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Thursday, August 9, 2012

The State of Religion and State Around the World

In previous posts I have discussed the importance of religious liberty. Back in April I wrote about a report published by the Witherspoon Institute, which makes the case that religious liberty is a good thing for both individuals and for societies ("A Case for Religious Freedom"). And back in October of 2010 ("Religious Freedom and Religious Violence"), I noted that Brian Grim and Roger Finke ("The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century") have shown that religious freedom is positively associated with a number of other liberties, such as political freedom, freedom of the press, civil liberties, gender empowerment as well as lower levels of religious violence. In other words, it tends to be a good thing.

One of the leading experts on the state of religious freedom and liberty is Jonathan Fox, who is a professor at Bar Ilan University in Israel. He has written a number of books on the topic, and has collected and analyzed a tremendous amount of data on 177 countries concerning the interplay of religion and state. While his books may be more than a lot of readers would want to take on, his research is the subject of a recent Research on Religion podcast ("Jonathan Fox on Religion and State Around the World"), which I highly (highly) recommend. Here is a brief description of the podcast from the Research on Religion website:
What does the relationship between religious groups and the state look like around the world? Prof. Jonathan Fox of Bar Ilan University talks about the findings that have come from his expansive data collection and research exploration into the nature of religion and politics around the world. We discuss how religious organizations are regulated by governments in different parts of the globe and whether or not — and how — religious groups offer the state legitimacy and vice versa.
You can download the podcast from iTunes or listen to it at the Research on Religion website ("Jonathan Fox on Religion and State Around the World"). It's about an hour long and well worth the time.

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