Distribution Of World Religions

The World Religion Database (WRD) is exactly what its name implies—it covers every country of the world, it focuses on religions, and it is a most incredible database. The amount of work that has gone into producing such a prodigious assembly of facts about every country is enormous, and the editors must be thanked for their diligence, perseverance, and sheer dedication to a mammoth project that can only become more and more useful as time goes by, assuming it is kept up-to-date with the same diligence and resources that have gone into its initial framing. The WRD is based on David Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia (WCE; Oxford Univ. Press, 1982; 2d ed., 2001). It exceeds the WCE, having been updated and extended in many useful ways. The range of detail in the WRD is impressive:

•   an excellent analysis of the population of each country (the number in metropolitan, urban, and rural areas)

•   historical population figures (1900, 1970, 2000) and future estimates (2025, 2050), with the various rates of growth

•   demographics on birth rate, death rate, adult literacy, life expectancy, household size, floor space, corruption index, peoples, and so forth, which provide enormous scope for Ph.D. students doing international cross-analyses

•   a range of data on society—the number who are blind or deaf; the number of doctors, hospitals, and hospital beds; even the number of lepers (an unacceptable word today!); the murder rate; the number of schools and universities, computers, faxes, newspapers, phones, radios, TVs, people with AIDS/HIV; and on and on

•   details of the religions in the country—the unique strength of the WRD. Eighteen different religions are used for the analysis, even if the figure is zero for some countries

•   the population of the major cities and towns in each country

•   the peoples of each country—a total of 105 in the UK (a number much greater than I would ever have guessed)—with their language, majority religion, and size

Credit: Peter Brierley for International Bulletin of Missionary Research.

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