Posted by: SteveInCO | 27 Jul 2013

Most and Least Religious Places (With a BIG Surprise)

Well this is interesting:

Basically they studied 189 metropolitan areas trying to figure out which was the most religious.  They asked respondents about their level of religiosity:

Throughout the country in 2012, 40% of Americans were classified as very religious — based on saying religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Thirty-one percent of Americans were nonreligious, saying religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 29% of Americans were moderately religious, saying religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

With those definitions–roughly, go to church a lot = “very”, never go = “not” and then people in between, our national average is 40/29/31.  Which indicates a bit of polarization; there are relatively few “fence sitters” as far as being religious goes.  But not religious is not significantly more common than moderately religious.

I’ve seen polls in the past that tried to assess religiosity by state, but this one goes by metropolitan area.  This is interesting to me because Colorado has its very conservative/religious areas (like the one I live in) and its very liberal/secular areas.  So I was a bit curious about how Colorado broke down.  But first let’s note the two extremes nationally.

Only one area is more than 65 percent very religious.  And it’s not in Texas.  It’s not in the deep south.   It’s Provo-Orem, Utah and it comes in at a staggering 77/10/12.  The next most religious place is 64/23/12 and that is Montgomery, Alabama.  Imagine that big a spread (13%) between first and second; there must be something in the water in Provo to make it stand out so much above everyone else.

Of the remainder of the top ten, one is in Utah, the rest are in the deep south.  None are in Texas, which gets stereotyped as a state that is conservative to the point of being downright backwards, perhaps because its governor is famous for being a stereotypical bible thumper holding prayer rallies for rain, etc.

On the other side of the coin, the places with the lowest “very” scores are all on the coasts, except for Madison, Wisconsin and Boulder, Colorado–and that situation does conform to stereotype.  Burlington-South Burlington comes in at 17/19/64.

Even on the non-religious end of the scale, Gallup ranked by religiosity.  The table isn’t sorted by non-religiosity.  But a quick eyeball shows that Burlington’s 64 is in fact the highest percentage of non-religious, with Boulder coming in second at 17/22/61.  After that no place scores higher than 53.2 percent non religious.

OK so Boulder really is a paragon of non-religiosity.  What about other places in Colorado?

Irritatingly, I can’t seem to do a browser search inside the tables on page 2, but my eyeball finds the following:

  1. Greeley 36/30/33
  2. Colorado Springs 35/25/39
  3. Denver-Aurora 31/27/42
  4. Fort Collins 27/26/47
  5. Boulder 17/22/61

So wait a minute here.  Colorado Springs, the “Capital of the Evangelical World” with Focus on the Family, New Life Church, The Navigators, Young Life, etc., etc., ad freaking nauseam…. is actually more nonreligious than religious!?!?  And not all that much more religious than Denver? Remember this is the place that Richard Dawkins picked to highlight the “Bible Belt” in his documentary “Root of All Evil?

Color me surprised.  Stunned, even.

Maybe that is why in spite of all these wacko evangelical organizations, I find it a tolerable place to live.  I probably would choke to death in the bible belt–if I didn’t get lynched first.

Colorado Springs is however much more politically conservative than Denver is and I mean economically, not socially (CS gets the conservative edge on social issues too, though).  Colorado Springs tends to elect people who are conservative across the the board, but I suspect that’s because most of the voters have simply decided the economic issues trump the social ones.  They hold their nose and vote for the Republican fundie, because at least he won’t try to raise our taxes or socialize the economy.  Given that in most places you can’t get one without the other, and the Republican party leadership seems to follow the national trend in that regard… that’s what you are going to get.

Too bad a secular economic liberal–i.e., a believer in free enterprise as well as social freedom–can’t get nominated here.  Or just about anywhere for that matter.

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Responses

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