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The Most Religious States in America

Is Your State Godless or God-Fearing?


We always hear that Americans are more religious in the Southern states and less so in the North East, and a new survey largely confirms this assumption. However, there are several surprises in there, too.

The Pew Research Center recently released a comprehensive survey that analyzed how religious each of the 50 states are really. The polling data took into account four key issues: the importance of religion in people’s daily lives, how frequently people in that state go to religious services, the frequency of prayer in general and the certainty of their belief in God. The prevalence of one religion or another is not indicated here, only the commitment to religion in general. We weighed these four parts equally and created a blended average of the states to calculate a comprehensive ranking.

So, is your state more godless or god-fearing? Check out this list to find out. We’ll start with the ten most religious states and move on to the ten most godless states. But first, here is the national average so you know how people in your state compare to the rest of the country.

Photo Credit: c0t0s0d0

The United States Under God


Obviously there are many Americans who are religious, but the actual numbers may be unexpected. When surveyed, only 56 percent of Americans said that religion was very important in their lives. How does that compare to the rest of the world? Well, in a Gallup poll released earlier last year, 100 percent of all Egyptians surveyed said religion was an important part of their daily lives and plenty of other countries in the Middle East and Asia reported similarly high percentages. In Sweden, however, it was just 17 percent.

Meanwhile, the percent of Americans who say they pray at least once a day is 58 percent, and the percent that say they attend services once a week is lower, at just 39 percent. More Americans do agree that God exists. Seventy-one percent said they believe in God with absolute certainty. Clearly, even a strongly held belief in the almighty isn’t enough to get some people into a house of worship.

And now, on to the most religious states.

10th Most Religious State: Oklahoma


People in Oklahoma love their religion. They pushed to have a monument of the Ten Commandments installed on the grounds of their state capital, and some tried to increase the amount of religion that was taught in public schools. So it’s not too surprising to learn that the vast majority of people in Oklahoma, 80 percent, believe in God with absolutely certainty.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 69

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 50

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 66

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 80

9th Most Religious State: North Carolina


As of last year, the majority of this state was a mix of evangelical and mainline protestant. But recently, North Carolina was rocked by a tense local election. Cecil Bothwell, a self-declared atheist, was elected to a city council member in Asheville, but there was one problem: North Carolina still has a law on the books that says atheists are barred from holding public office. Perhaps this debate is actually a sign that that the religious culture of this state is more complicated than it may seem on the surface.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 69

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 49

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 68

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 81

8th Most Religious State: Utah


This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Utah topped our list of the least drunk states in America thanks in part to its strict religious culture. More people claim to attend religious services weekly in Utah than any other state with the exception of the most religious state on our list. What is surprising though is that only 66 percent of those surveyed in this state said that religion was very important in their lives. This doesn’t even put Utah in the top ten in that category. So for all the talk, people in Utah may not be as passionate about religion as you’d think.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 66

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 57

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 67

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 80

7th Most Religious State: Kentucky

Not only do the vast majority of people in Kentucky feel certain that God exists, but they also believe he is in charge of their homeland security. In 2006, legislation was passed in Kentucky that required the Office of Homeland security to acknowledge that the state’s security “cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God.” Not surprisingly, atheists in and outside the state took issue with this, and sued to change the wording.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 67

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 47

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 70

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 83

6th Most Religious State: Arkansas


Bill Clinton may still be the most famous person to have come from Arkansas, but it’s also the home of Mike Huckabee. Plus, this has been a setting for the battle over creationism. According to the Pew Research Group, nearly three quarters of people surveyed in Arkansas said that religion is very important in their lives, tying for the second most in the country.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 74

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 50

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 68

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 84

5th Most Religious State: Tennessee


Tennessee lives up to his reputation here as being part of the Bible Belt. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed claimed to believe in God with absolute certainty, making it one of the most devout states in the country. However, the state still ranked in the bottom ten on our Happiness Index (not that the two findings are necessarily correlated).

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 72

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 52

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 70

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 84

4th Most Religious State: Louisiana


Louisiana can be religious, sometimes to a fault. Their current governor is often criticized for being a religious zealot. The state has also passed laws that open the door for teaching creationism in the classroom.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 73

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 53

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 76

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 83

3rd Most Religious State: South Carolina


One of the reasons South Carolina proves to be a tricky campaign stop for presidential candidates is that they need to prove their religious chops to the people of this state. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed in South Carolina said they believe in God with absolute certainty, which tied for the second most in the country. Sometimes this intense religiosity manifests itself in odd ways. Back in 2008, the state was sued for trying to issue new license plates that included the words “I believe” with an image of the cross next to it. They were eventually banned.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 70

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 54

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 72

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 86

2nd Most Religious State: Alabama


As Gallop pointed out in a similar poll last year, the people of Alabama are as religious as many of the countries in the Middle East and Africa. In other words, they are super religious. And little has changed. They tied South Carolina for the second highest percentage of people who believe in God, and nearly three quarters of those surveyed said religion is very important in their daily lives.  The people of Alabama take religion so seriously that when a billboard went up quoting John Lennon’s line, “Imagine no religion,” the state went into an uproar. But  even Alabama looks like a lost soul compared to the most religious state on the list.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 74

