The Story: A new Gallup survey finds that Mississippi is the most religious U.S. state, and is one of eight states where at least half of the residents are "very religious." At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of the five states---along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska---where less than 30 percent of all residents are very religious.
The Background: Gallup classifies 40 percent of Americans nationwide as "very religious" based on their statement that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32 percent of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28 percent of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion is important but that they do not attend services regularly or because they say religion is not important but still attend services.
The research by Gallup appears to show that the differences in religious conviction are part of a "state culture" phenomenon, and are not the result of differences in the underlying demographics or religious identities in the states. As Gallup says in its report, "it appears there is something about the culture and normative structure of a state, no doubt based partly on that state's history, that affects its residents' propensity to attend religious services and to declare that religion is important in their daily lives."
Why It Matters: While America remains, as Gallup notes, a "generally religious nation" the national averages conceal the "dramatic regional differences in religiosity." Americans in the "Bible Belt" and Utah tend to be more religious while New England and the Western states tend to be the least religious.
Such surveys are admittedly crude tools for discerning trends. But when so many "state cultures" are nonreligious it's likely a sign that there is a need for broader efforts at evangelization here in the United States.
One problem with living in a heavily "churched" area is that so many people have just enough religious to be inoculated against the gospel. On any given Sunday, 60% of the population in and around Jackson, MS are not in church. We still need more gospel preaching churches, and gospel sharing Christians,