A new, interactive online resource ranks states according to “religious participation,” with several states that formed the heart of the nation at its founding at the bottom of the list.
First Liberty Institute, which produced the ranking, noted that “the Founders – although they had heated and intense debates about the scope and structure of government – did agree on a core set of principles and values that eventually shaped some of the most iconic documents in human history, including the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.”
And among the principles and values, First Liberty said, “was the belief that religion played a vital role in the upbringing of virtuous citizens in order to sustain a republican form of government.”
First Liberty quoted some of the Founders on religion:
- George Washington: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable.”
- Thomas Jefferson: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?”
- Patrick Henry: “The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion.”
First Liberty also cited Benjamin Franklin, who it described as “arguably one of the least religious” of the Founders: “I think the system of morals and His [Jesus Christ’s] religion as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see.”
First Liberty noted that many of the other Founders “had something similar to say about the role of religion in political life.”
The interactive assessed states based on the percentage of people who think religion is very important, attend worship weekly, pray daily and believe in God “with absolute certainty.”
New Hampshire and Massachusetts were the least religious. In New Hampshire, only 22 percent attend worship weekly. Just 33 percent said religion is very important. In Massachusetts, the figures were 23 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
The most religious states were in the South, where Alabama and Mississippi tied for first, Tennessee was third, Louisiana fourth and Arkansas and South Carolina fifth.
In Alabama, 77 percent say religion is very important, 51 percent attend worship weekly, 73 percent pray daily and 82 percent believe in God with certainty.
The nation’s most populous state, California, was 35th overall.