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 52

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 73

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 86

The Most Religious State: Mississippi


Mississippi ranked first in each of the four categories, making it the most religious state in the country. 91 percent of people surveyed claimed to believe in God, and 82 percent said religion was very important in their lives. This might explain why many politicians in Mississippi spare no amount of effort proving their depth of devotion to God and religion. Now, we feel compelled to note that Mississippi has ranked at or near the bottom of the list of healthiest states for several years, due largely to the prevalence of obesity, so perhaps residents might consider walking to church every week.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 82

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 60

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 77

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 91

10th Least Religious State: Wisconsin


A poll early last year found that the people of Wisconsin were hopping around between religions or jumping ship all together. The majority of Wisconsinites used to identify as Christian, but an increasing number of people now identify as other religions or just don’t subscribe to any religion at all. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, researchers attributed the rise of secularism in this state to “the politicizing of religion, a general skepticism toward institutions, and a kind of coming-out by those who hold atheistic or agnostic views.”

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 47

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 33

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 49

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 68

9th Least Religious State: California


Past surveys have found that people in California are more free-wheeling than most of the nation when it comes to religion. They don’t take a literal interpretation of religious texts and are more likely to accept multiple religions.  According to the Pew Research Center, barely a third of all Californians pray or attend religious services regularly and more than a third of Californians are not certain there is a God.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 48

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 33

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 52

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 62

8th Least Religious State: New York


New York may have some of the most beautiful churches and temples in the world, but few New Yorkers seem to use them. According to the Pew Research Group, only 32 percent of New Yorkers attend religious services at least once a week. And then there’s all the aggressive atheists trolling through New York City. A few months ago, the Big Apple Coalition of Reason started putting up ads in the subways and on buses that said, “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?” Apparently, for many New Yorkers, the answer to that question might be yes.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 46

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 32

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 49

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 64

7th Least Religious State: Oregon


Some might point to Oregon’s liberal policy towards marijuana and assume the state is a godless. We won’t go that far. But it is true that less people in this state actively practice their faith than in most other states in the country. Those who are religious in this state are mostly Protestant or Catholic, with a small minority of Mormons and Buddhists.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 46

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 32

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 48

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 63

6th Least Religious State: Colorado


The state of Colorado may be more irreligious than others, but Colorado Springs is home to one of the biggest churches in the country. As of last year, the majority of people in Colorado were listed as unaffiliated in the religious department. And according to the Pew Research Group, less than 30 percent of people in Colorado attend religious services on a weekly basis.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 44

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 29

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 49

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 63

5th Least Religious State: Connecticut & Rhode Island


The Pew Research Group lumped several states together if their sample sizes were too small to analyze. Don’t take it personally Rhode Island. We know you are a real state and not just Connecticut’s lackey. But both of you are apparently pretty godless. Ironically, it was Rhode Island’s reputation as a place of religious freedom that made it a popular settling ground for worshippers in the early days of this country. And Connecticut, well, that’s not as big a surprise. The state has been in the news recently as some of its schools try to ban religious symbols from classrooms. As it turns out, these two states have the second lowest percentage of people who believe in God.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 44

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 30

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 47

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 57

4th Least Religious State: Massachusetts


Many people in the United States view Massachusetts as a hotbed of liberalism, a reputation fueled partly by it being the first state to legalize gay marriage. But it’s only recently that this state has started to become less religious. Over the last couple decades, much of the population of Massachusetts has shifted away from Catholicism, and the number of people with no religious affiliation has risen sharply. Still, a vast majority of the population continues to believe in God.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 40

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 30

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 41

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 60

3rd Least Religious State: Maine


Maine had the lowest percentage of people who claimed to pray at least once a week, and one of the lowest rates for belief in God. We’re not exactly sure what else people in Maine do with all the free time they have not going to worship and all. Perhaps, they all just read Stephen King books…

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 42

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 46

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 40

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 59

2nd Least Religious State: Alaska


Sarah Palin can’t be too happy to read this. Her home state is one of the only ones outside the Northeast to make the list. In fact, Alaska actually has the lowest percentage of people who claim to worship on a weekly basis, with just 22 percent. We’ll just blame that on the cold weather and rough conditions outside.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 37

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 22

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 41

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 61

The Least Religious State: New Hampshire & Vermont


And the Northeast takes the prize! As we mentioned earlier, the Pew Research Group combined states where the sample pool was too small to analyze. So that’s why we have this double-serving of godlessness. These two states rank at or near the bottom for every criteria on the list. Barely half of those surveyed claim to believe in God with absolute certainty, the least of any state. And just over a third say that religion is an important part of their lives, also the lowest. The majority of people in New Hampshire and Vermont still identify as either Catholic or Protestant, but more than a quarter claim not to be affiliated with any religion, as of last year.

New Hampshire also ranked high on our list of the Drunkest States in America. Again, we’re not saying the two are related, but it’s hard to read a prayer book when you’re half in the bag.

Percent who say religion is very important in their lives: 36

Percent who say they attend religious services at least once a week: 23

Percent who say they pray at least once a day: 43

Percent who say they believe in God with absolute certainty: 54

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