Fastest-Growing Religion? Reflections on Contemporary Paganism’s Rapid Growth and How Scholars Describe That Which They Study


  • Chris Miller University of Ottawa



Contemporary Paganism, Religious Studies, Sociology of Knowledge, new religious movements, terminology


Starting around the early 2000s, many scholars declared that contemporary Paganism was the “fastest-growing religion” either worldwide, or in specific locales. This claim was most often based on data from the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, which found a dramatic rise in Pagans compared to a similar study conducted ten years earlier. Although Paganism most certainly witnessed explosive growth around this time, there are many reasons to question Paganism’s status as the fastest-growing religion, including social factors that shape data collection and the interpretations that scholars applied to the data. This article analyzes the data that Pagan studies scholars used to proclaim Paganism’s growth, and suggests that the claim represents a legitimation tactic. By suggesting that a group is growing quickly, a fairly meagre population is given increased importance. This enhances the perceived 
significance of both the community in question and any scholars who specialize in studying that community. Although Paganism is not the only religion to assert this claim, and this statement is no longer as prominent as it once was, publications from Pagan studies that make this proclamation offer case studies which demonstrate how scholars manipulate data to legitimize the topics about which they write.

Author Biography

  • Chris Miller, University of Ottawa

    Chris Miller is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Nonreligion in a Complex Future Project. 


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How to Cite

Miller, C. (2024). Fastest-Growing Religion? Reflections on Contemporary Paganism’s Rapid Growth and How Scholars Describe That Which They Study. Pomegranate, 24(2), 216–253.