Globally, Religion Defies Easily Identified Patterns

The world is growing more religious. Or maybe it’s not.

On Friday, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago released what it described as “the most comprehensive analysis to date of global religious trends.” Anyone studying its 9,000-word analysis and perusing 330 additional pages of references and tables will be quickly disabused of the idea that the currents of religious belief and practice are flowing in one or two or even a half-dozen clear directions.

“Religious change around the world is a complex phenomenon,” the report begins, in an almost comic understatement. “No simple description such as secularization, religious revival, or believing without belonging captures the complexity of the process.”

The report mines dozens of surveys by American and European social science researchers that measure religious trends over the last four decades in the United States, Western and Eastern Europe and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.

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