Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2009 Volume 5 :: Article 7
2009 Volume 5, Article 7
Pluralism as Outcome: The Ecology of Religious Resources, Suppliers, and Consumers

Author: Christopher P. Scheitle (The Pennsylvania State University) and Roger Finke (The Pennsylvania State University)

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A great deal of interest has surrounded the topic of religious pluralism and the effects of the frequently used pluralism index on outcomes such as religious participation rates. But surprisingly little work has tried to understand the sources of pluralism or what the pluralism index is actually measuring. In an attempt to reframe the debate, we treat pluralism as an outcome variable. Drawing on ideas in the organizational ecology literature and data from previous studies on pluralism and participation, we show that the pluralism of religious suppliers is a product of the pluralism of religious preferences and the number of potential adherents within an environment. This pluralism of suppliers, in turn, produces a pluralism of religious consumers. We then distinguish between expected pluralism and observed pluralism, and we argue that a relationship between pluralism and participation will be expected only when a meaningful gap between these two measures exists. We close by examining the previous research to show how this reframing of the pluralism and participation question sheds light on that literature.

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