germany is actually divided almost 50:50, with protestants in the northeast and catholics in the southwest. But both number are diminishing as islam and atheism are growing more and more.

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  14. it is always interesting how people divide things up. Your categories are Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and Protestant. The newly released Atlas of Global Christianity (http://www.atlasofglobalchristianity.org) uses the categories of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Anglican (if I remember correctly).

    Historically however, both Pentecostal and Anglican are part of the Protestant tradition, in terms of theology and history. In terms of theology though, I can appreciate distinguishing them from the Protestant mainstream. The Anglican church has historically had a significant Anglo-Catholic demographic and many Pentecostal churches with their emphasis on emotion and experience, seem to be moving away from the Bible-centered foundation laid by the Protestant Reformation.

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  15. In England a lot of Protestants would label themselves Church of England, In scotland they would be Church of Scotland and in Wales they are generally Methodists and Baptists. You need to know what terminology to search with and for before searching. I would be interested to see what you come up with if you used more accurate search words.

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  16. According the CIA Factbook for Finland: Lutheran Church of Finland 82.5%, Orthodox Church 1.1%, other Christian 1.1%, other 0.1%, none 15.1% (2006)

    According to your Europe map we consist of Orthodox and roman catholics.


    As a finn living in Finland I know the CIA Factbook is correct.

    Your presentation is nice though.

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  17. Is there a way to rerun the data using the term "Anglican" in addition to "Protestant" for the map of Europe, and using the word "Episcopal" in place of (or in addition to) the word "Anglican" for America? In England, as several have pointed out, the "Protestants" call themselves "Anglican". But in America, most who consider themselves descended from Anglicans call themselves "Episcopal" -- the word "Anglican" in America signifies a splinter group who identify themselves with the Church of England (or even the Church of Rome) more than they do with the Episcopal Church.

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  18. "Part of the issue is likely down to the fact that we thus far have confined our searches to English-language terms and are therefore missing out on all the references to Catholicism in Spanish."
    Part of the issue? That's an understatement.
    1) I don't see how you can say your map represents Christianity on the internet when it is solely based on English references.
    2) People speak Portuguese in Brazil, not Spanish. Screwing that up doesn't inspire confidence.

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  19. Julie, I am also from Western PA and work as a missionary supported by an inter-denominational mix of churches. I've been to just about every small town in (north) Western PA and I have to say they ALL have Methodist churches. Even the smallest of towns has one.

    Perhaps we travel in different parts of WPA, but I just don't see what you're seeing there.

    Cheers!

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  20. Julie, Please look at the map again. All of those burnt orange Presbyterian dots are clustered exactly over western Pa. (metro Pittsburgh, for the most part), just as your driving impressions have previously confirmed. And as a native Pittsburgher who was raised Presbyterian, I confirm it, too! ;) (though I now live in Maine, and am Unitarian-Universalist)

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  21. Wow really? this is the worst and most miss-leading map I've ever seen. Every one knows there is a HUGE difference between "American Baptist" and "Southern (neo-conservative) Baptist" right? is ever one here really that ignorant? I live in the NE, liberal as hell and and "Baptist", but please don't put me in the same categories with those crazies in the south. The same goes for many distinctions that aren't accounted or in this horrible map. Sorry you've all been mislead. I hope your smart enough to look for the agenda of the bias person who created it! good luck!

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  22. Don't agree that it's misleading, but it definitely has a limit in determining the nature of the areas. Umbrella denominations don't necessarily describe the belief or social patterns of the individual churches or denominations within them. I am (or was raised anyway) Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). While there are some significant variations within it, it is categorically a far more liberal organization than the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

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  23. The European map is really very flawed. You are using the term "Protestant" to analyse the data, rather than the more specific terms like Anglican (UK), Methodist (Wales), Presbyterian (Scotland), Lutheran (Germany, Scandinavia), Reformed (Switzerland), &c. Had you run the analysis using the above terms and then compiled them as the broad term "Protestant", the map would actually reflect the true situation in Europe (i.e. a Catholic centre and south, Luthern north and west, Orthodox east).

    Additionally, what is interesting is the gaps in the map. Croatia is overwhelmingly Catholic; Serbia is overwhelming Orthodox, and yet these countries have virtually no dots.

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  24. I wonder how many of the Catholic references in Australia (especially east coast) are due to last year's World Youth Day and pope visit here?

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  25. If I understand you well the application prototype worked well with an English-language training sample. But for real research the English-language biais should be treated. Your approach merits more investment.

    Now what was the research question ?

    Concerning religion mapping 2.0 : If you want to redo the interesting map and drop the English-language biais crowdsource the search for "local" Church names !

    For instance, the German protestants call themselves Evangelisch, the French & Swiss data Réformé, the Swedish Svenska kyrkan (in English Church of Sweden), etc.

    How do you treat the declined forms of the denominations' adjectives ?

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  26. This map is very wrong when it comes to Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Estonia - Basically all of northern Europe. All these countries are mainly protestant, but it shows that denmark is catholic and finland and estonia are orthodox. Both finland and estonia are completely protestant - you can see some orthodox hints in the architecture of some churches, but it's from the time when these two countries were de jure under the russian czar. 99% of the churches have non-orthodox architecture and are not orthodox.

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  27. Very interesting. You might want to take a look at the World Values Survey project, which has been conducting research since the 1980's:

    http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/

    They are just now beginning to hit their stride in both coverage and methodology.

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  28. This map is very far off the mark when it covers Louisiana. The general New Orleans area has a great deal of Roman Catholics, along with Jewish worshipers.

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  29. This map is INCORRECT when it comes to Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway they are 98-99% PROTESTANT!!!! (look it up...I did) Also The UK map is mostly wrong, as well.

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