Measuring Faith: Quantifying and Examining Religion's Contributions to American Society

September 27, 2016

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Religion was once viewed as an overwhelmingly positive force in American society. News cycles today, however, often portray religion as a source of problems from unjust discrimination to terrorism. Yet religion is an active force in the public, professional, and personal lives of millions in the United States. Safeguards for religious freedom—including the First Amendment principles of having no established religion and protecting free religious practice in public and in private, for individuals and communities—have helped to produce a dynamic religious marketplace, including the right of each person to have a religion, change religions, or have no religion at all.

The Berkley Forum asks contributors whether we can estimate the social and economic value of faith—a critical question that was also the focus of an event hosted by the Religious Freedom Project on September 22. How can religion's social and economic impact be measured, and what are some of the challenges to obtaining reliable and accurate metrics? Can promoting and safeguarding religious freedom yield tangible benefits for the American society? How, if at all, should this data influence U.S. domestic policy on religious freedom?

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