WASHINGTON — 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 10 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 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.