Spiritual state of the states: Utah and the South are most religious areas in U.S.

Published: Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

For the second straight year, Mississippi is the most religious state in the U.S., followed closely by Utah, according to a Gallup poll released today.

The results show that 58 percent of Mississippi residents are very religious, as determined by weekly or near-weekly worship attendance and whether religion is an important part of a person's daily life.

The South is well represented in the top 10, filling all but the second spot — held by Utah (56 percent very religious) — and the tenth, which went to Oklahoma (48 percent).

As a whole, 40 percent of Americans are very religious and 29 percent are moderately religious, meaning they attend church but don’t consider religion important or they consider religion important but don’t regularly attend services.

The least religious state in the union is Vermont, where only one in five residents are very religious. All six New England states are among the 10 least religious as are the Northwestern states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

The survey included more than 348,000 interviews conducted in 2012. The results are largely unchanged from the year before.

A separate poll released by Gallup in January indicated that the percentage of “nones” in the U.S. — those not identifying with any particular religion — remained relatively flat in 2012 after growing 1.1 percent in each of the previous two years.

The rise of the “nones” is a much-chronicled phenomenon, their ranks swelling by 22 percent over the past four years.

Even so, a recent book titled “God is Alive and Well” by Gallup's editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, speculates that “religion will be even more important in years ahead," based on analysis of various factors and trends.

David Ward is a writer living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at dward@deseretnews.com.

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