Mapping World Religions

I love the world. No, not in some tree hugging, Michael Jackson sorta way, but because it’s so damn interesting. So many stories entwined into one long, tragic but glorious tale: and nothing shares it quite like a map.

Thanks to the painstaking work of the guys at the Correlates of War Project, I managed to obtain country religion data [1] at the click of a button. From there, it’s a breeze to find the main religion and map its dominance using CartoDB. Here it is:

Cool huh? Just a glimpse tells a story of empire, conquest and isolationism. A few interesting insights:

  • The monopoly of Christianity in the New World is alarming. It’s obvious who won the race there.
  • Japan looks all adorable and lonely over in the East due to its historical isolationism.
  • The conquests of the Mohammedans in the 6th and 7th century were vast, and when nations become Islamic, they stay Islamic.
  • The influence of China over the North and the USA over the South are obvious on the Korean Peninsula.

Also it’s worth a quick mention of the limitations of the data set:

  • Generally each country was surveyed in a different study, and hence the results will differ in their reliability.
  • Following a religion will mean different things to different countries and cultures. To some it may mean being pious, whereas others it is just a source of identity. For example religion seems to be very prominent in the Nordic countries, but in reality this isn’t true in the traditional sense.

So take the results with a pinch (or truckload) of salt. Arigato and Sayonara.

[1] Zeev Maoz and Errol A. Henderson. 2013. “The World Religion Dataset, 1945-2010: Logic, Estimates, and Trends.” International Interactions, 39: 265-291. 

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