Tuesday, March 8, 2016

World Religions - At-a-glance Executive Summary

World Religions - At-a-glance Executive Summary

Updated February 3rd, 2019

At-a-glance Approach

In effort to coach my children to the diversity and similarities of the world's religions (known as comparative religious studies), I first needed to refresh and orient my own knowledge of this vast subject.  My favorite approach is to synthesize available information into a single-page executive summary.  The so-called 'at-a-glance' slide.

I have found the process and challenge of creating a graphically abbreviated view leads to discovery of 'new' information not obvious in the noise and spin of web-sourced, linear, subject-specific  descriptions.  This 'at-a-glance-synthesis' process often:
  1. Uncovers under-reported themes that have been eclipsed by more socially abundant themes.
  2. Identifies relationships and shared characteristics not otherwise obvious when reading a single-subject description.
  3. Drives clarity around a larger holistic scope
  4. Improves differentiation of the parts of the whole.
Another feature I find important in at-a-glance descriptions is the integration of data alongside the context for that data.  This approach is exemplified by the infographics evangelist Edward Tufte in his book 'Beautiful Evidence'.  True infographics conceive a rendering of the data to tell the story.  While this project doesn't achieve this ambition (since I didn't have a lot of data to draw upon), it is inspired by Tufte's philosophies.

World Religion Summary v2.6

This graphic is an initial attempt at synthesizing the main features of, and associations between, world religions.  A historical architecture of belief systems, if you will.  Of course massive amounts of relevant and important details are lost with this approach, as with any summarization.  The available 'real estate' in this single picture forces trade-offs between readability, content, and equity.  Nevertheless, there remains quite a lot of available space to adjust the structure and incorporate additional relevant content.

The chart is loosely organized vertically by the variable of time (history), framed by the Silk Road origins (top) and current adherents (bottom).  Differentiating events along the evolution of the Christian churches are also organized vertically, creating the opportunity to depict similar such events for peer religious branches in future editions of this graphic.

The chart is organized horizontally (left to right) with a combination of longitude (geographic origins along the silk road) and relative population-share of adherents by religious category as described in the 2012 report "Global Religious Landscape" published by the Pew Research Center.

While this casual blog doesn't have the formality and efficiency of a wiki, I would encourage respectful contribution to improve upon this graphic in the comments section of this post.  I will endeavor to review and consider this feedback for inclusion in future enhancements to this ongoing work.  I'm looking forward to learning who discovers this post in this Internet backwater and how our discourse is shaped through publication.

The author Paul Kavitz is a philanthropist, strategic advisor, and father living near Washington DC.

If you are interested in using this graphic in your publication, please leave a comment below with your email address and I'll be in touch.

< Updated May 21, 2018 >  v2.4 of the world religions graphic corrects misspellings, adjusts layout for readability, and adds point for summary of non-religious category.

< Updated February 3, 2019 >  v2.6 of the world religions graphic improves map readability and overall visual integration.  Added 'dead' religion category and refinement of descriptions for Dharmic and Taoic categories.


JIHYE said...

Dear Paul

I am very interested in your chart, 'world religion summary V.2.2'
I and my coworkers are writing a new religion study textbook for high school students in christian private schools in South Korea.
I would like to ask you to allow let me use your chart. I never found another proper chart to explain and look at a glace the whole flow of world religion. your chart will be perfect for our students to learn world religion and helpful.
is it possible to use your chart in the textbook?

Paul Kavitz said...

Thank you @JIHYE for your interest. There is a new version of the chart which fixes some issues in the earlier edition. Please include your email address in the comment and we can correspond to discuss publication.