What Is The Bible Belt Of The United States?
The Bible Belt is a term that refers to a socially conservative region of the United States, centered in the southeastern and south-central sections. The most popular religion practiced in these areas is evangelical Protestantism. This religious practice has a strong influence over the political beliefs and social practices of the culture. For example, people living in the Bible Belt region report a higher church attendance rate and a lower percentage of non-religious affiliation than what is found in the rest of the country.
The Bible Belt Region
As previously mentioned, the Bible Belt region is generally believed to lie throughout the southeastern and south-central United States. This region includes most of Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, as well as the southern areas of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana and the central areas of West Virginia and Virginia. In these states, the most commonly practiced religion can be divided into roughly 24 fundamentalist Protestant denominations, including Methodist, Southern Baptist, and Evangelical. While urban areas are statistically more likely to report less religious affiliation than rural areas, several studies have shown that this may not be the case in the Bible Belt. The most religious cities in the Bible Belt include: Chattanooga and Knoxville (Tennessee), Charleston (West Virginia), Charlotte (North Carolina), Jackson (Mississippi), Lynchburg (Virginia), Birmingham and Huntsville (Alabama), Shreveport (Louisiana) and Springfield (Missouri). These cities are sometimes referred to as the “buckles” of the Bible Belt.
History Of The Bible Belt Region Of The United States
Some historians believe that the religious identity found in the Bible Belt can be traced back to the end of the 18th century, after the colonial period between 1607 and 1776, when the Anglican Church had a strong influence over the region. This influence slowly gave way to non-Anglican Protestantism over the next 100 years. During this time, the Bible Belt really began to take shape. The country experienced its "Second Great Awakening", a religious revival movement that became popular among the less educated and less wealthy populations. This movement came hand in hand with several other social changes, including an attitude toward alcohol abstinence, restricted tobacco use, and changes in acceptable diet and dress. This resulted in a number of new evangelical denominations, which have gone on to influence to social and cultural environment of the Bible Belt today.
Social And Political Context Of The Bible Belt
In addition to being one of the most fundamentally Protestant regions of the country, the Bible Belt can also be characterized by its unique social and political context. In terms of the social and cultural context, people living in the Bible Belt have distinct health and educational levels compared to individuals living in other areas of the US. For example, it has the lowest levels of educational attainment and the highest rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, teenage pregnancy, homicide, and sexually transmitted infections in the country.
In terms of politics, the Bible Belt is known as one of the most conservative regions in the US. During elections, voters in this area tend to vote for Republican candidates at all levels of government. Since the presidential election of 1980, this has been true for the following states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Texas.