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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

South Dakota: Really Red State on Religious Map

Here's a fun Web-enabled knowledge-flow chain: Father Fountain, that good shepherd of Northern Plains Anglicans, notes that Below the Beltway notes that the Pajama Pundit notes that Valparaiso University has a really cool map gallery of religion in the United States. The maps break down concentrations of Christian denominations and other religions by county nationwide as of 2000. Check it this overall map of religious adherents:

Notice how Lake County, South Dakota, is pink instead of red? That's me bringing down our percentage—you're welcome!

Other interesting patterns revealed by a quick perusal of the maps:
  • This may sound like an oxymoron, but there is diversity among Lutherans, at least in South Dakota. The ELCA is the majority congregation in a majority of counties, but we have a fair number of counties where Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans are the leading groups. Compare that to North Dakota and Minnesota, which are almost solid ELCA green (green... ELCA... yeah, those liberal Lutherans are into that creation care stuff ;-) ).
  • South Dakota has one of the highest concentrations of Mennonites, along with Montana and Kansas.
  • Jews, Muslims, and Unitarians are almost non-existent in South Dakota. Jews manage to mount statistical blips in our three biggest urban areas. Muslims make the map at SDSU, while Unitarians cluster around USD.
Check out the maps yourself, see how your favorite flavors stack up in your neighborhood!


  1. That map looks a lot like the "Year of Maximum Population" map on page 8. Draw your own conclusions...
    PDF Alert!


  2. Evidently, those radical socialists up in North Dakota are even more religious than we are.

  3. I've wondered why Christians aren't more socialist Stan. Help your fellow man and all. It seems like the book they believe in directs them to be more socialist but they ignore it.

  4. Taunia Adams8/12/2009 12:32 AM

    Wow, you mean, they're supposed to actually read the book they believe in? Profound!

    Eye popping chart. Think the religious right is calling this a miracle?

  5. Tony, I suspect that if Christ were around today, most Americans would revile him as a radical leftist community organizer.

  6. In retrospect, I see that the East Coast and the West Coast are, in general, less "religiously red" than the Midwest. Aren't people living near the coasts generally more "liberal" than people living in the middle of the country?

    There is no simple formula, is there?

    I'd like to see a map showing religious affiliation next to a map showing the prevalence of:

    (a) per capita beer consumption;
    (b) obesity;
    (c) per capita income;
    (d) cost of living index;
    (e) education funding;
    (f) taxation levels;
    (g) cholesterol levels;
    (h) time spent on blogs;
    (i) whatever.

  7. "I've wondered why Christians aren't more socialist Stan. Help your fellow man and all. It seems like the book they believe in directs them to be more socialist but they ignore it."

    Tony, Tony, Tony... is it possible you don't understand the difference between charity and coercion? Christ asked people to love their neighbor, but He never made any attempt to force that maxim upon them.

  8. Dave:

    If we simply cherry pick parts of the bible that we like and ignore others that we don't are we still Christians? I'm all for loving our fellow man and helping them out, but it appears to me that the bible directs people to help others as part of their beliefs and religion. Christians are directed to help.

    What I'm surprised about is that it appears that the more "christian" people are around here the less they help. And if it is someone of another faith they seem to help even less. More importantly, when it comes to social policy, Christians seem to constantly vote against it. Unless it helps their version of Christianity. Then they're all for it. It's more like an us or them type mentality.

    I'm just looking at what the book says to do and what people do and see cognitive dissonance. I'm not trying to find ways of interpreting the book to make it fit a desired lifestyle.

  9. Hi Tony,

    Personally, I'm all for cherry-picking when it comes to the Bible. I'll take Psalm 23 and etch it in stone, but there is no way I'm going to try to defend Deuteronomy 23.


    You're right that the call from Christ is one of service to other people... and you're also right that many people who display Christian bumper stickers don't act on that call. (As I've always said, though, there is one thing about Christianity that I'm certain about... its doctrine that all people are moral sewage... which your observation testifies to.)

    The point I was trying to make (in far too few words... which probably led you to misunderstand me) was that there is a huge difference between someone voluntarily giving to the poor, and someone being forced to give to the poor. What you refer to as "social policy" is the government demanding that citizens give up their money (upon threat of incarceration) so that it can use it elsewhere. It's not charity if I help the poor because there is a gun to my head.

    And that is precisely what my political philosophy is based upon... I despise threats, coercion, and guns-to-peoples-heads. Instead we should help the poor with private, voluntary, charity activities like Miracle Treat Day. And every one of us should make such activities a perpetual priority in our life. We should sponsor children in developing countries, we should take the homeless out for dinner at a nice restaurant, we should volunteer time with Big Brothers / Big Sisters, and donate money to special needs hospitals.

    The hypocrisy I can't stand is when people ignore all of the things I just mentioned, feel like we have to solve issues of poverty at the voting booth. They don't want to touch the poor (much less, love them), they just the problem to be taken care of... and their 'solution' usually involves taking money from the Warren Buffets and Sam Waltons rather than their own wallet.

    Kind regards,

    PS I can't think of one verse where Christ ever supported coercion or governmental action... He didn't particularly care about any kingdom but the everlasting one.

  10. Dave:

    Ah, I'm with you now. In terms of political action though, a fine line needs to be toed. If the system isn't set up with upward mobility in mind, people become disenfranchised and basically quit and then just burden down the state. Too much and they have no incentive to work.

