NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Cities in the Southeast have the highest percentage of churchgoers and self-identified Christians while cities in the Northeast and Northwest contain the greatest percentage of self-identified atheists and agnostics, according to a new Barna study that largely confirms perceptions of the nation’s religiosity.
The data, released Oct. 11, is based on nearly 40,000 surveys conducted over the last seven years by the Christian research group.
Birmingham (67 percent), Baton Rouge, La. (62 percent), Salt Lake City (62 percent) and Huntsville, Ala. (60 percent) have the highest percentage of churchgoers. Conversely, San Francisco has the highest percentage of unchurched people, with 43 percent saying they have not been to a religious service the last six months. Following San Francisco among unchurched cities are Portland, Maine (43 percent), Portland, Ore. (42 percent), Albany, N.Y. (42 percent), Boston (40 percent), Sacramento, Calif. (40 percent), Seattle (40 percent), Spokane, Wash. (39 percent), New York (38 percent), Phoenix (38 percent), Tucson, Ariz. (37 percent), and West Palm Beach, Fla. (37 percent).
Portland, Maine, and Seattle lead the way with the highest percentage of atheists and agnostics (19 percent), trailed by Portland, Ore., Sacramento and Spokane, each at 16 percent.
On doctrine, significant differences between cities also were evident. Nearly three-fourths of those who live in Charlotte, N.C. (73 percent) and Shreveport, La. (73 percent) agree with the statement that “the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.” But few in Providence, R.I. (27 percent) and San Francisco (28 percent) agree with the statement.
Still, a large percentage of the country self-identifies as Christian, with the highest percentage found in the South: Shreveport (98 percent) leads the way, followed by Birmingham (96 percent), Charlotte (96 percent), Nashville (95 percent), Greenville, S.C./Asheville, N.C. (94 percent), New Orleans (94 percent), Indianapolis (93 percent), Lexington, Ky. (93 percent), Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va. (93 percent), Little Rock, Ark. (92 percent), and Memphis (92 percent).
The lowest percentage of self-identified Christians are found in San Francisco (68 percent), Portland, Ore. (71 percent), Portland, Maine (72 percent), Seattle (73 percent), Sacramento (73 percent), New York (73 percent), San Diego (75 percent), Los Angeles (75 percent), Boston (76 percent), Phoenix (78 percent), Miami (78 percent), Las Vegas (78 percent), and Denver (78 percent).
From an evangelical perspective, the “self-identified” category does not mean that a person is a Christian — only that he or she claims to be one.
Compiled by Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press.