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Massive number of U.S. cities abandon Bible

Providence, R.I., which was named for God's divine providence, now ranks as the least Bible-minded city in the U.S.

In times of trouble, many people often wonder, “Oh, God. Where are you when I need you most?”

But with the nation facing drastic financial and social challenges in recent years, a new study ranking American support for the Holy Bible reveals an astounding 91 out of 96 U.S. cities – a whopping 95 percent – are not “Bible-minded.”

The study by the California-based Barna Group on behalf of the American Bible Society is based on 42,855 nationwide interviews, and defines “Bible-minded” people as individuals who typically read the Bible each week and who strongly assert Scripture is accurate in the principles it teaches.

Authors of the report say the definition captures action and attitude – those who both engage and esteem the Christian Scriptures, reflecting an overall openness or resistance to the Bible in the country’s largest markets.

“The overall picture that is painted depends on one’s vantage point,” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “The least sanguine way to analyze the results would be to emphasize the lack of Bible-mindedness in America. In 91 out of 96 markets, a majority of the residents are not Bible-minded.”

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But for those who prefer to look on the bright side, Kinnaman explains, “A more optimistic way to view those markets would be to look at those cities with at least one-fifth Bible-mindedness – meaning those areas where at least one out of five adults are open to engaging and esteeming the Bible.”

He continued: “Among some researchers, this proportion – 20 percent – is often thought to be something of a social or technological “tipping point” (for example, once one in five people had mobile phones, the momentum toward more people owning mobile phones began to grow exponentially). In this analysis, 83 out of 96 cities in the U.S. have at least 20 percent of their residents qualifying as Bible-minded. Christian leaders should recognize that most of the major cities in the nation continue to have basis for biblical engagement among a significant share of the population.”

The study ranks the top markets for Bible-mindedness, and not surprisingly, the South, known for years as the Bible belt, is at the top of the list.

Knoxville, Tenn., Shreveport, La. and Chattanooga, Tenn., all have 52 percent of their respective populations being Bible-minded.

They’re followed by Birmingham, Ala. (50 percent), Jackson, Miss. (50 percent), Springfield, Mo. (49 percent), Charlotte, N.C. (48 percent), Lynchburg, Va. (48 percent), Huntsville-Decatur, Ala. (48 percent) and Charleston, W.V. (47 percent).

The least Bible-oriented markets tend to be from the Northeast, especially the New England area.

The lowest score came from Providence, R.I. at just 9 percent. Ironically, the city’s name actually refers to God’s divine providence. Albany, N.Y., is next from the bottom at 10 percent.

Putting this in perspective, the most Bible-minded markets are five times more likely to have residents who qualify as Bible-minded than is true in these two Northeastern cities.

Though these two cities are the most extreme, none of the cities in the bottom 10 break 20 percent, where even one in five people could be considered Bible-minded.

The New England area is home to most of the markets in the bottom 10, including Burlington, Vt. (16 percent), Portland, Maine (16 percent), Hartford, Conn. (16 percent), Boston, Mass. (16 percent), Buffalo, N.Y. (18 percent) and New York City (18 percent).

The remaining markets in the bottom 10 are primarily in the West and include San Francisco (16 percent), Phoenix, Ariz., (17 percent), and Las Vegas (18 percent).

The study found some notable patterns.

The Barna Group study is already getting varied reaction online.

“I think that it is interesting that you used the term ‘Bible-minded’ as opposed to Christian. I’m assuming that is because you, like me, acknowledge that those are two different things. ‘Bible-minded’ areas have more assault rifles, more venereal disease, fewer college graduates, more poverty, and if it were not for the Civil War would probably still have slaves, had to have integration forced upon them. In short, some of the most ‘Bible-minded’ states (like Mississippi) are the least Christian,” said Keith Johnston.

But Robert Netterville responded, “Having grown up in the Deep South (Mississippi to be exact), I will simply say that Christianity is a cultural phenomenon. It is one thing to hold a mental high regard for the sacred but another to live it out. As a Baptist pastor in the South, I will acknowledge that many people have a shallow affinity for the Bible but have not had a life-changing experience (born again) with Jesus Christ. The South is going the way of the North as we continue to slip into a godless country. There was a day when the northern brethren of the faith believed the Bible, too. Gone are the days of ‘In God We Trust.'”

See the complete listing of Bible-minded cities from all 96 U.S. markets.