Bible Belt

The area roughly considered to constitute the Bible Belt

The Bible Belt is an informal region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average.

The region is usually contrasted with the religiously diverse Midwest and Great Lakes, the Mormon Corridor in Utah and southern Idaho, and the relatively secular Western and New England regions of the United States. Whereas the state with the highest percentage of residents identifying as non-religious is the New England state of Vermont at 37%, in the Bible Belt state of Alabama it is just 12%.[1] Tennessee has the highest proportion of Evangelical Protestants, at 52%.[2] The Evangelical influence is strongest in northern Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Southern and Western Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and eastern Texas. The earliest known usage of the term "Bible Belt" was by American journalist and social commentator H. L. Mencken, who in 1924 wrote in the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The old game, I suspect, is beginning to play out in the Bible Belt."[3] In 1927, Mencken claimed the term as his invention.[4]


The name "Bible Belt" has been applied historically to the South and parts of the Midwest, but is more commonly identified with the South. In a 1961 study, Wilbur Zelinsky delineated the region as the area in which Protestant denominations, especially Southern Baptist, Methodist, and evangelical, are the predominant religious affiliation. The region thus defined included most of the Southern United States, including most of Texas and Oklahoma, and in the states south of the Ohio River, and extending east to include central West Virginia and Virginia, from the Shenandoah Valley southward into Southside Virginia and North Carolina. In addition, the Bible Belt covers most of Missouri and Kentucky and southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. On the other hand, areas in the South which are not considered part of the Bible Belt include heavily Catholic Southern Louisiana, central and southern Florida, which have been settled mainly by immigrants and Americans from elsewhere in the country, and overwhelmingly Hispanic South Texas. A 1978 study by Charles Heatwole identified the Bible Belt as the region dominated by 24 fundamentalist Protestant denominations, corresponding to essentially the same area mapped by Zelinsky.[5]

According to Stephen W. Tweedie, an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography at Oklahoma State University, the Bible Belt is now viewed in terms of numerical concentration of the audience for religious television.[6] He finds two belts: one more eastern that stretches from Florida, (excluding Miami, Tampa and South Florida), through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, the Carolinas, and into Southside Virginia; and another concentrated in Texas (excluding El Paso, and South Texas), Arkansas, Louisiana, (excluding New Orleans and Acadiana), Oklahoma, Missouri (excluding St. Louis), Kansas, and Mississippi.[7] "[H]is research also broke the Bible Belt into two core regions, a western region and an eastern region. Tweedie's western Bible Belt was focused on a core that extended from Little Rock, Arkansas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His eastern Bible Belt was focused on a core that included the major population centers of Virginia and North Carolina.[8]

Bible-minded cities map

A study was commissioned by the American Bible Society to survey the importance of the Bible in the metropolitan areas of the United States. The report was based on 42,855 interviews conducted between 2005 and 2012. It determined the 10 most "Bible-minded" cities were Knoxville, Tennessee; Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Springfield, Missouri; Charlotte, North Carolina; Lynchburg, Virginia; Huntsville-Decatur, Alabama; and Charleston, West Virginia.[9]

In addition to the South, there is a smaller Bible Belt in West Michigan, centered on the heavily Dutch-influenced cities of Holland and Grand Rapids. Christian colleges in that region include Calvin College, Hope College, Cornerstone University, Grace Bible College, and Kuyper College. West Michigan is generally fiscally and socially conservative.

By state

Percentage of respondents in the USA stating that religion is "very important" or "somewhat important" to their lives, 2014[10]
Proportion of Evangelical Protestants per state in the American South[11]
State Baptist Pentecostal Restorationist Presbyterian Other Total Share indicating that
religion is "important"[10]
 Alabama 31% 5% 3% 2% 8% 49% 90%
 Arkansas 25% 5% 5% 2% 9% 46% 86%
 Delaware 7% 1% 3% 1% 3% 15% 77%
 Washington, D.C. 2% 1% 1% 1% 3% 8% 71%
 Florida 8% 4% 2% 1% 9% 24% 78%
 Georgia 21% 4% 2% 1% 10% 38% 84%
 Kentucky 29% 7% 3% 1% 9% 49% 86%
 Louisiana 16% 3% 1% <1% 7% 27% 90%
 Maryland 5% 3% 1% <1% 9% 18% 75%
 Mississippi 26% 4% 2% 1% 8% 41% 89%
 Missouri 15% 6% 3% 1% 11% 36% 82%
 North Carolina 20% 4% 1% 1% 9% 35% 84%
 Oklahoma 23% 6% 4% <1% 14% 47% 87%
 South Carolina 22% 4% 1% 1% 7% 35% 85%
 Tennessee 33% 4% 6% 2% 7% 52% 89%
 Texas 14% 4% 2% <1% 11% 31% 86%
 Virginia 15% 5% <1% 1% 9% 30% 81%
 West Virginia 19% 7% 2% <1% 11% 39% 86%
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