Mississippi Ranked Most Religious State in U.S.

Folks in the warm southern states are the most God-fearing people in the country, while people in cold and flinty New England are least likely to believe in God or attend worship services.

Mississippi was named the most religious state in the country, ranking first in four categories: importance of religion; frequency of prayer; the attendance at worship services and the certainty of a belief in God.

Some 82 percent of Mississippians say religion "is very important in their lives," according to a recently released list compiled by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Mississippi was followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee to round out the top five states in which residents said religion was very important.

"Southern states tend to rank near the top of religious commitment," said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew who compiled the list.

If southern climes make for fiery parishioners, the chill of New England and Alaska seems to have the reverse effect.

New Hampshire and Vermont tied for last place of states whose residents who believed religion was important. Less than 4 in 10 residents or 36 percent of residents said religion was very important.

On average, 56 percent of Americans said religion was very important to them.

Alaska, Massachusetts, Maine and a tie between Rhode Island and Connecticut round out the least religious states.

Southern states typically made up the top five in the other categories, excluding a list that ranked states by how often residents attended religious services.

"In most southern states, frequency of worship attendance meets or exceeds the national average," Pew found.

Church Attendance Highest in the South

Only Utah broke into the top five, ranking second behind Mississippi, in which 60 percent of residents said they attended worship services at least once a week.

Utah was considered the 12th most religious state overall, but some 57 percent of respondents said they attended services regularly.

Utah's placement in the overall rankings, Smith said, was a function of the sample size and that statistically it ranked similarly to the Southern states at the top of the list.

"Two thirds of people in Utah said religion is very important. That's not significantly different from other states that ranked above it," he said.

South Carolina (54 percent), Louisiana (53 percent), and Alabama (52 percent), ranked third, fourth and fifth for at least weekly church attendance.

Alaskans attend church least of all. Just 22 percent of residents said they went to services at least once a week.

The top 10 states in which residents professed certainty about their belief in God were again almost all Southern, with Mississippi in the No.1 spot and Utah closing out the list at No. 10.

Ninety-one percent of Mississippians said they believed in God.

New Hampshire and Vermont again tied at the bottom of the list, with the fewest residents who believe in God. Just 54 percent of residents there were certain God existed.

On average 71 percent of Americans said they were "absolutely certain" of their belief in God.

At least 85 percent of residents in Mississippi, South Carolina and Alabama were certain of God's existence, versus less than 6 in 10 respondents in Maine, Connecticut/Rhode Island and Vermont/New Hampshire.

The list was compiled from data in Pew's 2007 Religious Landscape Survey. More 35,000 people across the country were polled for the survey.