WASHINGTON (RNS) There's a reason the South is known as the Bible belt: A survey shows that Southerners -- and Mississippians in particular -- are most active in their religious practices and beliefs.
Residents of Mississippi ranked first among Americans in all four measures of a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, with 82 percent saying religion is very important in their lives. Five other states had at least seven in 10 people stating that religion holds that kind of importance for them: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Carolina.
Six in ten of Mississippi residents said they attend religious services at least once a week, followed by several states that had at least 50 percent with that commitment: Utah, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
While 77 percent of Mississippians said they pray at least once a day, they're followed closely behind by residents of other Southern states with more than 70 percent claiming to be as prayerful: Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee.
More than nine in 10 Mississippians say they believe in God "with absolute certainty (91 percent), but several Southern states have more than 80 percent who hold a similar belief: South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina.
The findings, published online by the Pew Forum on Monday (Dec. 21) and drawn from data from its 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, mirror earlier results released by the Gallup Poll in January 2009, which also found Mississippi to be the most religious state.
Like Gallup, Pew researchers found New Hampshire and Vermont to be the states where the lowest percentage of respondents viewed religion as very important in their lives.
Read the complete story
(Some news sites require registration)