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BUILDING THE CLASSIFICATION
CLASSIFICATION CRITERIA AND THEIR APPLICATION
The classification criteria are the principles by which the base level units of the classification are formed into classification categories which may be aggregated to form broader or higher-level categories in the classification structure.
Three classification criteria are used in the Australian Standard Classification of Religious Groups (ASCRG) to form the various levels of categories of the classification:
Religious groups, the most detailed level of the classification, are combined to form narrow groups (the middle level of the classification) on the basis of their similarity in terms of these criteria. Although the religious groups are not necessarily identical in any particular characteristics, the narrow groups formed are relatively homogeneous in terms of the set of classification criteria.
The most general level of the classification, the broad groups, were developed in a slightly different manner. On the basis of the number of affiliated persons worldwide, the major world religions are generally accepted as: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Tao, Confucian, Tribal, Animist, and Jewish. It would seem appropriate to make these major religions, the broad groups in the classification, particularly as they are generally homogeneous in terms of the classification criteria (beliefs, practices, and cultural heritage). However, consideration of the number of adherents of each of these religions (in Australia) indicates that it is unacceptable in terms of the statistical balance of the classification to include Tao, Confucian, Tribal and Animist religions as broad groups.
Thus, on the basis of a broad application of all the classification criteria, supported by the size of the religions in Australia, the first five broad groups within the classification are:
This application of the criteria enables the delineation of appropriate narrow groups (constructed on the basis of a more rigorous application of the criteria) as subsets (sub-categories) of these broad groups.
Additional broad groups
There are two additional broad groups:
The theoretical and conceptual considerations for developing the classification were tempered by other considerations including:
Generally, the classification criteria were applied in a straightforward manner. However, some decisions in regard to the identification of religious groups and the progressive grouping of units were made on the basis of whether it would be possible to collect data in relation to certain religious sub-sets or whether data for particular religions would be more useful if classified in a broader or finer manner. These decisions were made in consultation with religious and ethnic communities, religious experts and users of religion data.
The effect of these constraints on the classification has been that:
The most notable effect has been in the large number of narrow groups and religious groups represented as subsets of the broad group Christianity.
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