Religious Demography and Conflict: How Diversity Matters

Ragnhild Nordas, Harvard University

The resurgence of religion as a political and security issue has led researchers to study the implications of how religion manifests itself in populations. Projects on civil war, terrorism, fundamentalism, as well as social movements have led to an interest in religious demography. These studies have included measures variations in religious diversity across countries in their empirical analyses. In the conflict literature, most studies have focused on religion in terms of fractionalization or polarization of populations based on adherence to different religious traditions. This has been argued to matter directly, assuming that diverse populations are more conflict prone; or indirectly, via effects on governance indicators and propensity for democratic rule. This paper presents the different ways that religious demography have typically been conceptualized: by measures of polarization, fragmentation, fractionalization, cleavages, domination, as well as through measures of religiosity and radicalism. I then systematically compare the measures to highlighting how, why and where they differ and converge; and highlight problems associated with each measure. In continuation of this, I do a systematic comparison of how each measure fares in predicting civil war onset and severity in general, and between religiously different belligerents in particular.

Presented in Session 181: Population, Conflict, and Religion