The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

How holy is your hometown? Check out America’s most religious cities

Men’s Health magazine has compiled a list of America’s holiest cities — and it has a few surprises:

Our list of America’s Most Religious Cities shows there’s a lot of praying going on in the Bible Belt. No shocker there.


But what is surprising is who’s No. 1 in worship: Colorado Springs.

While it’s true that Colorado, at 5,980 feet above sea level, is closer to heaven than even the Mile High City, we used a different set of numbers to divine our findings. We scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages ( for places of worship per capita. Then we tallied up religious organizations (U.S. Census) and the number of volunteers who support these groups ( Finally, we considered the amount of money donated to religious organizations (Bureau of Labor Statistics and spent on religious books (Mediamark Research).

Most religious

1. Colorado Springs, CO
2. Greensboro, NC
3. Oklahoma City, OK
4. Wichita, KS
5. Indianapolis, IN
6. Jacksonville, FL
7. Portland, OR
8. Birmingham, AL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Little Rock, AR

The last on the list, at #100, is Burlington, Vermont. To see what’s in between, check the link.

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Deacon Norb

posted November 18, 2010 at 3:03 am

If I would have seen this list maybe a month or so ago, I would have been astounded that Portland Oregon was so high. Conventional wisdom in the Midwest has often suggested that Oregon — as a state — has an unusually high number of agnostics and religious skeptics.
Last week, however, I visited Portland over a weekend and attended St. Anthony Church in suburban Tigard. The high level of genuine hospitality of that congregation was immediately obvious to this visitor. The choir was superb and the congregation sang along with gusto. There were three priests on ceremony — including a visiting Monsignor from Poland (who was practically mobbed in the “receiving line” after Mass).
Since I have visited a lot of those cities, the only other surprises for me were that Lincoln Nebraska and New York City were so low.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 7:16 am

It is odd to see Boston and Providence at the bottom as these are two of the most Catholic cities in the US. Well, at least Boston was very Catholic before Cardinal Law came. I hope things have gotten better there since Cardinal Law was promoted to Rome.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 10:22 am

One of the metrics would make more “Protestant” cities seem more religious than more “Catholic” cities:
“We scoured the U.S. Census and the yellow pages ( for places of worship per capita.”
I believe that the median size of Protestant congregations is significantly smaller than the median size of Catholic congregations. Also, a theoretical town with (for example) a Presbyterian congregation that splits four times would be considered more “religious” than a town where everyone attends a single Catholic parish.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 10:35 am

Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the nation… As a Portland, OR resident let me assure you that this is one of the most deeply secular cities in the US. Pew Research and others always find this to be the case–I trust their methodology over the methodology described above. Portland does have a strong vein of volunteerism and lukewarm materialist Christianity, and there are a few pockets of those unashamed of Christ (Holy Rosary priory, for example). By contrast, when I was away in Michigan for five years for grad school, I regularly struck up friendly conversations in coffee shops with all manner of Christians. We would enthusiastically share our faith, and I never received a hostile glare or comment. Now try that in a Portland coffee shop…

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posted November 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

These are very loose parameters for basing their stats on — I would imagine the high prevalence of southern cities is due to not just mainstream Protestant churches, but also the hundreds of small non-denom churches found throughout the south.
As you say, the institution/individual ratio doesn’t give us a true picture of the genuine spirituality or religiosity of any particular geographic region. Such a statistic totally discounts the genuine spirituality of any particular individual, too. I guess these statistics are vaguely interesting and may have some value for marketers and the like, but they don’t really mean anything in the long run. Nice to know but not necessary.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Colorado Springs is not exactly Boulder! Co. Sp. is military families, who tend to be politically conservative and religiously traditional (sadly, nowadays traditional doesn’t mean particularly devout or orthodox, but merely non-atheist/pagan). All about the demographics. Although the air force academy has installed a wiccan outdoor temple grove…

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posted November 18, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I recall reading not long ago that Mass attendance among (nominal) Catholics in Boston is about the lowest in the country.
I am not surprised to see my own city, New Orleans, at #75. The culture here is heavily Catholic. Practice of the faith, inside church and outside, not so much.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Communities of practicing Catholics tend to have large families with a one-salary household. Therefore, money and time are limited. Volunteering usually is done at pro-life centers.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

How very presumptuous on your part. That may have been true fifty years ago but not now.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 11:10 pm

How old are you J? I agree with Fiergenholt, this was the case 50 years ago in some places but not today. Very few families today can make it on just one income. Most people can’t afford large families. Years ago people could support a family on $20,000 or $30,000 per year but today it is difficult and since 2000, the median family income has been going down.

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posted November 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Well, of course, Colorado Springs. It’s home to a number of religious institutions like Focus on the Family.
Wiki doesn’t list them but I thought Campus Crusade for Christ had offices there as well.

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