Wednesday, April 11, 2012

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: A Map of U.S. Religiosity

The Gallup polling organization has this interesting map depicting the relative religiosity of the residents of each of the various States in the Union. Of course the states which stand out are Utah and most of the former Confederacy. (Curious how well correlated past and current racial intolerance and commitment to white supremacy appear to correlate with increased religious belief, isn't it? But I digress.) It turns out that Mississippi is the most religious state (more than 50% of respondents identify themselves are "very racist religious." There are only 5 states in which less than 30% of the respondents describe themselves thusly: Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and Alaska. (Curiously, 3 of those 5 states have legalized marriage equality, with Maine on its way to doing so this year through a public referendum.)

Why Evolution Is True blog analyzes the data  which shows religiosity of Americans has stayed relatively constant over time (although he makes a slightly different claim):

To me a difference of 81 (very or fairly important) to 19 (not very important) in 2011 is not that different from a 84% (very or fairly important) to 16%, though I guess 3 percentage point movement could be considered noteworthy, if it's not just a blip covered by the margin of error in the poll.

Why Evolution is True focuses on the analysis by Gallup of their data in which they claim that 40% of Americans are "very religious" while 32% of Americans are "nonreligious" and the remaining 28% are "moderately religious." (This last term seems oxymoronic to me, like being "a little bit pregnant.") The blog tries to figure out the discrepancy between the 32% who are nonreligious and the 1.5% who call themselves atheists or agnostic (i.e. like yours truly!) versus the 10% of Americans who say they don't believe in G-d.

Gallup summarizes their overall results with this analysis:
America remains a generally religious nation, with more than two-thirds of the nation's residents classified as very or moderately religious. These overall national averages, however, conceal dramatic regional differences in religiosity across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Residents of Southern states are generally the most religious, underscoring the validity of the "Bible Belt" sobriquet often used to describe this region. Coupled with the Southern states in the high-religiosity category is Utah, the majority of whose residents are Mormon -- the most religious group in America today. On the other hand, residents of New England and a number of far Western states tend to be the least religious.
Religion is related to politics in today's America, and it is clear from a glance at Gallup's State of the States map that the most religious states in the union generally are the most Republican, while the least religious states skew more toward the Democratic Party. This means that the most divided states -- and thus, those where most of the heavy-duty campaigning in this year's presidential election will be taking place -- are the ones where residents tend to be neither at the very religious nor at the nonreligious end of the spectrum.
The imbrication of religious belief with political ideology in the country is a rather pernicious phenomenon, in my opinion.

1 comment:

JosephW said...

I'd guess that people who describe themselves as "nonreligious" could include people who don't fall into traditional ORGANIZED religious practices. Perhaps these include folks like Catholics who only attend a Christmas mass or Jews who only observe Yom Kippur while largely ignoring Passover.

Perhaps you've got people who are what's termed "spiritual"--they believe there's some higher power but haven't really defined who or what it is.

Or, you could have people who, when they hear the word "religious," they picture sitting in a church, listening to some guy in a suit using text from a specific book, and observing a specific series of rituals, and they don't really do that (even if they do believe in God or some other higher power).


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