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Another #1 ranking for Singapore, but in a rather interesting form this time round.

While it is not hard to perceive the religious diversity present in Singapore, it is perhaps not so obvious how that diversity might compare to that of other countries. (A more representative study in understanding relative diversity might involve looking at the respective religious diversities of major cities rather than countries, since it is global cities like London and New York which are often seen to be more diverse generally.)

Note, of course, some possible concerns over the methodology, primarily over the way religions are categorised: Christian faiths, despite the size of the respective denominations, are considered as one group, which may or may not skew the results, depending on whether you think that having different Christian denominations represents diversity.

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Looking at the percentage of each country’s population that belongs to the eight major religious categories included in the study, 12 countries have a very high degree of religious diversity. Six of the 12 are in the Asia-Pacific region (Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Hong Kong); five are in sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique); and one is in Latin America and the Caribbean (Suriname). No countries in Europe, North America or the Middle East-North Africa region have a very high degree of religious diversity as measured in this study.

Of the 232 countries in the study, Singapore – an island nation of more than 5 million people situated at the southern tip of Malaysia – has the highest score on the Religious Diversity Index. About a third of Singapore’s population is Buddhist (34%), while 18% are Christian, 16% are religiously unaffiliated, 14% are Muslim, 5% are Hindu and <1% are Jewish. The remainder of the population belongs to folk or traditional religions (2%) or to other religions considered as a group (10%).

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According to the new index, the United States has a moderate level of religious diversity, ranking 68th among the 232 countries and territories included in the study. Counting both adults and children, Christians constitute a sizable majority of the 2010 U.S. population (78%). Of the seven other major religious groups, only the religiously unaffiliated claim a substantial share of the U.S. population (16%).7 All other religious groups combined account for about 5% of Americans. (The U.S. would register as considerably more diverse if subgroups within Christianity were counted.)

By contrast, France has a high degree of religious diversity, ranking 25th among the 232 countries. Christians make up 63% of France’s 2010 population, and two other groups account for sizable shares: the religiously unaffiliated (28%) and Muslims (8%). Iran, whose population is almost entirely Muslim, falls into the low diversity category.

To see how all 232 countries scored on the Religious Diversity Index, see Appendix 1 (PDF).

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