Measuring Religious Change in the Global East

This one-year project aims to develop survey questions to accurately measure religiosity in the Global East, network with scholars of religion in East Asia, and make preparations to study the spatial-temporal changes of religion in the Global East.

The Global East includes East Asian societies and diasporas around the world that share similar religious traditions upon a cultural or spiritual background of Confucianism. The commonly used indicators of religiosity in social surveys such as the International Social Survey Program or the World Values Surveys were developed primarily to measure religious practice and belief against Judeo-Christian norms – exclusive identity, believing in a monotheistic God, belonging to a local congregation, participating in weekly corporate worship gatherings, etc. However, in the Global East, traditional notions of the divine and traditional ways of being religious are perceivably different: monotheism and polytheism coexist, religious identities are not necessarily exclusive, worship gatherings are often marked by lunar monthly cycles instead of weekly cycles, and the sacred-secular distinction may not be as clear as that in the West.

This project will take a bottom-up approach by adopting survey questions locally developed in various East Asian societies, construct a survey questionnaire of religion tailored to the Global East, translate it into multiple languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and English), and test the survey among international students at a university in the US. Following this one-year project, we plan to carry out surveys in multiple East Asian societies using the tested and improved survey questionnaire. Meanwhile, we will also refine the Online Spiritual Atlas of China (OSAC), which maps temples, churches, and mosques in the People’s Republic of China, and expand it to the Online Spiritual Atlas of the Global East (OSAGE), which will include religious sites in other East Asian societies.