The Gallup pollsters periodically query the nation on a number of different issues. One of them is the question of religion. Their purpose is to determine the importance of religion in the lives of Americans and to rate the various states on their religiosity.
To that end, they have interviewed thousands of people across the country, at least a thousand in every state except two and in the District of Columbia. The results of their latest surveys were published last week.
So, what are the most religious states in the country?
State % report religion very important
South Carolina 52%
North Carolina 50%
And, at the other end of the spectrum, what are the states in which religion has the least importance in daily life?
State % report religion not important
New Hampshire 23%
Rhode Island 29%
District of Columbia 30%
We must remember that, in these surveys, people are asked to rate themselves, and so the surveys are most revelatory of how the people of the states see themselves. As such, the results may not present an unbiased reality.
For example, if it were possible for a totally dispassionate observer to rate states on how well they live up to the tenets of the major religions, Mississippi, Utah, etc., might not rate that highly. Two quotes from the words of Jesus as reported in the New Testament come to mind: "By their works shall you know them," and "If you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me." How do the states on these lists truly treat the least of their citizens? What are the works that most distinguish them, the ones for which they are best known?
Perhaps this survey does not identify so much those states that are most religious but rather those states that are most self-satisfied, sanctimonious, and holier-than-thou in their attitudes. Just a thought.