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Religious Identity

This refers to religious self-identification (Smith, 1998:233). One ongoing discussion within the sociology of religion is how to categorize religious individuals. In the past researchers have created categories, then placed individuals into them by religious affiliation or certain religious beliefs. For example, to categorize individuals as Evangelical Protestants researchers could use their religious denomination (e.g., Southern Baptist) or certain beliefs commonly attributed to Evangelicals (e.g., individuals must be “born-again” to receive salvation). However, religious identity is now being used as another way to categorize individuals, relying entirely on respondents to place themselves within a certain category. A strength of this specific categorization technique is that it ensures the individual sees the classification as appropriate, rather than just being placed there by a researcher according to a predefined typology.  There are some drawbacks to this technique, however, such as the diffuse and often political nature of certain religious terms such as “evangelical” or “fundamentalist.”

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Citations:

Hackett, Conrad, and D. Michael Lindsay. 2008. “Measuring Evangelicalism: Consequences of Different Operationalization Strategies.” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion 47(3):499-514.

Smith, Christian, Michael Emerson, Sally Gallagher, Paul Kennedy, and David Sikkink. 1998. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

The following are possible measures of Religious Identity that can be created using data from theARDA.com
Contributors:
These questions measure how literally respondents read the Bible or other sacred scriptures.  It is debatable whether this measure taps more of a belief or an identity.  Although certainly some of both, the latter seems to be more important, as "literalists" from different interpretive communities may disagree on which parts of the Bible are to be taken literally. What is clear is that this question taps a dimension of religion important for understanding other aspects of religiosity, political attitudes, and views about moral authority more generally.  Accordingly this measure has become a standard control, along with service attendance and religious tradition.  It is also used as an indicator of fundamentalism.  Although some believers claim that belief in Biblical "inerrancy" is different, this too is typically taken to mean "literalism." Measures typically include three or four response options.  Researchers sometimes employ these as ordinal categories, while others utilize them as nominal categories. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
Contributors:
This refers to religious self-identification (Smith, 1998:233). One ongoing discussion within the sociology of religion is how to categorize religious individuals. In the past researchers have created categories, then placed individuals into them by religious affiliation or certain religious beliefs. For example, to categorize individuals as Evangelical Protestants researchers could use their religious denomination (e.g., Southern Baptist) or certain beliefs commonly attributed to Evangelicals (e.g., individuals must be "born-again" to receive salvation). However, religious identity is now being used as another way to categorize individuals, relying entirely on respondents to place themselves within a certain category. A strength of this specific categorization technique is that it ensures the individual sees the classification as appropriate, rather than just being placed there by a researcher according to a predefined typology.  There are some drawbacks to this technique, however, such as the diffuse and often political nature of certain religious terms such as "evangelical" or "fundamentalist." View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
Contributors:
This divides affiliation within Protestantism into differing religious organizations.  This is a standard question available in a wide range of data sets. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:     Examples  
Several files in the ARDA's Data Archive have examples of this measure.
DENOM - 2008 General Social Survey (similar measures available in other waves)
VCF0129 - National Election Studies (cumulative data file 1948-2004)
Q1 - 2005 Baylor Religion Survey
DENOM - U.S. Religious Landscape Survey
Search the ARDA for similar measures.
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In 2000, Steensland and colleagues proposed a new method for classifying religious tradition which was based on both doctrine and historical changes in religious groups.  The schematic divides religious traditions into black Protestant, Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Jewish, mainline Protestant, no religion, and "other" religion.  The "other" category functions as a catch-all to reduce missing cases in multivariate analyses with listwise deletion, but should not be substantively interpreted, as it contains a mixture of Eastern religious traditions, Mormons, and everything in between.  The classification scheme is created by using variables such as affiliation and denomination to classify respondents. View related items in the Measurement Wizard:
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