The Title of ‘Least Bible-Minded City in America’ Goes To…

The Barna Group defines people as “Bible-minded” if they 1) say they read the Bible in a typical week and 2) if they believe the Bible is “accurate in the principles it teaches.”

Which leads to their list of the most and least Bible-minded cities:

Knoxville, Tennessee (my one-time home) ranks #1 with 52% of the residents claiming to be “Bible-minded” while the honor of being the least Bible-minded goes to Providence, Rhode Island (9%). Not surprisingly, the South has claim to the most Bible-minded people while the Northeast wins again:

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, suggested several implications of the Bible-minded research.

Second, although there are outliers — cities in which the Bible-minded rankings are significantly above- or below-average — the overall picture that is painted depends on one’s vantage point. The least sanguine way to analyze the results would be to emphasize the lack of Bible-mindedness in America; in 91 out of 96 markets a majority of the residents are not Bible minded.

Five markets to go, everyone. Keep working hard.

(via Christian Nightmares)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • 0xabad1dea

    Boston Boston Bost- close enough! Viva la New England! I moved back here after living in the south from ages 9 to 23 and life is so, so much better here.

  • Atheist Diva

    What’s weird is where Colorado Springs comes in on that list since it’s the home of Focus on the Family, that Ted guy who is a gay minister, and all those military establishments.

    • Stev84

      Raleigh/Durham, NC is also weird. That’s the most liberal area in the state.

      • rhodent

        Note that it’s Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville. Fayetteville is much more conservative than the Triangle.

        Also, that implies that they’re defining cities to match with TV markets (Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville are all separate metropolitan areas), and the market includes a lot of rural areas: Johnston County, Granville County, Harnett County, et cetera. I’m guessing that if they looked at just the three counties that make up the Triangle, it would rank much lower.

        • Tom in Raleigh

          Well said. This study was lazy. Asheville was included with Greenville NC…and Ashevilleis as liberal as they come.

  • asonge

    Self-report on reading the Bible? That only says how much people value saying they read the Bible and not actual behavior. I know a lot of people who say that just don’t.

    • Lee Miller

      For Christians, “I read the Bible” means “I say I believe what my church/pastor/teacher tells me it says”.

      • Daniel

        Sometimes it also means “I went to a church service this week where someone read a paragraph or so of it to me – if books on tape are reading, than having a person read it to you live is even better, and therefore, I read the Bible this week.”

        • Amakudari

          Even that’s sketchy with the cities that are high up there. I lived in Charlotte for most of my life, and there’s no way that 48% of people go to church every week, nor that the remainder read the Bible regularly. It’s anecdotal evidence, but I’m yet to meet anyone not in ministry who actually reads their Bible, and I’ve met quite a few who were surprised by what’s in it.

          I’d bet around half of that figure is due to societal shame for “not being a good Christian,” where “Christian” is interchangeable for “person.”

          What I’d love to see is them follow up with a bunch of questions about the Bible. Subtract from the Bible-minded those who can’t answer those questions and you’ll have a very, very good idea of where Christian privilege (rather than honest belief) is strongest.

  • ConradB

    I spent the last eight years living in Baltimore, before moving home to Portland, OR, this summer. There is NO WAY there is only a 1% difference between those cities.

  • ActiusLuna

    Not surprised Boston is high on the list. Fucking love this city.

    • ActiusLuna

      Or rather, low on the list, as it were.

    • skinnercitycyclist

      Love that dirty water…;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1353603101 Joe Montoto

    Didn’t those same people in Knoxville, who probably prayed to god (lower case “G” intentional) for a successful and profitable World’s Fair in 1982, learn anything? I guess not.

    • nakedanthropologist

      Knoxville is also the city where every billboard provider refused to put up an atheist billboard saying “Good without God? You’re not alone.” as too “controversial”.

  • Miss_Beara

    Quiz the top 5 “bible minded” cities on their bible.”Bible minded” probably means they preach the passages they like while ignoring the rest.

    • Miss_Beara

      oh, and my city is number 76. Not to shabby I say.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    Most and least Bible-minded cities in America – http://t.co/kZkVvuuy

  • pagansister

    Until October 2011, I spent 18 wonderful years in Providence, RI. Happy to see it at the top of the bottom list!! Now, due to many reasons, I’m in the northern part of Florida. If it were possible I’d return to New England—beautiful country, great people.

  • anniewhoo

    The most surprising to me is that Greenville (SC) and New Bern (NC) share a spot with Washington, D.C.

    • rhodent

      Greenville NC, New Bern NC, and Washington NC are at #31. Greenville SC is up at #11, and Washington DC is down at #63.

