Here’s a Misleading Picture of Religion Around the World

Here’s an interesting example of misleading with statistics. At least, I think so. Here’s the original chart from Pew Research:

Sure enough, there’s a strong trendline showing that people who say religion is very important also believe that religion has been growing more important since 2000.

But wait. It’s pretty obvious that the test countries are broken cleanly into two different groups, and the slope of the trendline is almost entirely driven by the second group being higher than the first on both measures. But what if you look at the two groups separately?

These trendlines are just eyeball efforts on my part, so don’t take them too seriously. Still, I don’t see much of a trend within either group, and the dots are scattered pretty widely around the trendlines.

So my tentative conclusion is that there’s no correlation at all between religion being personally important and believing that it plays a more important role than it used to. The whole effect is driven by the difference between these two groups, which, roughly speaking, is the difference between high-income countries and low-income countries. That might be an interesting topic, but it’s quite different from what Pew says about this.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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