Bible Belt (United States)

The area roughly considered to constitute the Bible Belt

The Bible Belt is an informal region in the southeastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in society and politics, and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. The Bible Belt consists of much of the Southern United States as well as parts of adjacent areas. During the colonial period (1607–1776), the South was a stronghold of the Anglican church. Its transition to a stronghold of non-Anglican Protestantism occurred gradually over the next century as a series of religious revival movements, many associated with the Baptist denomination, gained great popularity in the region.[1]

The region is usually contrasted with the mainline Protestantism and Catholicism of the Northeastern United States, the religiously diverse Midwest and Great Lakes, the Mormon Corridor in Utah and southern Idaho, and the relatively secular Western United States. Whereas the state with the highest percentage of residents identifying as non-religious is the New England state of Vermont at 34%, in the Bible Belt state of Alabama it is just 3%.[2] Mississippi has the highest proportion of Baptists, at 75%.[2] The earliest known usage of the term "Bible Belt" was by American journalist and social commentator H. L. Mencken, who in 1924 wrote in the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The old game, I suspect, is beginning to play out in the Bible Belt."[3] Mencken claimed the term as his invention in 1927.[4]

For more details on this topic, see Bible Belt (disambiguation).


The name "Bible Belt" has been applied historically to the South and parts of the Midwest, but is more commonly identified with the South. In a 1961 study, Wilbur Zelinsky delineated the region as the area in which Protestant denominations, especially Southern Baptist, Methodist, and evangelical, are the predominant religious affiliation. The region thus defined included most of the Southern United States, including most of Texas and Oklahoma in the southwest, and in the states south of the Ohio River, and extending east to include central West Virginia and Virginia south of Northern Virginia. In addition, the Bible Belt covers most of Missouri and Kentucky and southern parts of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. On the other hand, areas in the South which are not considered part of the Bible Belt include heavily Catholic Southern Louisiana, central and southern Florida, which have been settled mainly by immigrants and Americans from elsewhere in the country, and overwhelmingly Hispanic South Texas. A 1978 study by Charles Heatwole identified the Bible Belt as the region dominated by 24 fundamentalist Protestant denominations, corresponding to essentially the same area mapped by Zelinsky.[5]

According to Stephen W. Tweedie, an Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography at Oklahoma State University, the Bible Belt is now viewed in terms of numerical concentration of the audience for religious television.[6] He finds two belts: one more eastern that stretches from Florida, (excluding Miami, Tampa and South Florida), through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and into Virginia (excluding Northern Virginia) ; and another that concentrated in Texas (excluding El Paso, and South Texas), Arkansas, Louisiana, (excluding New Orleans and Acadiana), Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Mississippi.[7] "[H]is research also broke the Bible Belt into two core regions, a western region and an eastern region. Tweedie's western Bible Belt was focused on a core that extended from Little Rock, Arkansas to Tulsa, Oklahoma. His eastern Bible Belt was focused on a core that included the major population centers of Virginia and North Carolina.[8]

Bible-minded Cities map

A study was commissioned by the American Bible Society to survey the importance of the Bible in the metropolitan areas of the United States. The report was based on 42,855 interviews conducted between 2005 and 2012. It determined the 10 most "Bible-minded" cities were Knoxville, TN; Shreveport, LA; Chattanooga, TN; Birmingham, AL; Jackson, MS; Springfield, MO; Charlotte, NC;, Lynchburg, VA; Huntsville-Decatur, AL; and Charleston, WV.[9]

In addition to the South, there is a smaller Bible Belt in West Michigan, centered around the heavily Dutch-influenced cities of Holland and Grand Rapids. Christian colleges in that region include Calvin College, Hope College, Cornerstone University, Grace Bible College, and Kuyper College. West Michigan is generally fiscally and socially conservative.


This billboard near the center of Alabama is an example of the widespread, socially accepted proselytism in the region.

Several locations are occasionally referred to as "the Buckle of the Bible Belt":

Political and cultural context

There has been research that links evangelical Protestantism with social conservatism.[14] In 1950, President Harry S. Truman told Catholic leaders he wanted to send an ambassador to the Vatican. Truman said the leading Democrats in Congress approved, but they warned him, "it would defeat Democratic Senators and Congressmen in the Bible Belt."[15]

In presidential elections, the Bible Belt states of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas have voted for the Republican candidate in all elections since 1980; Oklahoma has supported the Republican presidential candidate in every election since 1968. Other Bible Belt states have voted for the Republican presidential candidate in the majority of elections since 1980, but have gone to the Democratic candidate either once or twice since then. However, with the exception of Mississippi, historical geographer Barry Vann shows that counties in the upland areas of the Appalachians and the Ozarks have a more conservative voting pattern than the counties located in the coastal plains.[16]

A separate nation entitled the "The Bible Belt" is also mentioned in Robert Ferrigno's Assassin novels and comprises roughly the same area.[17]

Outside the United States


Kerala is also sometimes referred as the Bible Belt of India.[18][19] Kerala's Christian population is concentrated in the districts of Kottayam,[20] Idukki,[21] Ernakulam,[22] Pathanamthitta,[21] Alappuzha[23] and Thrissur[24] which are historically dominated by Saint Thomas Christians.[20][21][23]

