Utah is second most-religious state, Mississippi ranks first and Vermont last

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5 2014 12:25 p.m. MST

Utah, shown here in a June 29, 2012, photo, is the second most-religious state, according to Gallup. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Utah, shown here in a June 29, 2012, photo, is the second most-religious state, according to Gallup. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Mississippi, where 61 percent of citizens rank themselves as "very religious," edged Utah by one percentage point to claim the top spot in the Gallup Organization's latest poll of religious behavior in the United States.

Vermont again came in last with 22 percent "very religious" citizens. As Gallup noted, "The least religious areas are mostly in New England, the Pacific Northwest and other Western states," not including Utah, which is where the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is located.

The news seemingly didn't shock Vermonters, at least in terms of media coverage: the Burlington Free Press, the state's largest newspaper, picked up an Associated Press story about the poll to inform its readers, while the Rutland Herald, which serves the southern part of Vermont, had no word on the results.

Journalists in some states were a tad more introspective: Seattle Post-Intelligencer political reporter Joel Connelly asked, "Where does Washington rank among the least-religious states?" and he answered in a blog post observing that "Eight of the 'least religious' jurisdictions now recognize same-sex marriage, with only Oregon and Nevada not observing marriage equality.'''

He added that "(n)one of the 'most religious' states have same-sex marriage. In a majority of these states, legislatures have passed new laws designed to restrict and put conditions on women’s access to abortion services."

Esquire magazine writer Charles P. Pierce took issue with Mississippi's religiosity, claiming "the Gospels" would like "a word" with the entire state, which allegedly doesn't provide charity in a manner which Pierce believes the New Testament commands.

"Yeah, Mississippi is very religious, but the available secular evidence is it isn't very (expletive) Christian," he declared, then linking to various data sources showing where the state allegedly falls short of various injunctions, including a lack of government-supplied water-quality reports in relation to Jesus' remarks about being thirsty and receiving "something to drink" in Matthew 25:36.

For its part, Gallup says the 2013 numbers are consistent with earlier findings: "The U.S. remains a religious nation — with about seven in 10 Americans classified as very or moderately religious — and the nation's residents as a whole are about as religious now as they were in 2008. The religiousness of the nation's residents, however, does vary substantially by state and region. The most religious areas continue to be the South, the state of Utah and the Midwestern Plains states...."

With the new data, Time magazine once again jumps into the "Godless" breach, declaring the Gallup poll reveals "These Are the Most Godless States in America," according to staff writer Denver Nicks.

A fortnight earlier, Nicks used data from an American Bible Society/Barna Associates survey of Bible reading to allege Salt Lake City is among the most "Godless" cities in America, a suggestion that drew reproof from the LDS Newsroom blog.

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