7/2/08

Religion in Mississippi

With the recent release of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum making news, I've been examining how Mississippi compares with the U.S. averages on many fascinating indices of religious belief. Here is a quick summary of what I have learned about religion in our state.

Regarding religious affiliation, 47% of Mississippians identify as evangelical Protestants compared with a U.S. average of 26%. So if it seems like we are surrounded by bible-thumping lunatics, it just might be because we are!

Only 6% of Mississippians are unaffiliated with a religious tradition, compared with 16% nationwide. However, the data suggest that many of these unaffiliated people are still believers. Only 1% of Mississippians indicate that they do not believe in a god, compared with a U.S. average of 5%. No wonder Mississippi is perceived as a hostile environment for atheists.

For the following comparisons, the first number if from our state, and the second number is the U.S. average.
  • Importance of religion in one's life (82% "very important" vs. 56%)
  • Belief in god (91% "absolutely certain" vs. 71%)
  • Frequency of church attendance (60% at least weekly vs. 39%)
  • Interpretation of scripture (64% literal vs. 33%)
Evidence that Mississippi is more religious than many other parts of the United States is hardly newsworthy. Still, I couldn't help being both surprised and disappointed that the differences were this large. I guess we've got our work cut out for us.

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