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The Most Common Religion in Your State, Besides Christianity

Figuring out each state’s largest religion is easy; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. But, make it second-largest and the results get interesting.


Image credit: Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies via Washington Post

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which sponsors the U.S. Religious Census every 10 years, mapped out data on religious popularity. Knowing that Christianity was the leader in every state, ASARB highlighted each state’s second-most popular faith.

The results? Islam is second-largest in 20 states, mostly across the South and Midwest. Judaism covers the Northeast — it’s second-largest in 14 states and the District of Columbia — while Buddhism takes the honor in 13 states, mostly in the West. The outliers are Arizona and Delaware, where Hinduism is second-largest, and South Carolina, the map’s sole representative for Baha’i.

What sets South Carolina apart? The Baha’i faith sprung up there in the 1970s, especially among African Americans. Between 8,000 and 10,000 residents joined the religion during those years.

The majority of Baha’is in South Carolina are of African descent,” said Windi Burgess, a Baha’i living in Myrtle Beach. “In the 1970s there was a lot of outreach to share the faith.”

The outreach didn’t stop then, U.S. Baha’i spokeswoman Rachel Wolfe said. The Palmetto State has a “very robust community,” including well-attended Junior Youth programs for children between the ages of 12 and 15. “They’re basically a peer group to help each other through the tumultuous time that is middle school and do a lot of community service,” she said. “There are some areas that really grab hold of those activities.”

Not all children in the programs are Baha’i, Wolfe said, but many end up getting to know the teachings and converting.

What about Christianity? Among Christians, Southern Baptists dominate the Southeast while Catholics are the majority in most other states, according to ASARB. Mormons are an outlier in Utah and surrounding areas, while Lutherans are the majority in many counties in the Upper Midwest.


Image credit: Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies via Washington Post

In total, more than half of Americans identify as Protestants, while 24% call themselves Catholics. Mormonism and Judaism each have 1.7%, while Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism come in at under 1%.

There are only 175,000 Baha’is in the U.S., but Burgess said the community in her home state still feels large. “There’s an openness here,” she said. “There’s this unique spirit in South Carolina.”

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