      • anniewhoo

        Ah, thanks for the clarification. That makes a lot more sense.

  • Gus Snarp

    Yet another reason to move to Vermont. It just keeps coming up.

    • Marykate Smith

      Vermont is the same as heaven but we try to keep that under our halos.

      • JohnnieCanuck

        With the added benefits that it exists and you’re already there.

  • Anonatheist

    This is clearly a poorly designed survey. I’ve lived in several cities near the bottom of this list. Most belong much higher up. There’s no way Pittsburgh is lower than Portland, Seattle, and Sacramento. Their definition of “bible-minded” clearly does not conform to anything like what one would expect based on the term itself, making their results almost useless/meaningless.

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Yay, my city is #90. The San Francisco Bay Area is a remarkably secular and diverse place. I love living here!

  • http://twitter.com/Chronophase N Jones

    Go Troy!

  • Half_the_Man_I_Used_to_Be

    Where would Salt Lake City/Provo come in? They have their Fan Fiction version of the Bible there.

    • Godlesspanther

      I saw on the list the Salt Lake City ranked very low on the list — is that because they are more “Book of Mormon minded” than “Bible minded”?

      I might consider moving to Providence.

  • Half_the_Man_I_Used_to_Be

    It would be interesting to see if there is a compare the crime and poverty in the cities at the top and bottom of the list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dplaat Dan J Plaat

    I’m an Albany Native; (sup N jones,come to our athiest group for the district?) I can believe that, the religious are not many, Our area has had many..many church closings, so many we don’t know what to do with all our closed churches. One has been turned into an art center, sadly a good number have been destroyed. The best ones have been fixed up with historical grants and such, as some of them are as old as the country The catholic dinoese consolidated a few. One plan is to turn one into a Microbrewy, but there is alot of Nimby type pushback. We’ve come along way from my grandpas day when; “there was a church on every block, and a hooker on every corner.”

  • CoboWowbo

    My city is #3 on least-minded… awesome.

  • Vanadise

    The results of this survey seem kind of spurious to me. Austin is in the middle? And Las Cruces is among the least Bible-minded? Not the Las Cruces I’ve been to…

    • nakedanthropologist

      Austin is a pretty liberal city, from what I’ve seen. They have a happening music scene, tons of art galleries and museums, and a very active atheist/freethought group. It’s been said (at least here on FA) that Austin is a like a lovely dot of blue within a sea of bloody red.

    • Martin Wagner

      We are a pretty progressive town (though rumors of our “happening music scene” are greatly exaggerated). Still, we have at least one kinda-sorta megachurch, and there is as much a Christian presence here as many other cities. So a figure of 29% “Bible-minded” people doesn’t seem beyond the pale. I’d have expected San Antonio and DFW to be much higher than they are, though.

  • Colin

    Nice to see Phoenix at #89. I usually have to apologize for Arizona.

    • ajginn

      I suspect it’s the large Catholic Latino population here, because it sure seems like there are a lot of fundies here in Phoenix. Catholics don’t read the bible; they let the Pope read it for them.

  • http://www.sunstonescafe.com/ Paul Sunstone

    I’m surprised Colorado Springs came in about mid-way at #41. Given that this town has about 300 religious non profit organizations, including Focus on the Family, I expected it to rank higher. This is good news.

    • Isilzha

      That’s…weird and I have trouble believing it! I’d move to Knoxville before Colorado Springs.

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Hmm. Maybe we’re seeing here the reason the Religious Right in the House of Representatives objected to funding post-Hurricane Sandy aid. That money would have gone to a part of the country that clearly disses their Holy Bible, and they couldn’t allow that!

  • emily

    Lovecraft would be proud.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Dammit, I live in Knoxville, therefore…this chart isn’t really a big surprise. Sigh.

  • tinker

    Phoenix is 89? I guess ‘bible-minded’ doesn’t include Mormons. Considering that Salt Lake City is 84 I guess that is true.

    Definitely a skewed result.

    • ajginn

      Mormons and Catholics aren’t good fundies. Mormons have their own “bible” and Catholics don’t read the real one.

  • advancedatheist

    The Barna study for some reason links Phoenix and Prescott, AZ, as one of the nation’s least “bible-minded” cities, even though you have to drive nearly 2 hours to get from one to the other across across deserts and around mountains. I live about 30 miles from Prescott, but I grew up in “rapture ready” Tulsa. After living in Arizona for awhile, I got the impression that religion simply matters less to people in this part of the country. And the religious people I do know seem less inclined to proselytize. The Fry’s supermarket in Prescott’s nearby town of Prescott Valley even sells Free Inquiry magazine on the rack.

