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Geography of Religion

From the Washington Post comes this interesting map (HT Mark McKenna) of the dominant religious denominations in different regions.  Catholics are blue, Baptists are red and Lutherans are in yellow/orange.  The similarities to red state/blue state maps is striking.  The other maps (which cover things like religious diversity, nonChristian religions, and religious participation) are equally interesting.  Go take a look.

 

 

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All of he maps are interesting.  If I can quibble about something, I'm not sure that "dominant" is the right word to use to describe this distribution of religious denominations.  For large swaths of the blue areas in the map pictured aboce, Catholics seem to the largest minority in which there is no majority religion or denomination.  Comparing the map shown above to the map showing denominational diversity is instructive.  The blue (Catholic) areas tend to be relatively diverse, while that Southern bloc of counties is a good deal less diverse.  

 

As a follow-on to my previous comment:

  • It may be that Catholics flourish best where diversity is more welcome.  Historically  the Catholic church has been a minority church, and periodically an oppressed, discriminated-against minority.  
  • That the map above resembles (at least in broad strokes) the red state/blue state maps may be an indication that Democrats are better at coalition building than Republicans, as the blue Catholic areas tend to be the more diverse areas.

 

Help me out on your statement - "The similarities to red state/blue state maps is striking"

Texas is split between blue/red but (even with the significant Hispanic/Catholic population) is an extreme Red State;  California is majority catholic but a Blue State;  But Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, both Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Missouri, Iowa are Red States - which only works if you assign methodist, lutheran with baptist and thus RED.

If anything, it suggest that Red state catholics have adopted the evangelical/baptist political stance - as someone raised in the 1950-60s, that is a significant shift.  Who would have thought you would find baptists, church of christ in the same political party as catholics?

I gather from this map that Catholics like to congregate near water, and Baptists are mostly inland people.

John Prior ==

Could it be because of the Baptists' full emersion ritual?  I saw a  Baptist being baptized in a bayou as a child, and it was scary.  From a distance it looked like a drowning on purpose!

I don't know, Ann, but

I saw a Baptist in a bayou...

sounds like a pretty good beginning for a poem or a song.

Who would have thought you would find baptists, church of christ in the same political party as catholic?

As one raised Catholic in the 1940s-50s, I, too, find that surprising. Living in a blue area of a purple southern state, I live among Catholics who talk and think more like Billy Graham than Fulton Sheen. It still always brings me up short.

as ,a latino catholic and a non-alingned conservative-liberal,when it comes to this red,blue,purple not sure that represen 'fusing" doctrines. the maps are quasi politcal? quasi religious affilition?we cannot separate in a diverse culturally country. the sense of 'individual' communites is always protestant. Latino communities of faith are ethnic. I am at a loss as to what is the map representing as a trend.

What the map says to me is that the South is full of Baptists, there are a lot of Mormons around Utah, and a fair number of Lutherans around the Scandinavian parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota. You can learn that listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" on Saturday nights.

The map doesn't account for non-denominational "free-churches" that, group together, seem to be a substantial subset of the Christian demographic in the US.  These may be large evangelical mega-churches or small Pentecostal / Charismatic congregations. Add to these those groups where there is a denominational affiliation (e.g. - the Assembly of God) or a somewhat looser federation (Vineyard Ministries) and the non-mainline Protestant segment becomes even bigger.   

There are so many varieties of "Southern Baptist" that I can't see that those designations are valid.  I mean, how much alike are the beliefs of the people in all those states?  Yes, they call themselves by the same name, but how are they all alike? Or even mainly alike, except in rejecting Catholicism of verious sorts. 

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About the Author

Eduardo Moisés Peñalver is the John P. Wilson Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the subjects of property and land use law.