Over at Floatingsheep, Mark Graham has been rendering some superb data sets about religion as it manifests itself in various ways on the Internet. There’s some good learning to be had but they are also a lot of fun so I’m taking it a bit further by pulling maps from two discrete entries and pairing them for a bit of play.

First, my sub-dollar 2-liter bottle of soda to get you in the door — a visual analysis of “the comparative prevalence of churches (blue), bowling alleys (red), guns (green) and strip clubs (yellow)” (in-depth analysis here) in the United States as indexed on Google Maps.


A rather tongue-in-cheek way of weaving a good dose of humor into some disparate social activities that perhaps tells us something, in the context of our blog, about the online presence of churches in the South running through the Buffalo Commons in the Midwest to the Canadian border.

Now — and I realize this is a stretch, but since it’s Saturday… — compare this granular map below of Christianity in the U.S. with the one you just saw. In cyberspace, churches and Protestants seem to go hand-in-hand, dominating the landscape. What other non-scientific speculations and conclusions might you draw?


As seen in the following map, let’s zoom out and take a look at the larger world by comparing the relative number of search terms of four types of Christianity: Catholic (green), Orthodox (red), Pentecostal (gold), and Protestant (blue). Graham notes:

“Most interesting is the fact that references to “Pentecostal” are more visible than references to “Catholic” in most parts of Brazil (and large parts of South America) despite the fact that almost three-quarters of Brazilians identify as being Catholics. Part of the issue is likely down to the fact that we thus far have confined our searches to English-language terms and are therefore missing out on all the references to Catholicism in Spanish. However, it is intriguing that Pentecostalism is so visible in Brazil (perhaps because it is rapidly growing in popularity in the region).”


And then check out the next map from “Google’s Geography of Religion” that charts the relative concentration of search terms for Allah (green), Jesus (blue), Hindu (red), and Buddha (gold).


When I saw the addition of the search term “sex” to the map, the dynamic of the map changed quite dramatically, particularly in North America. Refer back to the first map and you may arrive at other conclusions or insights. Share them in the comments section so we all can conjecture and chat.


Share Your Reflection



I know there is a big charismatic movement in Catholicism in the US. Maybe this is why you see the search term "Pentecostal" so frequently in the Catholic-dominated Brazil? Don't know...I'm not Brazilian. Just speculating.

Your point is a good one. Were you able to read Graham's post on these data visualizations and other missing search methods they're aware of?

I love maps and I love this type of visual data. It is intresting and quite a fun way to see the world in which we live with a little bit of humor. Thanks for this!!

These charts stimulate the mind to reevaluate commonly held ideas and make new connections. I realize there are a lot of arguable points, but isn't that the fun of these visual stories — and to learn a bit more about other parts of one's own country and the world around him/her?

I suppose one could draw the conclusion that more Jesus equals more sex. Too bad Jews were not included.

It would be interesting to put your request to the three geographers at Floatingsheep. My guess is that, based on the comparative models they've been using, the area of analysis — if some aspect of Judaism or the Jewish population were to be included — would have to be pretty tight because of density issues. I would be fascinated to see some type of interesting drill-down in certain cities/neighborhoods across the world during different periods of time.