God v Mammon: America Divides
Gallup recently released the results of a poll into the religiosity of Americans. An unusually high sample of 350,000 adults were surveyed as to whether they considered religion "important to their lives". The results were, I suppose, fairly predictable, with conservative Bible Belt states showing the most devotion and the godless particularly noticeable in the north east.
The most religious state was Mississippi, followed by Alabama and South Carolina - all scoring over 80%. Four New England states brought up the rear - with Vermont's religiosity quotient a European-sounding 42%. Alaska was also fairly low down, with 51% religious. Sarah Palin will be disappointed.
Just for fun, I compared the findings with the state rankings based on per capita income. Once more, there was a geographical divide - but a contrasting one, with the richest states clustering in the north east, and the poorest in the South. Mississippi has the distinction of being both the most religious, and the poorest state.
The correlation isn't exact by any means, but when I plotted both sets of results onto a graph the trend seemed reasonably clear. On average, the richer the state, the lower the level of religious commitment. I've no idea whether poverty makes people turn to God, or whether religion is somehow implicated in poverty. Whatever, the many American believers in the "prosperity gospel" - the idea that God rewards believers by making them rich - might have some explaining to do.