Sunday, January 5, 2014

Religion in America’s States and Counties

Religion in America’s states and counties, in 6 maps

It goes without saying that religion is big in America. It played a starring role in the founding of the nation and continues to be the source of policy fights. Just this week, a group of Satanists launched a donation drive to erect a monument on Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds, in what some see as a test of the nation’s religious freedoms.
But religion influences local governments in less sensational ways. Some 21 states, for example, are requiring insurers under the federal health-care law to provide exemptions from contraception coverage for employers that object on religious or other grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And 13 states in recent years have banned abortions past 20 weeks, a move influenced at least in part by religious views of when life begins. (Albuquerque, N.M., recently defeated a similar effort.)
With what is arguably the most widely observed holiday of the nation’s most popular religion right around the corner, now seems as good a time as any to look at the state of religion in America’s states and counties. All six of the maps and data below—which depict religious popularity, diversity and adherents—come from the “2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study,” an every-decade research effort sponsored by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which gathers statistics for religious groups or scholars interested in such.

Most popular religion, by county

The Catholic church (blue) and Southern Baptists (red) dominate the map below, which marks the religion with the largest number of adherents in every American county. Blanketed red, the Bible Belt is alive and well. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in orange can lay claim to a smattering of Midwestern and Western counties, while Mormonism (gray) is, unsurprisingly, the largest religion in every Utah county and in chunks of Utah’s neighboring states.

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