    In this case however, I feel that the balance has shifted too much toward the former. A big medical bill now without health insurance instantly disenfranchises people, and the generations that follow. I'm not going to argue which political philosophy is better. Right now I'm more concerned with how this policy will impact our immediate system. I can see many different political philosophies working in a Utopian world.

  11. Hi Tony,

    I guess I wasn't aware we were discussing health care in particular here... although I do support health care reform. (Plenty of thoughts on that subject in other threads...)

    Just trying to show how I don't feel any cognitive dissonance in the slightest between ardently affirming Christianity and vehemently opposing socialism.

    Kind regards,

    PS Speaking of utopian... when's the last time any of us read Plato's Republic? If you make upward mobility the goal of governmental action, you step on a train that logically leads to separating boys from their mothers (who are inclined to make them effeminate) and banning songs in a minor keys (because depressing music doesn't arouse constructive passions for the state). That's socialism for you... the government dictating everything that they prescribe is good for its citizens. (Which isn't all that far from Stan's opinion that the government should ban cheeseburgers.)

    And Plato's ad absurdum refutation rings down through the millennia.

  12. David,

    In the thread you cite, I didn't mean to say that we should ban cheeseburgers! I did mean to insinuate (sarcastically) that Jill should not bear responsibility for any misfortune that her neighbor John might suffer ...

    Either type of system would make a country a terrible place to live.

    At the center of all this, methinks, is a simple truth: We Americans don't like to be told what to do. We'll put up with it to some extent, but if our leaders push us past a certain line, we'll kick them out.

    I, too, consider myself a Christian, but I can't call myself a socialist.

  13. Hi Stan,

    Yes I'm guilty of using a dash of exaggeration at your expense... that's just my way of keeping these discussions fun.

    The two fundamental (secular) political philosophies I'm aware of either:

    (A) start with the notion of personal liberty and detest all encroachment of the government upon it... although admit that in some cases government intervention is necessary/practical


    (B) start with the vision of some Great Society that should be achieved and consider governmental action to be the most efficient/effective way to get there

    Almost any political issue can be viewed this way... even something like Madison's vote on whether or not to build a new gym for the HS basketball team. The sports boosters think a new gym is key to a better society... and don't mind forcing extra taxes on the local citizens who disagree with them. The others feel that such a tax is an unnecessary encroachment upon their liberty (why not fund the gym privately?).

    What's most interesting... is how the popular political mindsets have weird hybrids of (A) and (B). Generally speaking the current American 'liberal' mindset thinks that we should have (A) on gay marriage, (A) on legal marijuana, (A) on standard abortions, (A) on taxes for national defense, and (A) on illegal immigration, but (B) on gun control, (B) on welfare, (B) on NASA, (B) on health care, (B) on teaching intelligent design in schools, (B) on global warming restrictions, and (B) on corporate regulations. And the American 'conservative' mindset is the opposite.

    And so the political drama on cable news channels (and blogs like this one) always go back and forth with these inconsistencies (like when I famously parodied Cory) where they are freedom advocates on one issue but great society advocates on the next. FoxNews thinks its a crime that Intelligent Design advocates are suppressed from teaching their material in school, but think that we need to suppress gay marriage to insure the moral integrity of our society.


  14. Anyone who stops to think hard about (A) and (B) will realize (like Plato, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn...) that the Great Society goal is subjective, and subject to the whims of whoever is in charge during the revolution. The pigs on Manor Farm may have started with a noble cause, but ultimately their Great Society was one that catered to their pleasure at the expense of the others.

    Reality is no different. Consider these mind-boggling praises for Benito Mussolini's Great Society, mostly issued before the war exposed him for who he truly was:

    "There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy." -Franklin D. Roosevelt

    "What a man! I have lost my heart!... Fascism has rendered a service to the entire world... If I were Italian, I am sure I would have been with you entirely from the beginning of your victorious struggle against the bestial appetites and passion of Leninism." -Winston Churchill (who interestingly enough was one of the few Brits wise enough to catch on to Hitler)

    "Unfortunately, I am no superman like Mussolini." -Mahatma Gandhi

    "The greatest genius of the modern age." -Thomas Edison

    "Mussolini is a brilliant thinker whose philosophy, though unorthodox, flows out of the true European tradition. If he is a myth-maker, he is, like Plato's guardians, conscious that "the noble lie" is a lie." -Richard Crossman

    "Mussolini was the greatest man of our century, but he committed certain disastrous errors. I, who have the advantage of his precedent before me, shall follow in his footsteps but also avoid his errors." -Juan Peron

    Fascism is always successful at getting the trains to run on time... or implementing whatever Great Society program you happen to like.

    But is it worth it?

    Kind regards,

  15. There is always a line.

    We won't conform, yet we send our children to public school and complain they aren't raising our children right.

    We think we are independent, yet our employer sets the dress code and we decide it's best not to speak our mind.

    We think we have a protected domain, yet our covenants mandate no clothes lines and no storage units.

    Things are more gray, but some insist on black and white.

  16. Hey, Cory K! Interesting map observation! And somewhat depressing to see such a big zone here in the middle of the country having enjoyed its maximum population 60-100 years ago.

  17. its doctrine that all people are moral sewage

    Hmm. That's not what my Episcopal church teaches...

  18. "Hmm. That's not what my Episcopal church teaches..."

    Really? Episcopals don't believe that humans are in need of redemption? We're all good people capable of living a morally perfect life?

    Tell me more about your Episcopal theology...

    Kind regards,


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