In the discussion that resulted from the last couple posts on religion, a lot of claims have been made, all of which are empirical claims, and all of which thereby require data. But of course, there’s not a whole lot of data out there, and what is out there is easy to interpret in a variety of ways (as the back and forth about whether religion is in fact declining in the western world shows, for example). But scientists are really beginning to tackle some of the more difficult empirical questions about religion. The going is slow, because religion is a vague term, religions are varied, and there are multiple aspects to religion even within a single individual. But there’s some data, and we should at least try to use it when it’s relevant. So I thought I’d link you to a book chapter by Hansen and Norenzayan that discusses some research relevant to two of the points of dispute in the recent discussions: the relationship between personal and public religion, and the relationship between religion and tolerance. So here it is. Check it out, and then discuss it.