Why is Cedar Rapids so Godless?

Cedar_Rapids_skylineIowa defines the American heartland, with its staunch Midwestern values and rural American virtues.  Though its prairie populism sometimes elects Democrats, today its elected officials are most Republican.  The candidate favored by Christian conservatives usually wins the Iowa caucuses.

A recent study ranked Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the union.  Except for one mysterious outlier:  Cedar Rapids.

The second largest city in the state, with a population of only 130,000, is an island of secularism in an ocean of religion.  By virtually ever standard–Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance–Cedar Rapids scores closer to the big coastal cities than any of its midwestern neighbors.  Nearly half (47%) of its adults are “nones,” holding to no particular religion at all.  That’s the same percentage as Los Angeles county.

So why is this?  People are trying to figure that out.  One perhaps counter-intuitive reason:  Cedar Rapids is overwhelmingly white.  So are the vast majority of “nones.” Black people, in contrast, score extremely high on the religious indexes (Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance).  A large black population tends to increase a city’s religion score, while a large white population decreases it.  At least that’s what the post says, quoted and linked after the jump, which also lists other possible factors.

Still, the mystery remains.  Iowans, can any of you explain? [Read more…]

The exotic and sinister world of Iowa

You’ve got to read Mollie Hemingway’s take down of that article in The Atlantic, in which University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom ridicules the state that pays his salary for being religious, for having so many farmers, for eating casseroles, and other rather normal qualities that he finds shocking.

I’ll just quote Mollie’s introduction, with its great story from her father, but you’ll want to read the whole thing:

My dad used to tell me a story about a man getting off of a train and asking the station manager for information about the town he’d just arrived in. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The man explains that it’s not very nice. The people aren’t that smart or nice and the food isn’t that great and you can’t keep a job and the ladies are all uppity. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds. When the next train stops, another man gets off and asks the station manager the same question. “What’s the town you’re from like?” the station manager asks. The second man explains that he was blessed to come from a beautiful town with nice people full of interesting conversation and fun hobbies. People work hard, the kids are generally fun and he misses it terribly. “Well, I imagine you’ll find this town’s a lot like that, too,” the station manager responds.

You get the point. Well, I thought of that story when I read this absolutely hilarious (unintentionally, I should mention) piece in The Atlantic about how much University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen G. Bloom loathes his state.

via Iowa’s ‘uneducated Jesus freaks’ » GetReligion.

Be sure to follow her links to this  parody of Bloom’s article and to the reaction of Iowans.

But what conclusions can we draw from this?