About The ARDA | Tools | FAQs | Contact Us

Pluralism refers to the amount of religious diversity in a given area.  Rather than being a simple count of the number of different religions, it is typically defined as the amount of “evenness” with regard religious affiliation in an area.

Secularization and religious economies perspectives are at odds over the consequences of pluralism, with the former positing that it leads to increasing irreligion and privatization, while the latter suggests that increased religious competition fosters strength in religious organizations (cf. Berger 1967; Bruce 2002; Finke and Stark 1988, 1998; Stark, Finke, and Iannaccone 1995).  Pluralism has frequently been measured with the Herfindahl index; however the debate over the consequences of pluralism for religious vitality remains unresolved due to methodological problems resulting from the use of the Herfindahl index to predict adherence rates (see Voas, Olson, and Crockett 2002).


Berger, Peter L.  1967.  The Sacred Canopy.  New York, NY: Doubleday.

Bruce, Steve.  2002.  God is Dead: Secularization in the West.  Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Finke, Roger and Rodney Stark.  1988.  “Religious Economies and Sacred Canopies: Religious Mobilization in American Cities, 1906.”  American Sociological Review  53:41-49.

Finke, Roger and Rodney Stark.  1998.  “Religious Choice and Competition.”  American Sociological Review 63:761-766.

Stark, Rodney, Roger Finke and Laurence Iannaccone.  1995.  “Pluralism and Piety: England and Wales, 1851.”  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34:431-444.

Voas, David, Daniel V. A. Olson and Alasdair Crockett.   2002.  “Religious Pluralism and Participation: Why Previous Research is Wrong.”  American Sociological Review 67(2):212-230.

The following are possible measures of Pluralism that can be created using data from theARDA.com

The Herfindahl Index is most commonly used in economics to measure the market share of industries.  Applied to religion, it assesses the "evenness" of religious groups pertaining to the overall market of adherents in a geo-political area.  Its use to predict attendance or adherence rates has been controversial, since a "mathematical relationship between [the] variables" may cause potentially erroneous results (Voas et al. 2002: 212).

This measure assesses the extent to which a government regulates the religious economy present in the country. View related items in Measurement Wizard Scales:  
Several files in theARDA's Data Archive have examples of this Measure.
GRI_AG: Variable 6 from International Religious Freedom Data, Aggregate File
Related Theories To This Concept
QuickSearch The Knowledge-Base

To search the knowledge-base, enter a term below:

Select a Theory below to learn more:

Select a Concept below to learn more: