A Resource for You at Penn State

One of the desires we have for the Penn-Del District is to resource you. Of course, most of the time we are connecting you to existing resources of which you may not be aware. There’s more out there than we often realize.

Actually, there is quite a valuable resource to you right here at Penn State. Roger Finke, a nationally recognized sociologist of religion and professor at PSU (his best known work is probably The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, co-authored with Rodney Starke), started an incredible archive of religion-related information some years before Penn State snagged him. Since he came to Penn State it has expanded into, possibly, the best one-stop religion data resource on the internet.

That archive is called ARDA, or the Association of Religion Data Archives. It has a wealth (actually an understatement) of information!

On that site you can find religious data from most nations of the world. For instance, if you wonder how many Christians there are in Iraq (a rapidly diminishing number, actually), ARDA will tell you.

Or maybe you want to know about American people’s attitude toward the war in Iraq broken down by broad religious affilliation, or even church attendance, ARDA can tell you that as well.
Or maybe you want to know how many Old Order Amish (or Jews or Muslims or Christian Scientists) there are in Pennsylvania. Look no further.

Of the two states in our district, let me focus on Pennsylvania just to illustrate how helpful his data can be.

Pennsylvania, as a whole, is fascinating from a religious standpoint. According to ARDA, Pennsylvania has the most mainline Protestant churches of any state in the U.S. It is also #2 in the number of Catholic churches (second only to New York). That, in and of itself is hugely important, but then there is the fact that many of those churches are more conservative than their national counterparts. Two major American Protestant denominations (The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church [USA]) have conservative resurgent movements epicentered in, off all places, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is spiritually very different than Philadelphia (I’ve pastored near both cities). Both have a large population of Catholics, but it was Pittsburgh where the 1960’s Charismatic Renewal took hold, specifically at Duquense University. It is also the place where the healing evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman, headquartered her ministry in the 50s and 60’s. Many of her meetings were held in the prestigious, downtown First Presbyterian Church (next door to Trinity (Episcopal) Cathedral)! Can you imagine that in Philadelphia?

Here are the overall stats for Pennsylvania.

Now, to more specific information. This map shows the relative strength of the evangelical Protestant Christian population. You will notice that it shapes what some would call the Pennsylvania ‘Bible Belt,’ having much in common (both culturally and historically) with western Maryland and northern Virginia. I would submit that the dividing line on the western end is the city of Altoona, with southern Blair County being noticeably different than northern Blair County (of course, Cambria County to the west is predominantly Catholic–55%, in fact).

The second map shows the relative strength of the mainline Protestant Christian population (with the percentage being as high as 35% in Snyder County). You will notice that the shift is toward east central Pennsylvania. It should be remembered that many of these congregations/church members are rather evangelical, though usually not quite as conservative as those ARDA designates as evangelical denominations.

Regarding the A/G in particular, this map shows the relative strength of the A/G in every county in PA. This one shows the same in Delaware.

I encourage you to explore the site. There’s lot of stuff there.

I’ve recently been told that ARDA is going to do a major upgrade of their site. I’ll let you know about that when it happens.

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