A fascinating new report on religion, violence and peace from the Institute for Economics and Peace looks closely at common views of religion propounded by the the media — and finds that most of these views do not check out:
* Despite so much news on religious terrorism, religion is not the main cause of conflict in the world today.
* A country’s level of religious belief — and its level of atheism for that matter — does not determine its propensity toward conflict.
* The demographic spread of Sunni and Shia Muslims explains far less violence than one would think at first glance.
* Factors other than religion are far better correlated with violence. Religious repression, though — both from the state and from society — does explain violence. Religious freedom, then, is strongly supported as a desired goal.
* Religion can and does play a positive role in peacebuilding.