Monday, February 18, 2013

The most religious state


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

Mississippi                                                                    58%
Utah                                                                             56%
Alabama                                                                       56%
Louisiana                                                                      53%
Arkansas                                                                      52%
South Carolina                                                              52% 
Tennessee                                                                     50%
North Carolina                                                              50%
Georgia                                                                         48%
Oklahoma                                                                     48%


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 

Vermont                                                                        19%
New Hampshire                                                             23%
Maine                                                                            24%
Massachusetts                                                               27%
Rhode Island                                                                 29%
Oregon                                                                          29%
District of Columbia                                                       30%
Nevada                                                                         31%
Hawaii                                                                           31%
Alaska                                                                           31%
Connecticut                                                                   31%
Washington                                                                    31%

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.

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