Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Most Religious State in America is...

So this post may not relate directly to our blog's theme but I still think it's worth posting.

Historian Paul Harvey of the Religion in American History blog (and my former grad school professor) has posted the results of a very interesting Gallup Survey on the importance that each state's citizens place on religion in their daily lives. The survey was actually very simple. Respondents were asked one fundamental question: "Is Religion an important part of your daily life?" The results are quite interesting. Here are the top 10 states that responded favorably to the question:
Mississippi: 85%
Alabama: 82%
South Carolina: 80%
Tennessee: 79%
Louisiana: 78%
Arkansas: 78%
Georgia: 76%
North Carolina: 76%
Oklahoma: 75%
Kentucky: 74%
Texas: 74%
What's fascinating about this study, as Dr. Harvey points out, is that the median score is quite high: at 65%. From the Gallup Poll:
And, although there is a wide range in the self-reported importance of religion, from a high of 85% for residents of Mississippi to a low of 42% for residents of Vermont, the distribution of religiosity by state takes the shape of a bell-shaped curve, clustered around the overall nationwide mean of 65%. Twenty-three of the 50 states and District of Columbia are in the range of 60% to 70% saying religion is important.
In addition, it's important to note how geography comes into play. Obviously the majority of the high ranking states lie in the south, as is illustrated in the following map from this same Gallup poll:

And here is a more detailed map (from a much earlier study not related to this Gallup poll) that breaks down where certain denominations are strongest:

One can't help but wonder how important of a role the social and cultural factors of a particular region play in determining the religion of a particular geographic area. Take for example this map of the United States prior to the Civil War:

And it doesn't look like a whole lot has changed. Even our voting trends are dramatically impacted by geography. This 2008 electoral map provides at least some insight into how geography can shape our views:

So what are we to make of this? That probably depends on who you ask. In my opinion, this Gallup poll (and the other studies/maps mentioned) prove that religion is still a very intimate, localized, and highly influential factor for most Americans. It can (and does) define our politics, our biases and our future. But most of all, I believe it shows just how diverse we are, and perhaps that is our greatest strength of all.

Or our greatest weakness as well?


Tom Van Dyke said...

It makes me like the electoral college, which is more republican/consensus than mere popular democracy.

bpabbott said...

I favor republican representation over direct vote because I expect it tames politics.

Bushwack said...

I'd like to see the economic and criminal data (Broke down into racial categories) from those areas, over-laid with the religious breakdowns. I bet that would tell a tale too.

There is something to be said for religion in society, as long as it's the right ones. Peaceful 21st century religions can co-exist. There is one religion that is not compatible. just sayin.

Tom Van Dyke said...

See, Phil? This is esotericism. Saying what you're saying so only those who already know what you're talking about know what you're talking about.

I bet Angie, the only person around here actually responds to you besides me would dig that second paragraph. I wish she were so esoteric.

Not that this "Bushwack" is so good at esotericism. But I appreciate the effort.

Phil Johnson said...

Ha ha ha.
Hey, Tom!
I started laughing out loud as I read this, "There is something to be said for religion in society, as long as it's the right ones", from the Bushwacker.
But, it is exotericism in that the general population is fed the noble lie. Tell them the story that keeps them in line. "There will be a day of judgment in the after life. So, you had better mind your manners or God will get you and you'll burn in Hell for eternity. Vote Republican or else."
So, who is the morally inferior, here?
Is it you? How about me? Or is it all those people that live in those darker green or solid red states depending on which map you see?
Is it funny or is it sad?
Can the general populace handle education? Was the Enlightenment wrong to lay the groundwork for liberal democracy? Should we start defunding public education to prepare the masses for a feudal economy?

Phil Johnson said...

Newt Ginrich is said to tell this story:

"I'm still like a four year old child inside. I wake up every morning knowing there is a cookie hidden some place for me. So I spend my days looking for those cookies."
That's right out of ancient Greece. Today, we call it bamboozlement. But, people buy it.

Anonymous said...

I believe religion is important for society and proper moral guidance when people cant get it elsewhere and for those who need that kind of blind faith in something that probably isnt real but there comes a point where it interferes with the progress of our intelligence and our sciences. And it happens too often.

MI dude said...

Little problem with the 2008 electoral map. Michigan was a blue state, and is pretty much always a blue state. That is except for when we go dumb like we just did in 2010, electing Snyder.

Phil Johnson said...


I was just thinking that very same thing today.

This guy actually thinks he is running a private corporation trying to satisfy the major stock holders.
What a crock!

Anonymous said...

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