    I’ve wondered to what extent American anti-intellectualism puts limits on the influence of the bible because, ironically, reading the bible requires a level of literacy and attention span which the people on the left side of the bell curve lack. Studying the bible just looks too much like school work to have mass appeal. Christians might admire the pastors and theologians in their churches who have mastered the bible, the ancient languages of its original texts and the supporting literature (theology, apologetics and such); but in the back of their minds these authority figures might also remind them of the geeks they tend to ridicule in other contexts.

  • Matt in Memphis

    As a Knoxville native, I can tell you that there is no shortage of Jebus and fundamentalist Christian idiocy in that city. There are also lots of freethinkers and atheists in the mix. Even in a place like that, things are beginning to move in the right direction. Surprisingly, the local papers (News Sentinel and Metropulse) tend to be more reasonable and objective on atheism-related issues than you might expect, although the comments sections should of course be avoided at all costs.

    • Isilzha

      And you’re still in Memphis, yes? Well, I left that area a long time ago and whenever I go back I always experience jeebus and Southern culture shock. The difference in culture between that area and where I have lived for 15 years is astounding. I hate going back there.

      • Matt in Memphis

        Fortunately, my wife and I are about to move to Chapel Hill, NC, which should be an improvement. Memphis is no picnic for atheists, but there is an active and visible atheism/freethought society doing some good stuff here. That being said – we can’t wait to leave this place behind for good

        • pagansister

          Lived in Carrboro, NC, for just over 4 years, which is right over the line from Chapel Hill, NC. I taught in one of the elementary schools in Chapel Hill. You will enjoy living there. Great community.

  • Tom in Raleigh

    I have to call b.s on this chart. They included Greenville and Asheville NC in the same grouping…though they are 5 miles apart. They included Fayetteville (more religious) in with Raleigh/ Durham instead of Chapel Hill (less religious) which is the normal breakdown.

    Still, not shocking that the south is ruling this list. I just have to question their methodology.

    • rhodent

      They seem to be doing it by TV markets. Chapel Hill is probably being counted in with Raleigh and Durham, but it is called the Raleigh/Durham/Fayetteville market. As for Greenville and Asheville being in the same market, that’s Greenville SC, not Greenville NC; again, Greenville SC and Asheville NC are in the same TV market.

  • onamission5

    Aw, frick, I’m at #11. Then again they did rank Asheville in with Greenville, Spartanburg, and Anderson, SC, which grossly outnumber us in hardcore religious adherents. Incidentally, the places that get the most play on the violence-and-dumbfuckery in the local news scale. As a stand-alone city or even as a greater metropolitan area I think that we’d have done a lot better than freaking #11.

    • Gern Blanston

      Asheville is too awesome. I’d have to agree.

  • Houndentenor

    Let me guess, the data is from surveys in which people self-reported their Bible reading? As much as this shows how much people read or believe in the Bible, it shows how much people claim to strangers they read the Bible. Anyone whose ever lived in the Bible Belt knows what hypocrites and liars fundamentalist Christians tend to be.

  • Gern Blanston

    Not sure I’m buying this (I live in Nashville, #14.) There are some religious HQs and plenty of churches in town, but also a lot of godless liberals (since it’s a haven for creatives.) I’m a raving atheist and don’t take too much crap for it – been living here 14 years. It’s also pretty great cost of living wise and folks are friendly, and the right-wing lunacy that exists in the exurbs can’t seem to get a foothold here. Just a couple of cents. Thanks!

    • Gern Blanston

      Oh, and – for the record – Davidson County (Nashville proper) re-elected Obama by 40 points, and we’ve never had a GOP mayor or member of Congress, so at least these Bible bangers aren’t hateful lunatics if there are as many as you say.

  • Isilzha

    I’m so happy that my plan to move to Knoxville never panned out!

  • eonL5

    Woo hoo! Portland ME 4th least!

  • Rev. Red Mage

    Woo-hoo… proud resident of the least Bible-minded city in the country. I’m not surprised, though… the vast majority of Providence’s populace is either Catholic or Jewish, neither of which read the Bible on a regular basis.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Me too (North Providence, actually) and I was thinking the same thing. I think that whatever small % there is of an atheist community in Providence would be more likely to read the bible than the Catholics.

    • Clover the Clever

      Salute, fellow Rhodie! (Now, if only “least Bible-minded” meant “most secular,” we’d be set!)

  • Amenemhat1

    Crazy! My home town takes the cake as the least bible-minded! While I am flattered, I must remind readers that Providence is blanketed with evangelical and catholic edifices. As an insider, this town feels like its part of the bible belt, who did this study?!


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