Visualizing Religious Diversity In US Cities by Arushi Singh

Faith not only plays an important role in an individual’s life but also contributes a great deal in shaping societies. The increased movement of people across borders in search of better opportunities brings people of different faiths, religions, and value systems together. In fact, the debate on religious pluralism and tolerance is ever more important in today’s discourse. In particular, the major urban areas in the United States (US) have become the melting pot of diverse faiths. Thus, is there a way we can visualize this diversity of faiths beyond numbers and charts? Is there an underlying story that urban centers of the US tell about their religious diversity?

In this visualization, I have used the places of worship as a proxy to represent religious diversity in the top 30 most populated cities of the US. The places of worship not only provide a safe space for the members of that faith but also allow them to exercise their religious freedom and preserve their value system in a foreign land. The visualizations presented here are designed in an abstract form of a networked mesh of the places of worship of different faiths. The purpose was not only to see them as quantities but also as a network of interconnected places and how they share space with other religious places of worship in large cities. As a result, each city explored here gets its own portrait of religious diversity that accounts for the geographical spread of the places, their quantity, and their relative position with the places other faiths.

Each dot in the visualization represents a place of worship positioned on its longitude and latitude. It transforms these geolocations into Mercator projections and then connects them using a Delaunay triangulation. Religions are color-coded with major faiths included in the data being Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Islamic. The resulting “mesh” creates a unique portrait of each city depicting the spread, quantity, and co-existence of different places of worship.

Though not exhaustive, it does give us some insight into how these shared spaces get formed in the cities creating these unique portraits:

1. Undeniably, Christianity is a major religion with a significant number and spread of its places of worship. Visually, this appears like an underlying mesh in the background of all the other places of worship of different faiths.
2. The overall spread of the religious places of worship seems proportional to the size of the city. Instead of creating small pockets, the places of worship, tend to take the shape of how big the city’s spread is.
3. Smaller cities tend to have higher shared spaces of different faiths compared to larger cities. In large cities, isolated pockets of places of worship of different faiths can be seen.
4. Population density also appears to be a driving factor of establishing places of worship, irrespective of the size of the city. It is possible that the size of the city only influences the spread of places of worship but the population density might influence the number of places.

The entrant has supplied multiple files for this work:

[1] [2]