THE BLOG

Life in the Most Religious States

06/14/2014 10:15 am ET | Updated Aug 15, 2014
Shutterstock / Agnes Kantaruk

I recently came across a list of the ten most religious states in America. They are, in order: Mississippi, Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma.

One might assume that life in the most religious states in the nation would approximate the idealized "City upon a Hill" envisioned some four hundred years ago by John Winthrop, the Puritan colonist who served as first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

To check that assumption, I did some research:

Eight of these ten states joined the Confederacy and fought a bloody Civil War to defend the institution of slavery.

Nine of these ten states still had racially segregated schools at the time of the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

Five of these ten states are still among the worst states in the nation in terms of the continuing racial segregation of their public schools.

Eight of these ten states are among the eleven states in the nation with the highest rates of incarceration.

All of these ten states still have the death penalty.

Seven of these ten states are among the ten states in the nation with the highest percentage of their citizens living under the poverty level.

Six of these ten states are among the nine worst states in the nation in rates of obesity.

Nine of these ten states are among the twenty states in the nation with the highest rates of smoking.

Seven of these ten states rank in the bottom ten states in the nation in the overall health of citizens.

Nine of these ten states rank in the bottom thirteen states in the nation in life expectancy.

Seven of these ten states rank in the bottom ten states in the nation in the quality of healthcare.

Five of these ten states are the only states in the nation without a minimum wage law.

All ten of these ten states rank in the bottom sixteen states in the nation in minimum wage.

Nine of these ten states ranks in the bottom eighteen states in the nation in per pupil expenditures for public education.

Nine of these ten states rank in the bottom twenty states in the nation in the quality of high school education.

Nine of these ten states are among the twenty worst states in the nation in terms of gun deaths per capita.

Five of these ten states are among the ten states in the nation whose citizens watch the most online pornography.

I'm not quite sure what to make of all this. Perhaps it just means that people who live in states with bad values are more likely to turn to religion. But "city on a hill"? Probably not what John Winthrop had in mind.

Oh, one other thing: The citizens of these ten states are fervently Republican. Eighty percent of their United States senators, for example, are members of the Republican Party, whereas only thirty-six percent of the senators from the other forty states are Republicans.