NASHVILLE --- The South is the most religious region, the Northeast and a handful of Western states the least religious, and the rest of the country falls somewhere in between, according to a recently released survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The survey of all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that one particular southern state, Mississippi, finished No. 1 in all four categories -- religious service attendance, frequency of prayer, a belief in God with absolute certainty and the percent who say religion is very important in their lives. By contrast, New Hampshire and Vermont, paired together in the survey, finished last in two out of four categories (belief in God and importance of religion), with Maine last in one category (frequency of prayer) and Alaska last in the other (worship attendance).
The survey results largely mirror findings released by Gallup a year ago that polled the importance of religion in peoples' lives. The Gallup data included only one question; the Pew data included four.
Eighty-two percent of Mississippians say religion is very important in their lives. Rounding out the top 10 in that category were Alabama (74 percent), Arkansas (74), Louisiana (73), Tennessee (72), South Carolina (70), Oklahoma (69), North Carolina (69), Georgia (68) and Kentucky (67).
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The bottom 10 in the importance of religion survey were Wisconsin (47 percent), Montana/Wyoming (47), New York (46), Oregon (46), Colorado (44), Connecticut/Rhode Island (44), Maine (42), Massachusetts (40), Alaska (37) and New Hampshire/Vermont (36).
Nationally, an average of 56 percent of Americans say religion is very important to their lives.
Although there were four categories, states largely remained at the same position across the board. There were, though, some exceptions. Residents of Utah, for instance, finished No. 2 in religious service attendance but No. 10 in frequency of prayer and belief in God and No. 12 in the importance of religion. Hawaii ranked No. 15 in frequency of prayer but No. 30 in worship attendance and No. 33 in belief in God.
Among the survey's other findings:
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-- 39 percent of Americans attend religious services at least once a week. In Mississippi it's 60 percent; in Alaska it's 22 percent.
-- 58 percent of U.S. adults say they pray at least once a day. In Mississippi it's 77 percent; in Maine it's 40 percent.
-- 71 percent of adults nationwide say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In Mississippi, it's 91 percent, while in New Hampshire/Vermont, it's 54 percent.
The Pew data, released Dec. 21, was collected as part of the 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.