In Mizoram the majority (over 90%) is Christian, predominantly members of the Presbyterian Church in India and the Mizoram Presbyterian Church.[25]


The Bible Belt of Italy is formed by Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Liguria and Sicily.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, Mount Roskill, Auckland, contains the highest number of churches per capita in the country, and is the home of several Christian political candidates.[26]

At the 2013 New Zealand Census, the Mangere–Otahuhu local board area of Auckland had the highest concentration of Christians in New Zealand, with 67.7 percent of the local board's 71,000 residents identifying as so.[27]


In the Eastern and Northern parts of Slovakia, Christians comprise a majority, in some towns and villages almost 100%.[28]


The Bible Belt of Spain is formed by Andalusia, Canary Islands, Murcia, Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha, Castile and Leon, Galicia and Aragon.

Soviet Union

Before its independence, Soviet Ukraine was known as the Bible Belt of the Soviet Union.[29]

United Kingdom

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the area in County Antrim stretching from roughly Portrush to Larne and centred in the area of Ballymena is often referred to as a Bible Belt. This is because the area is heavily Protestant with a large evangelical community. From 1970 to 2010, the MP for North Antrim was Ian Paisley, a Free Presbyterian minister well known for his theological fundamentalism. The town of Ballymena, the largest town in the constituency, is often referred to as the "buckle" of the Bible Belt. In the Republic of Ireland, County Wicklow and western parts of County Cork have the highest population of Protestants.[30]

See also


  1. Murray, William H. Jeynes ; foreword by William J. (2009). A call for character education and prayer in the schools. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger. pp. 122–123. ISBN 031335104X. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  2. 1 2 "American Religious Identification Survey". Archived from the original on July 9, 2011.
  3. Fred R. Shapiro (ed.). Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press (2006). ISBN 978-0-300-10798-2.
  4. H. L. Mencken letter to Charles Green Shaw, 1927 Dec. 2 . Charles Green Shaw papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. See also,
  5. Barry Vann (2008), In search of Ulster-Scots land: the birth and geotheological imagings of a transatlantic people, 1603-1703, Univ of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1-57003-708-6, ISBN 978-1-57003-708-5. Pages 138-140.
  6. Carney, edited by George O. (1995). Fast food, stock cars and rock'n' roll : place and space in American pop culture. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 131. ISBN 9780847680801.
  7. Tweedie, S.W. (1978) Viewing the Bible Belt. Journal of Popular Culture 11; 865-76
  8. Rosenberg, Matt. "The Bible Belt Extends Throughout the American South (And Perhaps Beyond?)". About Education. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  9. America's Most and Least Bible-Minded Cities
  10. "Encyclopedia of the Great Plains - ABILENE, TEXAS". Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  11. Guier, Cindy Stooksbury; Finch, Jackie Sheckler (2007). Insiders' Guide to Nashville (6th ed.). pp. 13, 35, 396.
  12. "Nashville Area Churches". Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  13. Miller, Rachel L (2008-04-14). "Nashville: Sophisticated Southern City with a Country Edge". Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  15. Amanda Smith, Hostage of Fortune (2001) p. 604
  16. Barry Vann, In Search of Ulster Scots Land; Barry Vann, "Natural Liberty in the Bible Belt," Nomocracy in Politics (February, 2014),
  17. Prayers for the Assassin
  18. "Renewalism 101: Key Lessons from Kerala". Center for Religion & Civic Culture. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  19. Apartheid in India Rediff News
  20. 1 2 Moonis Raza; Aijazuddin Ahmad (1990). An Atlas of Tribal India: With Computed Tables of District-level Data and Its Geographical Interpretation. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 223–. ISBN 978-81-7022-286-6.
  21. 1 2 3 T. M. Thomas Isaac; Richard W. Franke (1 January 2002). Local Democracy and Development: The Kerala People's Campaign for Decentralized Planning. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 55–. ISBN 978-0-7425-1607-6.
  22. Bidyut Chakrabarty (12 May 2008). Indian Politics and Society Since Independence: Events, Processes and Ideology. Routledge. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-134-13269-0.
  23. 1 2 Kunniparampil Curien Zachariah; Elangikal Thomas Mathew; Sebastian Irudaya Rajan (1 January 2003). Dynamics of Migration in Kerala: Dimensions, Differentials, and Consequences. Orient Blackswan. pp. 111–. ISBN 978-81-250-2504-7.
  24. Meenu Roy (1992). The Battle of the ballot. Classic Pub. House. p. 218. ISBN 978-81-7193-025-8.
  25. "Mizoram Presbyterian Church Synod". Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  26. "New Zealand". Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  27. "Table 33: Religious affiliation (total responses) by territorial authority area, Auckland local board area, and sex – 2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity". Statistics New Zealand. 15 April 2014. Archived from the original on 24 May 2014. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  28. Statisticky urad SR (2001). "Religious statistics in Slovakia" (PDF). None. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-22.
  29. Wanne, Catherine (2006). "EVANGELICALISM AND THE RESURGENCE OF RELIGION IN UKRAINE" (PDF). The National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.
  30. Gonzo, Belfast (29 July 2005). "More news from the Bible Belt…".

Further reading

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