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Vol. V, No. 3


Religion by Region

Geographical diversity is the hallmark of religion in the United States. There are Catholic zones and evangelical Bible Belts, a Lutheran domain and a Mormon fastness, metropolitan concentrations of Jews and Muslims, and (in a different dimension) parts of the country where religious affiliation of whatever kind is very high and parts where it is far below the norm. This religious heterogeneity is inextricably linked to the character of American places. From Boston to Birmingham, from Salt Lake City to Santa Barbara, even the casual observer perceives public cultures that are intimately connected to the religious identities and habits of the local population.

Yet when the story of religion in American public life gets told, the country's variegated religious landscape tends to be reduced to a series of monochrome portraits of the spiritual state of the union, of piety along the Potomac, of great events or swings of mood that raise or lower the collective religious temperature. Whatever the virtues of compiling such a unified national narrative-and I believe they are considerable-it obscures a great deal. As the famous red-and-blue map of the 2000 presidential vote makes clear, region has not ceased to matter in national politics. Indeed, in this era of increasing federalism regions are, state by state, charting ever more distinctive courses.

To understand where each region is headed and why, it is critical to recognize the place of religion in it.

Religion by Region, a project of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, represents the first comprehensive effort to show how religion shapes, and is being shaped by, regional culture in America. The project has been designed to produce edited volumes (of which this is the first) on each of eight regions of the country. A ninth volume will sum up the results in order to draw larger conclusions about the way religion and region combine to affect civic culture and public policy in the United States as a whole.  

This preface in its entirety can be read at the Hartford Institute website.

Related Links:

The North American Religion Atlas (NARA) Provides access to resources for the study and teaching of North American religious history.

From the recent New England Religion Discussion Society:

The Northeast Region Book Introduction and the Conclusion by Andrew Walsh

What's New on Our Site:

  • Interested in religion and homosexuality?  Then join Dr. Scott Thumma this fall for the online course "Varieties of Gay and Lesbian Religious Life in the U.S."  Go to the Hartford Seminary web site for more information.
  • The megachurch database has been updated!  Search the database by congregation, denomination, or by state to view the 793 listings.
  • Read the June quick question on church growth consultations




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