Demographic Maps of the USA by Religious Affiliation

A couple of years ago, LeFalcon sent me a link to a set of maps like these, which codify the counties of the USA by the percentage of the population who adhere to particular religious groups.  It’s fascinated me ever since.  Below, as an example, is the map for Quakers.     

quaker

You can see that Quakers are rather thin on the ground everywhere.  In their uniformity, they are unusual.  The striking thing about the maps is how divided the USA is regionally.  So, look at the distribution of Baptists:

baptist

And compare it with the distribution of Roman Catholics:

 

catholic1

The overall map shows just how strong these regional divisions are.

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16 Comments

  1. cymast

     /  February 19, 2009

    So would “heathen” fall under the category of “other: none”?

  2. acilius

     /  February 20, 2009

    I think “other: none” is for counties where it is not clear which religious group is the largest.

  3. lefalcon

     /  February 21, 2009

    I think the maps are interesting, too. However, the overall map is a little confusing to me. The color of a given county is determined the group having the largest number of adherents in that county? For example, if the Catholic church has more members than any other church, that county is colored Catholic? That makes for a tremendous distortion: it looks like Catholics own the ass of vast swathes of the USA. But everybody knows that all Protestant groups should be combined: yes they self-identify as individual churches or movements within Protestantism … but they’re all doing substantially the same thing: haranguing about “popery” etc. The way they’ve put together this map, it looks like there are these enormous number of Catholics in like Oregon, like Oregon is basically “owned” by Catholicism. That’s ridiculous! In fact it makes it look like the whole western third (or so) of the US is simply dominated by Catholics. They’re just trying to feed into this whole ideology that Protestants are “persecuted victims”: if they’re not being overwhelmed by swarms of Catholics, then their children are being indoctrinated by evolutionists.

  4. acilius

     /  February 21, 2009

    Haranguing about popery?

    Their selection of denominations does seem a bit capricious. I’d like to see them include more Christian denominations, and group them more systematically.

  5. lefalcon

     /  February 21, 2009

    I want them to put all Protestant groups together. Otherwise, if you consider every single Protestant denomination to be an individual little religion unto itself, Catholicism appears as this juggernaut sprawled across the religious landscape. But the signature characteristic of Protestantism is its vehement stance against the “evils of popery.” And that’s a feature that remains pretty constant across all Protestant congregational boundaries, the glue that unites them as a single, recognizably-distinct faith community.

  6. acilius

     /  February 22, 2009

    They certainly could have “Protestant” as a master category, the way they have “Lutheran” as a master category uniting several denominations. Within that “Protestant” category I’d like to see several subcategories- mainline, evangelical, African American, etc. The way the maps are now, they make the state of Indiana look like it is far and away the most religiously diverse part of the USA,which I’m sure is misleading.

  7. lefalcon

     /  February 23, 2009

    I agree that the overall map could be improved. It makes the US look like a Catholic country.

    In response to Cymast’s comment, I guess “other” is a cover-term for a number of numerically-small Christian groups. Among these small groups, there is one called “none.”

    “None” might mean Christians with no affiliation to an organized church?

    I guess heathens aren’t even represented … along with all other non-Christians.

  8. cymast

     /  February 24, 2009

    The None Church. Is that like the Church of the Jesus People?

  9. acilius

     /  February 24, 2009

    A couple of times people conducting surveys have asked me my religious affiliation and I’ve said “None.” Each time I’ve followed up with “I mean I have no affiliation, I don’t mean I’m a nun.”

  10. acilius

     /  February 24, 2009

    Jews and Muslims are on there, though they aren’t subdivided into denominations as Christians are.

    The omission of Jewish and Muslim subgroups, like the omission of many whole religions, may be an effect of the selection of the county as the unit of analysis. A map of Lubavitcher Jews, for example, would shade King’s County New York (Brooklyn) slightly and leave the other 3140 counties blank. It might be that a map of the distribution of Sikhs, let’s say, would have 3139 blank counties and two shaded ones.

    Also, lots of Christians are unrepresented. The most notable omission might be the predominantly African American denominations. I suppose the AME Church is lumped in with other Methodists and the black Baptist groups are lumped with other Baptists.

    Jews and Muslims are on there, though they aren’t subdivided into denominations as Christians are. That may be an effect of the selection of the county as the unit of analysis. It might be that a map of the distribution of Sikhs, let’s say, would have 3139 blank counties and two shaded ones.

    Also, lots of Christians are unrepresented. The most notable omission might be the predominantly African American denominations. I suppose the AME Church is lumped in with other Methodists and the black Baptist groups are lumped with other Baptists.

  11. lefalcon

     /  February 24, 2009

    Aren’t you a bit tall to be a nun? But heck: go for it baby!! I’d even be willing to join up with you – good to have a buddy in “those situations.”

    I was looking at the “overall” map that you put a link to, at the very end of the post– which illustrates the “all-Christian club” .. but now I understand there is a website with a bunch of different maps including non-Xtns in some of them…

    Church of the Jesus People: I’ve never heard of it but I’m sure they’re a fine congregation. (Good upstanding folk)

  12. acilius

     /  February 24, 2009

    Upstanding. Maybe they’re Russian Orthodox. Aren’t they the ones who don’t have anyplace to sit in their churches?

  13. cymast

     /  February 24, 2009

    Acilius, I thought you were a tall, upstanding Quaker . .

    Church of the Jesus People was founded in the late 1960s in San Francisco by hippie and street performer Bob Abernathy. They’re an off-shoot of the original “Jesus Freaks” of that era. They start their worship service by sitting. It’s described in the fictional novel based in fact that I’m writing.

  14. acilius

     /  February 24, 2009

    I do go to a Quaker meeting every Sunday. Mrs Acilius and her dog Phoenix are committed Quakers. I myself am not quite a Quaker yet, but I’m definitely leaning that way.

  15. cymast

     /  February 24, 2009

    I predict there will be virtually no difference between the personal religious ideologies of you and the missus in under 4 years. And the missus’ personal religious ideologies will remain unchanged.

  16. acilius

     /  February 25, 2009

    We’ll see!

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