The Geography of Religious Affiliation in Glasgow

Article excerpt

The geography of religion has received limited research attention within cultural geography in the UK. The present research employs a statistical-cartographic approach to provide a detailed mapping of the geography of religious affiliation in Glasgow. The paper first addresses a number of key conceptual and methodological questions underlying the mapping of geographies of religion; then presents a detailed empirical analysis of different socio-cultural, spatial and temporal dimensions of the geography of religious affiliation in the city. Finally, based on the findings of the present research, a number of questions for further research are identified.

Keywords: geography; religion; Glasgow; Scotland

Introduction

The United Kingdom is one of the most religiously diverse areas in Europe in terms of the number of different faiths present (Inter Faith Network 2003) yet, compared to the wealth of research on the religious and cultural landscapes of the USA (see, for example, Glacken 1967; Shortridge 1976; Sopher 1981; Levine 1986; Kong 1990; Newman and Halvorson 2000; Stump 2008), with a few notable exceptions (Gay 1971; Pacione 1990, 1999, 2005a; Park 1994; Piggott 1980), the geography of religion has received relatively limited attention within cultural geography in the UK.

The present research advances knowledge of the geography of religion in the UK by presenting a detailed mapping of the geography of religious affiliation in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Specifically, the study employs data from the latest (2001) Census of Population to identify the patterning of religious affiliation for the major faith groups within the Glasgow region. The principal conceptual and methodological perspective that underlines the research is embedded in the established geographical tradition of the mapping of religion (Zelinsky 1961, 1973; Pillsbury 1971; Gaustad 1976; Shortridge 1976, 1978; Halvorson and Newman 1978; Gaustad and Barlow 2001). Employing a combination of statistical and cartographic analyses the present research maps the spatial distributions of the major religious groups in the Glasgow region, explains the sociocultural processes underlying the revealed patterns, and identifies a number of questions for future research into the changing geographies of religion in Scotland's largest city. The paper is organised into three main parts. In part I the key conceptual and methodological questions are addressed in relation to mapping the geography of religion both in general and with specific reference to the study context of Glasgow. Part II presents a detailed analysis of different dimensions of the geography of religious affiliation in the city from socio-cultural, spatial and temporal perspectives. This embraces discussion of the geographical distribution of major religious groups in Glasgow, the relationship between ethnicity and religion in the city, and a temporal analysis of levels of religious affiliation. Finally, the research informs a number of questions for further investigation aimed at advancing understanding of the geography of religion in the city.

Mapping and the geography of religion

Religion is one of the most universal activities known to humankind, being practised across virtually all cultures, and from the earliest times to the present day. Academic study of the relationships between geography and religion constitutes a long established sub-field of cultural geography. Two principal approaches to the geographical study of religion may be identified. The first, termed religious geography, "focuses on the role of religion in shaping human perceptions of the world and of humanity's place within it" (Stump 1986, p.1). The second, termed the geography of religions, "is concerned less with religion per se than with its social, cultural and environmental associations and effects" (Stump 1986, p.1). An important part of this latter approach, referred to by Zelinsky (1973) as "denominational geography", focuses on the geographical distribution of religions at various scales and at different points in time. …