A report from the Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy (TPNRD) examines the perception and use of quantitative data regarding religious affiliation and religious persecution. The authors identify the pitfalls of employing data uncritically and provide recommendations for diplomats and other practitioners to consider when engaging with data about religion. This guidance includes understanding that behind seemingly neutral numbers are often qualitative assumptions and remembering that numbers can obscure the complexity, nuance, and variety of religion, both geographically and within religious communities.
The Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion & Diplomacy (TPNRD) has released a new report entitled Faith in Numbers: Can We Trust Quantitative Data on Religious Affiliation and Religious Freedom?
Co-authored by Judd Birdsall of the University of Cambridge and Lori Beaman of the University of Ottawa, “Faith in Numbers” encourages readers to think more carefully and critically about the inherently tricky task of quantifying religious affiliation and religious freedom. The authors focus on data published by the Pew Research Center as an illustrative case study, probing how the data is collected and then how it is used by policymakers, activists, and journalists. The report concludes with eight recommendations and reflections for diplomats and other practitioners to bear in mind when they engage with quantitative data on religion.
Judd Birdsall is the Director of the TPNRD Secretariat and an Affiliated Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Lori Beaman is Professor and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Religious Diversity and Social Change at the University of Ottawa. Birdsall and Beaman jointly presented their paper at a virtual meeting of the TPNRD in May 2020.