Computing Religion: A New Tool in the Multilevel Analysis of Religion

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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  • 1 Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit (RCC), Department of the Study of Religion, Aarhus University, Tåsingegade 3, 8000, Aarhus C, Denmark
  • 2 Department of Religious Studies, Juniata College, 204 Good Hall, 1700 Moore Street, Huntingdon (PA) 16652, USA
  • 3 Effects & Influence Research Group, Defence Research & Development Canada, 1133 Sheppard Ave W, Toronto, ON, M3K 2C9, Canada

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Abstract

The computational approach has become an invaluable tool in many fields that are directly relevant to research in religious phenomena. Yet the use of computational tools is almost absent in the study of religion. Given that religion is a cluster of interrelated phenomena and that research concerning these phenomena should strive for multilevel analysis, this article argues that the computational approach offers new methodological and theoretical opportunities to the study of religion. We argue that the computational approach offers 1.) An intermediary step between any theoretical construct and its targeted empirical space and 2.) a new kind of data which allows the researcher to observe abstract constructs, estimate likely outcomes, and optimize empirical designs. Because sophisticated multilevel research is a collaborative project we also seek to introduce to scholars of religion some general computational issues, and finally applications that model behavior in religious contexts.

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