Monday, February 2, 2009

Vermont Least Religious?

A recent Gallup Poll asked 35,000 Americans the question, “Does religion play an important role in your life?” Based on the answers, Mississippi turned out to be the most religious state in the Union (where over 85% of respondents answered yes), while little Vermont was the least godly, with less than half answering in the affirmative.

But opinion polls don’t tell the whole story. If the Magnolia State is the most pious, why does it have the highest statistics for child poverty (32.8%) while the Green Mountain State has the lowest (under 11%)? Why does Mississippi guarantee workers a minimum wage of just $6.55 per hour, while Vermont is well above federal standards at $8.06? And why does the Southern Poverty Law Center list twenty-seven active hate groups in that southern state, ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to the National Association for the Advancement of White People, while the state Gallup calls “least religious” has exactly zero hate groups within its borders?

I don’t want to bash Mississippi. But maybe practicing tolerance, caring for your neighbor, and creating jobs that pay a just wage are just as important as paying lip service to the divine.

Garrison Keillor once said that if sitting in church makes you a Christian, then sitting in a garage must make you a car. Faith isn’t just about opinion polls or professing your beliefs. It’s about how you live your life. By that test, Vermonters do okay.

Does religion play an important role in your life? Ask yourself, what portion of your income you give to charity? What volunteer commitments have you made to your community? When was the last time you performed some generous action–without expecting a payback or recognition for your efforts? How would you rate yourself?


The Eclectic Cleric said...

Great Column Gary! Very thought provoking, as usual.

Karen said...

Right on Gary! Thank you.

Holly Jones said...

It seems to me that maybe you've got the relationship backward. It's not that tolerance and ethical living create a standard of religiosity. Marx said that religion is the "opiate of the masses". If you're getting paid $5.55 an hour by Walmart, maybe you need to have a higher power in your life to find any meaning at all, and if you're in a hate group you certainly need an ideology to justify it. Perhaps if people have a high standard of living, or live a value-driven life, they don't need a religious security blanket.