Gene Expression

Where are the seculars?

Over at Island of Doubt James Hrynyshyn says:

As far as I can tell, North Carolina’s no different from the rest of America when it comes to religion. About a tenth of the population is free of religious conviction….

Well, I was pretty sure that there is a statistically significant difference between most Southern states and the rest of the country in regards to these things, so I decided to check out the data in detail. The US Religious Landscape Survey allows me to see what proportion of each state’s population are atheists; that is, they don’t believe in God. Unfortunately the margin of errors are relatively big because of small sample sizes from the unbelievers for most states, so I wanted an outside “check,” and luckily the American Religious Identification Survey has state-by-state breakdowns as well. But, their breakdowns are for those with “No Religion,” a category where the rule of thumb is only 1/3-1/2 are atheists. Out of curiosity I plotted the number of atheists on the X axis vs. the nonreligious on the Y axis.


The geographic patterns are interesting. Note that the West has many nonreligious, or those who are not affiliated. In contrast, parts of the Northeast have a great number of atheists, but lack of affiliation is relatively rare in comparison to someplace like Washington or Wyoming. The American South is a relatively distinctive cluster as well, with low levels of atheism and high rates of affiliation. The Midwest is a bit more diverse, but you can also see a discernible cluster there, with similar rates of affiliation as much of the Northeast but lower rates of atheism. The raw data is below the fold….

Does not believe in god Has no religious affiliation
Vermont 9 22
Oregon 9 21
Connecticut 9 12
Rhode Island 9 15
New Hamsphire 9 17
Massachusetts 8 16
Maine 8 16
Colorado 8 21
New York 7 13
California 7 19
Washington 7 25
Washington DC 6 13
Iowa 6 15
Nevada 6 20
Arizona 6 17
Maryland 6 13
New Jersey 6 15
Florida 6 12
Virginia 5 12
South Dakota 5 8
Delaware 5 17
North Dakota 5 3
New Mexico 5 18
Idaho 5 19
Michigan 5 15
Pennsylvania 4 12
Ohio 4 15
Wyoming 4 20
Wisconsin 4 14
Illinois 4 14
Montana 4 17
Kansas 4 15
Minnesota 3 14
South Carolina 3 7
Missouri 3 15
Utah 3 17
Indiana 3 16
West Virginia 3 13
Louisiana 2 9
North Carolina 2 10
Tennessee 2 9
Oklahoma 2 14
Texas 2 11
Arkansas 2 13
Georgia 2 12
Alabama 2 6
Nebraska 1 9
Kentucky 1 14
Mississipi 1 7


  1. #1 Thursday
    August 29, 2008

    In Canada, places in the far west like Alberta and British Columbia contain a higher percentage of atheists and other non-religious, but also a higher percentage of evangelical Christians.

  2. #2 OmegaMom
    August 29, 2008

    So where are Alaska (where I live) and Hawaii? I’d really be interested to know…

  3. #3 razib
    August 29, 2008

    both were not in the american identification survey, so i left them off. but they are here:

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