Thursday, April 13th, 2006
When you hear the phrase “Bible Belt”, what do you think of?
According to Wikipedia:
A Bible Belt is an area in which Christian Evangelical Protestantism is a pervasive or dominant part of the culture. In particular it is the region where the Southern Baptist Convention denomination is strongest.
Oddly enough, one of these characteristics doesn’t exist in the area of the country most people consider to be the Bible Belt of the south –
Some facts contradict, color or challenge the current use of the term:
The South is currently majority Protestant, with a significant proportion of Black African-American adherents. The coastal southeast of Florida has a low religious attendance among Protestant adherents, like the industrial Midwest. Protestant attendance is highest in a “Bible Strip” in states from Texas through the Plains to the Dakotas.
Religious attendance is highest among Catholics, who often attend Mass daily, and geographically, Christian attendance is highest on the Coasts, which are majority Catholic, and along the Sun Belt, as well as in cities having large Catholic populations like Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and New York.
The biggest change in 50 years in religious attendance is the significant drop in Protestant attendance in the industrial Midwest and the Northeast. Because the Midwest is majority Protestant, there is still a significant number of active Protestant adherents attending church in the region. Because the Northeast (or West Coast) is majority Catholic, the diminished number of Protestants attending church has left the bicoastal regions without the large Protestant churches. This reduction in Protestant churches, relative to the rest of the country especially the South, has created an anomalous situation whereby the center of gravity of American Protestantism has moved to the middle and south, politically and culturally cleaving these regions. Finally, because Protestants generally place a greater emphasis on personal Bible study than Catholics do, it might be said that Protestantism is more associated with the terms Bible Belt or “Bible-Thumpers” than is Catholicism. If attendance were the key context for this term, then in truth, the “Church Buckles” of Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York would be America’s centers of religious adherents and attendance. But since the term is used to describe a religious people with a strong association with Bible literalism, with a deep connection to the South and Midwest, and with social and political beliefs that leftists negatively compare to provincialism and anti-intellectualism, its use is widespread. Moreover, this term is used to describe a large region where these beliefs are a dominant part of the culture. For their own part, some citizens of the Bible Belt have negative stereotypes of the coasts and their large urban areas, which they describe as atheistic, decadent, and centers of criminality. In truth, the two coasts are just as religious because of their majority Catholic population.