A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Most and Least Religious States in the Union

A new Gallup Poll has ranked states by the religiosity of their populations. I have to confess, I am never sure quite what to do with these kinds of surveys because I think it matters what people mean when they say they are "religious." I also want to know as well what people mean when they say religion is important to them in daily life. (Does it mean they pray daily? Does it mean they think nice spiritual thoughts everyday? Do their beliefs regularly motivate them to works of charity?) Also, in good Barthian fashion, I am not crazy about the notion of "religion." Nevertheless, here are the ten most religious states and the ten least religious states in the Union:

Most Religious

1. Mississippi
2. Alabama
3. South Carolina
4. Tennessee
5. Louisiana
6. Arkansas
7. Georgia
8. North Carolina
9. Oklahoma
10. Kentucky and Texas (tie)

Least Religious

50. Vermont
49. New Hampshire
48 Maine
47. Massachusetts
46. Alaska
45. Washington
44. Oregon
43. Rhode Island
42. Nevada
41. Connecticut

Anyone who has any thoughts on this is welcome to comment. You can read the entire Gallup Report here. USA Today also has an article here.


Robert Cornwall said...

Being an Oregonian, I resent being only #44. What happened? How did we fall so far? Alas, I'm in Michigan now, and we don't figure on either top 5 list!

Mark said...

My nephews are up in Alaska, doing protracted missionary and evangelism work. Looks like they have their work cut out for them.

Allan R. Bevere said...


I have a question I would like for you to respond to.

What do you make of the fact that the most religious states tend to be in more conservative states, and the least religious tend to be in more "liberal" states.

I am not suggesting by this that liberals are not as religious as conservatives. That is a simplistic dichotomy that holds no water. But I am wondering what a progressive like yourself makes of this.

Robert Cornwall said...


I grew up out West, so I can speak mostly from that perspective.

If you look at the states listed, many of them have always been less religious. Remember Ethan Allen was an Free Thinker in Revolutionary Days and he was a hero from Vermont. Oregonians and Washingtonians, tended to leave behind the trappings of society found in the east, among those trappings was traditional religion. What is interesting in Oregon is that some of the most irreligious places in the state are in rural areas, not the cities. There has been historically a strong libertarian element. In addition many of these areas have had strong Roman Catholic presence, and if the surveys are correct, a huge number of Americans are ex-Catholics. Most of those ex-Catholics have left the church altogether.

The South, on the other hand, has always had a strong Baptist/Methodist presence that pervades society -- both of these seem to be rather conservative forces.

Having said all of this, I don't think that there is a necessary correlation between lack of belief and politics. I'm fully Christian and support more liberal political ideas!

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for the very informed response.

And, yes, I agree wholeheartedly that there is no essential correlation between lack of belief and politics. I was recently on a website developed by Republican atheists.

Joseph Holbrook said...

Interesting topic Alan and Bob. I grew up in Ohio, and I know live in FL and neither state made either list.

There is a fascinating book on American political culture and history that identifies three major types of political culture in the colonial settlement patterns and immigration patters in the development of the U.S. Daniel Elazar (1972) developed this concept with three dominant political cultures: Moral, Individualist and Traditional. Moral tended to be based on the Puritan Commonwealth and was dominant in New England. I’ll ignore Individualist for the moment, and mention that the Traditional political culture was based in the South. If you trace the Westward migration patters of the Moral and the Traditional, you will see that the Blue states tend to be based on the “Moral” foundation and the Red states tend to draw from a Traditional patter. Interesting huh?

Here is a link to a site that gives a brief overview with maps:

American National Character and Daniel Elazar's Regions

Great blog … nice talking with you…. I’ll make it a point to check back here.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Joseph, thanks for your insights. I hope you come back and comment often.